Isabella Valancy Crawford
Old Spense - Poem by Isabella Valancy Crawford
You've seen his place, I reckon, friend?
'Twas rather kind ov tryin'.
The way he made the dollars fly,
Such gimcrack things a-buyin'--
He spent a big share ov a fortin'
On pesky things that went a snortin'
And hollerin' over all the fields,
And ploughin' ev'ry furrow;
We sort ov felt discouraged, for
Spense wusn't one to borrow;
An' wus--the old chap wouldn't lend
A cent's wuth to his dearest friend!
Good land! the neighbours seed to wunst
Them snortin', screamin' notions
Wus jest enough tew drown the yearth
In wrath, like roarin' oceans,
'An' guess'd the Lord would give old Spense
Blue fits for fightin' Pruvidence!'
Spense wus thet harden'd; when the yearth
Wus like a bak'd pertater;
Instead ov prayin' hard fur rain,
He fetched an irrigator.
'The wicked flourish like green bays!'
Sed folks for comfort in them days.
I will allow his place was grand
With not a stump upon it,
The loam wus jest as rich an' black
Es school ma'am's velvet bunnit;
But tho' he flourish'd, folks all know'd
What spiritooal ear-marks he show'd.
Spense had a notion in his mind,
Ef some poor human grapples
With pesky worms thet eat his vines,
An' spile his summer apples,
It don't seem enny kind ov sense
Tew call that 'cheekin' Pruvidence!'
An' ef a chap on Sabbath sees
A thunder cloud a-strayin'
Above his fresh cut clover an'
Gets down tew steddy prayin',
An' tries tew shew the Lord's mistake,
Instead ov tacklin' tew his rake,
He ain't got enny kind ov show
Tew talk ov chast'ning trials;
When thet thar thunder cloud lets down
It's sixty billion vials;
No! when it looks tew rain on hay,
First take yer rake an' then yer pray!
Old Spense was one 'ov them thar chaps
Thet in this life of tussle
An' rough-an'-tumble, sort ov set
A mighty store on muscle;
B'liev'd in hustlin' in the crop,
An' prayin' on the last load top!
An' yet he hed his p'ints--his heart
Wus builded sort ov spacious;
An' solid--ev'ry beam an' plank,
An', Stranger, now, veracious.
A wore-out hoss he never shot,
But turn'd him in the clover lot!
I've seed up tew the meetin' house;
The winkin' an' the nudgin',
When preacher sed, 'No doubt that Dives
Been drefful mean an' grudgin';
Tew church work seal'd his awful fate
Whar thar ain't no foolin' with the gate!'
I mind the preacher met old Spense,
Beneath the maples laggin',
The day was hot, an' he'd a pile
Ov 'cetrees in his waggin';
A sack of flour, a hansum hog,
Sum butter and his terrier dog.
Preacher, he halted up his hoss,
Ask'd for Miss Spense an' Deely,
Tew limber up his tongue a mite,
And sez right slick an' mealy:
'Brother, I really want tew know
Hev you got religion? Samson, whoa!'
Old Spense, he bit a noble chaw,
An' sort ov meditated;
Samson he nibbl'd at the grass,
An' preacher smil'd and waited;
Ye'd see it writ upon his face--
'I've got Spense in a tightsome place!'
The old man curl'd his whip-lash round
An alto-vic'd muskitter,
Preacher, sort ov triumphant, strok'd
His ornary old critter.
Spense p'ints tew flour, an' hog, an' jar,
Sez he, 'I've got religion thar!
'Them's goin' down tew Spinkses place,
Whar old man Spinks is stayin';
The bank he dealt at bust last month,
An' folks is mostly sayin':
Him bein' ag'd, an' poor, an' sick,
They'll put him in the poor-house slick!
'But no, they don't! Not while I own
The name ov Jedediah;
Yer movin'? How's yer gran'ma Green,
An' yer cousin, Ann Maria?
Boss, air they? Yas, sirree, I dar
Tew say, I've got religion thar!'
Preacher, he in his stirrups riz,
His visage kind ov cheerin';
An' keerful look'd along the road,
Over sugarbush an' clearin';
Thar wa'n't a deacon within sight;
Sez he, 'My brother, guess you're right.'
'You keep your waggon Zionward,
With that religion on it;
I calculate we'll meet'--jest here
A caliker sun bonnet,
On a sister's head, cum round the Jog,
An' preacher dispars'd like mornin' fog!
