QUICK, FIND THE RACIST

TWO FIFTHS SHEER FUDGE

It’s the guy on top, of course, Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose most ambitious work, “English Traits,” is a treatise on the superiority of the English race to all others: Africans, Indians, the French, and the Irish.

Poe abhorred the sort of pedantic sermonizing for which Emerson was famous; elevating American literature with his breakthrough brand of scientific  populism, Poe navigated the pre-Civil War years working and living in the North as a compromise figure, despised by militants on both sides.  It is easy to forget, even today, that a middle ground between militant pro-slavery and militant abolitionism did exist, where Poe chose to stay, as he transformed and modernized world literature.

So what was a Yank like Emerson thinking, writing his race-baiting tract, in the years leading up to the American civil war?   “English Traits” was published in 1856,  a few years before the gunfire at Fort Sumter.  Poe died in 1849, before the Compromise of 1850, before John Brown’s raids, and Poe never published any papers on slavery or race, staying clear, in a time when it was almost impossible to do so, of those hot topics which eventually produced the divisive holocaust of 1861–1865.

English Traits?  Why English?  Wasn’t Emerson a leading American author?    Wasn’t Emerson aware that England’s global ambitions were responsible for America’s system of slavery in the first place, that England wanted her American colony back and that England was exploiting American division on race to effect that end?  Why, in his “English Traits,” would Emerson assert that India belonged to England because the English race was superior to the Indian race?  Why did Emerson go so far as to remind his readers in “English Traits” that the English “sea kings” had a “long memory” and might rise up and take back their colonies if the times were right?

It kind of makes a Yankee scratch his head—and wonder.

Poe and Emerson famously did not get along.

Perhaps their quarrel was more nuanced and subtle than has been  previously thought?  Perhaps it was more geopolitical in nature?  Emerson, when he wasn’t living in comfort in Cambridge, Massachussets, was wined and dined in England.  Poe, after visiting England as a boy, and perhaps sailing to Paris as a young man, spent his literary career attempting to establish (while almost starving) America’s literary independence while living in Boston, Baltimore, Richmond, Philadelphia, and New York.

It does cause one to scratch one’s head just a little bit, and wonder.

Does it not?

33 Comments

  1. poeblogger said,

    December 31, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Emerson is a huge hypocrite; there’s nothing to debate there. His “Americanism” only comes in bursts, as does his Transcendentalism, frankly. Note that he didn’t live in Cambridge, Mass. very long either (outside his Harvard years) so I’m not sure why you comment on that – “comfortably” or not (I thought it was common knowledge he was a Concord writer). Emerson also did visit the South, by the way, and he did meet Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C. At the end of his life he also visited Egypt. He’s really not as provincial as you imply.

    Yet, you do not address Poe at all here. Basic characterizations in “The Gold-Bug” and “A Predicament” could be called racist, but you don’t mention those. You also don’t mention Poe’s review of Longfellow’s “Poems on Slavery” (1842). In fact, you present no evidence at all that Poe was not a racist. Sure, he avoided directly writing about slavery (other than his Longfellow review) but how many political tracts did he write at all? Does a lack of evidence prove anything, ultimately, one way or the other?

  2. thomasbrady said,

    December 31, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Poeblogger,

    Yes, Emerson lived in Concord most of the time, not Cambridge; thanks for pointing that out.

    Emerson was “comfortable.” He married a rich lady who was ill, and when she died, he successfully sued her family for the fortune.

    The point of the piece is simply to report a glaring omission in American Letters: the highly suspect nature of Emerson’s “English Traits.” I never said E. was “provincial;” my thrust here is that E. earned a lot of literary capital in Britain and spent a great deal of time there. As for Poe, should we find him guilty on lack of evidence? For too long Poe has been damned in this way.

    I don’t want to quibble over things like Mr. E’s “visit” to the South; if you care to cite the nature of that “visit,” fine, but it wasn’t significant. Poe lived and worked in the North.

    The overall thrust here is, I admit, based on some nuance. The holocaust and destruction of the United States was a very real threat, and many believed that threat was being pushed by slavery fanatics AND abolitionist fanatics disingenuously taking the moral high ground for insidious purposes.

    The point of the piece was not to make an exhaustive list of every hint of private racist feelng in people who lived two centuries ago. The point is not to play ‘gotcha.’ The very real fact is this: Emerson’s “English Traits” trumps by a long shot any thing Poe may have done. This issue needs to be confronted. Poe abused certain writers in Boston for political reasons, but for very complex political reasons.

    As for “The Gold Bug,” Jupiter is a fine specimen of humanity, and like “A Predicament,” “The Gold Bug” is a reflection of society as it was then; “A Predicament” is a very broad satire on white society; to construe these tales as “racist” is racist. Last time I checked, “racist” was not defined by racially neutral depictions of racial realities. Emerson’s “Engish Traits” is racist, by definition.

    Thomas

  3. poeblogger said,

    January 1, 2010 at 1:15 am

    Yes, you didn’t explicitly say he was provincial, but you did note a “geopolitical” schism between Emerson and Poe, without noting how well-traveled he was and, therefore, that he is just as hard to pinpoint geographically as Poe. Here’s my quibble: This short piece claims that Emerson was categorically a racist and provides only one piece of evidence of that conclusion, ignoring his much more ample abolitionism, his speech in defense of John Brown, his public support of Lincoln and ending slavery, etc. You provide absolutely no evidence at all (nothing!!) to support Poe was not a racist, yet you categorically claim he wasn’t one. What we must wonder, then, is which is our “default” assumption. Ultimately, all these people are complicated so any categorical definition is likely to have exceptions. There is no argument here; that’s my only point.

  4. poetryandporse said,

    January 1, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    I admit to not having read the English Traits tract, and to knowing nothing of Emerson the person. I have read only a few pieces of his, in a book of prose essays I picked up from Murragh at the Magic Bookstall one Sunday afternoon last summer, and which I also have to admit, thought very poetic and eloquent.

    My initial instinctive response to this piece – that the screaming headline/wanted poster vibe was a bit (ok, a lot) OTT – seemed borne out when I went to the wikipedia page for a basic info and read the exact opposite claims to those of this Scarriet squib. Stab at defaming a dead father of contemporary American intellectual consciousness this article claims was more Bernard Manning than Ken Dodd.

    Bernard Manning was a famous comedian from Manchester England who wrote his own obiturary two days before he died at the age of 76 in 2007.

    He was often referred to as racist because of his act, in which the telling of paki, jews, micks and nigger jokes in 1970’s Britain, was perfectly accptable. He denied all charges, as you can read at the link, calling himself an ‘equal opportunities comedian’ only interested in getting a laugh out of any situation.

    “I had a distant German relative who died at Auschwitz. He fell out of one of the watchtowers.”

    Now that’s humour, precisely because it’s close to the edge, unlike so many of the tired, comfortable, right- on lines about George Bush in which modern comics indulge, massaging the consciences of their middle-class audiences instead of giving them raw entertainment.

    Oh, I can see the other obituaries already: “Bernard Manning, racist bigot”, the smug types will say when they hear of my departure.

    ~

    He denied being racist, but had a problem because, I suspect, what he thought and wanted to say, and what he did say, due to his lack of linguistic skills, did not tally. The sincere beliefs he held as a patriotic English person with a particular working-class world-view, in which Race is a difficult subject to articulate without falling into one of two stereotypical traps, were more nuanced than a For or Against us type of carry-on that lends itself to unrealistic moral judgements of a person having to be either a Racist or Saint.

    Surely, the truth is, we are all capable of being both and have thought ‘racist’ thoughts now and again. