Francis Bret Harte

(25 August 1836 - 6 May 1902 / Albany, New York)

Seventy-Nine - Poem by Francis Bret Harte

(MR. INTERVIEWER INTERVIEWED)

Know me next time when you see me, won't you, old smarty?
Oh, I mean YOU, old figger-head,--just the same party!
Take out your pensivil, d--n you; sharpen it, do!
Any complaints to make? Lots of 'em--one of 'em's YOU.

You! who are YOU, anyhow, goin' round in that sneakin' way?
Never in jail before, was you, old blatherskite, say?
Look at it; don't it look pooty? Oh, grin, and be d--d to you, do!
But if I had you this side o' that gratin,' I'd just make it lively
for you.

How did I get in here? Well what 'ud you give to know?
'Twasn't by sneakin' round where I hadn't no call to go;
'Twasn't by hangin' round a-spyin' unfortnet men.
Grin! but I'll stop your jaw if ever you do that agen.

Why don't you say suthin, blast you? Speak your mind if you dare.
Ain't I a bad lot, sonny? Say it, and call it square.
Hain't got no tongue, hey, hev ye? Oh, guard! here's a little swell
A cussin' and swearin' and yellin', and bribin' me not to tell.

There! I thought that 'ud fetch ye! And you want to know my name?
'Seventy-nine' they call me, but that is their little game;
For I'm werry highly connected, as a gent, sir, can understand,
And my family hold their heads up with the very furst in the land.

For 'twas all, sir, a put-up job on a pore young man like me;
And the jury was bribed a puppos, and at furst they couldn't agree;
And I sed to the judge, sez I,--Oh, grin! it's all right, my son!
But you're a werry lively young pup, and you ain't to be played upon!

Wot's that you got?--tobacco? I'm cussed but I thought 'twas a tract.
Thank ye! A chap t'other day--now, lookee, this is a fact--
Slings me a tract on the evils o' keepin' bad company,
As if all the saints was howlin' to stay here along o' we.

No, I hain't no complaints. Stop, yes; do you see that chap,--
Him standin' over there, a-hidin' his eyes in his cap?
Well, that man's stumick is weak, and he can't stand the pris'n fare;
For the coffee is just half beans, and the sugar it ain't nowhere.

Perhaps it's his bringin' up; but he's sickenin' day by day,
And he doesn't take no food, and I'm seein' him waste away.
And it isn't the thing to see; for, whatever he's been and done,
Starvation isn't the plan as he's to be saved upon.

For he cannot rough it like me; and he hasn't the stamps, I guess,
To buy him his extry grub outside o' the pris'n mess.
And perhaps if a gent like you, with whom I've been sorter free,
Would--thank you! But, say! look here! Oh, blast it! don't give it
to ME!

Don't you give it to me; now, don't ye, don't ye, DON'T!
You think it's a put-up job; so I'll thank ye, sir, if you won't.
But hand him the stamps yourself: why, he isn't even my pal;
And, if it's a comfort to you, why, I don't intend that he shall.


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, September 21, 2010



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