One day a kind ov judgment come,
The lightnin'-rod conductor
Got broke--the fluid struck his aunt,
An' in the root-house chuck'd her.
It laid her up for quite a while,
An' the judgment made the neighbors smile.
Old Spense he swore a mighty swar,
He didn't mince nor chew it;
For when he spoke, 'most usual,
It had a backbone tew it.
He sed he'd find a healthy plan
Tew square things with the agent man,
Who'd sold him thet thar useless rod
To put upon his roofin';
An' ef he found him round the place,
He'd send the scamp a-hoofin'.
'You sort ov understand my sense?'
'Yes, pa,'--said pooty Deely Spense.
'Yes, pa,' sez she, es mild es milk
Tew thet thar strong oration,
An' when a woman acts like _that_--
It's bin my observation--
(An' reckin that you'll find it sound)
She means tew turn creation round,
An' fix the univarse the way
She sort ov feels the notion.
So Deely let the old man rave,
Nor kick'd up no commotion;
Tho' thet cute agent man an' she
Were know'd es steady company.
He'd chance around when Spense was out,
A feller sort o' airy;
An' poke around free's the wind,
With Deely in the dairy.
(Old Spense hed got a patent churn,
Thet gev the Church a drefful turn).
I am a married man myself,
More sot on steddy plowin',
An' cuttin' rails, than praisin' gals,
Yet honestly allowin'--
A man must be main hard tew please
Thet didn't freeze tew Deely's cheese.
I reckon tho' old Spense hed sign'd
With Satan queer law papers,
He'd fill'd that dairy up chock full
Of them thar patent capers.
Preacher once took fur sermon text--
'Rebellious patent vats.--What next?'
I've kind of stray'd from thet thar scare
That cum on Spense--tho', reely,
I'll allus hold it was a shine
Of thet thar pooty Deely:
Thar's them es holds thro' thin an' thick,
'Twas a friendly visit from Old Nick.
Es time went on, old Spense he seem'd
More sot on patent capers;
So he went right off tew fetch a thing
He'd read ov in the papers.
'Twas a moony night in airly June,
The Whip-poor-wills wus all in tune;
The Katydids wus callin' clar,
The fire bugs was glowin',
The smell ov clover fill'd the air.
Thet day old Spense'd bin mowin'--
With a mower yellin' drefful screams,
Like them skreeks we hear in nightmare dreams.
Miss Spense wus in the keepin'-room,
O'erlookin' last yar's cherries;
The Help wus settin' on the bench,
A-hullin' airly berries;
The hir'd man sot on the step,
An' chaw'd, an' watch'd the crickets lep.
Not one ov them thar folks thet thought
Ov Deely in the dairy:
The Help thought on the hir'd man,
An' he ov Martin's Mary;
Miss Spense she ponder'd thet she'd found
Crush'd sugar'd riz a cent a pound.
I guess hed you an' I bin thar,
A peepin' thro' the shutter
Ov thet thar dairy, we'd a swore
Old Spense's cheese an' butter
Wus gilded, from the manner thet
Deely she smil'd on pan an' vat.
The Agent he had chanc'd around,
In evenin's peaceful shadder;
He'd glimps'd Spense an' his tarrier go
Across the new-mown medder--
To'ard Crampville--so he shew'd his sense,
By slidin' o'er the garden fence,
An' kind of unassumin' glode,
Beneath the bendin' branches,
Tew the dairy door whar Deely watch'd--
A-twitterin' an' anxious.
It didn't suit Miss Deely's plan
Her pa should catch that Agent man.
I kind ov mind them days I went
With Betsy Ann a-sparking'.
Time hed a'drefful sneakin way
Ov passin' without markin'
A single blaze upon a post,
An' walkin' noiseless es a ghost!
I guess thet Adam found it thus,
Afore he hed to grapple
With thet conundrum Satan rais'd
About the blam'd old apple;
He found Time sort ov smart tew pass
Afore Eve took tew apple sass.
Thar ain't no changes cum about
Sence them old days in Eden,
Except thet lovers take a spell
Of mighty hearty feedin'.
Now Adam makes his Eve rejice
By orderin' up a lemon ice.
He ain't got enny kind ov show
To hear the merry pealins'
Of them thar weddin' bells, unless
He kind ov stirs her feelins'--
By treatin' her tew ginger pop,
An' pilin' peanuts in a-top.
Thet Agent man know'd how to run
The business real handy;
An' him an' Deely sot an' laugh'd,
An' scrunch'd a pile o' candy;
An' talk'd about the singin' skule--
An' stars--an' Spense's kickin' mule--
An' other elevatin' facts
In Skyence an' in Natur.
An' Time, es I wus sayin', glode
Past, like a champion skater,--
When--Thunder! round the orchard fence.
Come thet thar tarrier dog an' Spense,
An' made straight for the dairy door.
Thar's times in most experrence,
We feel how trooly wise 'twould be
To make a rapid clearance;
Nor wait tew practice them thar rules
We larn tew city dancin' skules.
The Agent es a gen'ral plan
Wus polish'd es the handles
Ov my old plough; an' slick an' smooth
Es Betsey's tallow candles.
But when he see'd old Spense--wal, neow,
He acted homely es a ceow!
His manners wusn't in the grain,
His wool wus sorter shoddy;
His courage wus a poorish sort,
It hadn't got no body.
An' when he see'd old Spense, he shook
Es ef he'd see'd his gran'ma's spook.
Deely she wrung her pooty hands,
She felt her heart a-turnin'
Es poor es milk when all the cream
Is taken off fur churnin'.
When all to once her eyes fell pat
Upon old Spense's patent vat!
The Agent took no sort ov stock
Thet time in etiquettin;
It would hev made a punkin laugh
Tew see his style of gettin'!
In thet thar empty vat he slid,
An' Deely shet the hefty lid.
Old Spense wus smilin' jest es clar
Es stars in the big 'Dipper';
An' Deely made believe tew hum
'Old Hundred' gay an' chipper,
But thinkin' what a tightsome squeeze
The vat wus fur the Agent's knees.
Old Spense he sed, 'I guess, my gal,
'Ye've been a sort ov dreamin';
'I see ye haven't set the pans,
'Nor turn'd the mornin's cream in;
'Now ain't ye spry? Now, darn my hat
'Ef the milk's run inter thet thar vat.'
Thar's times one's feelin's swell like bread
In summer-time a-risin',
An' Deely's heart swole in a way
Wus mightily surprising
When Spense gripp'd one ov them thar pans
Ov yaller cream in his big han's!
The moon glode underneath a cloud,
The breeze sigh'd loud an' airy;
The pans they faintlike glimmer'd on
The white walls ov the dairy.
Deely she trembl'd like an ash,
An' lean'd agin the old churn dash.
'Tarnation darksome,' growl'd old Spense,
Arf liftin' up the cover--
He turn'd the pan ov cream quite spry
On Deely's Agent lover.
Good sakes alive! a curdlin' skreek
From thet thar Agent man did break!
All drippin' white he ros'd tew view.
His curly locks a-flowin'
With clotted cream, an' in the dusk,
His eyes with terror glowin'.
He made one spring--'tis certain, reely,
He never sed 'Good night' tew Deely.
Old Spense he riz up from the ground,
An' with a kind ov wonder,
He look'd inter thet patent vat,
An' simply sed, 'By thunder'!
Then look'd at Deely hard, and sed,
'The milk will sop clar thro' his hed'!
Folks look'd right solemn when they heard
The hull ov thet thar story,
An' sed, 'It might be plainly seen
Twas clar agin the glory
Of Pruvidence to use a vat
Thet Satan in had boldly sat'!
They shook their heads when Spense declar'd
'Twas Deely's beau in hidin';
They guess'd they know'd a thing or two,
An' wasn't so confidin':--
'Twas the 'Devourin' Lion' cum
Tew ask old Spense testep down hum!
Old Spense he kinder spil'd the thing
Fur thet thar congregation,
By holdin' on tew life in spite
Ov Satan's invitation;
An' hurts thar feelin's ev'ry Spring,
Buyin' some pesky patent thing.
The Agent man slid out next day,
To peddle round young Hyson;
And Deely fur a fortnight thought
Ov drinkin' sum rat pison;
Didn't put no papers in her har;
An' din'd out ov the pickle jar.
Then at Aunt Hesby's sewin' bee
She met a slick young feller,
With a city partin' tew his har
An' a city umbereller.
He see'd her hum thet night, an' he
Is now her steddy company!
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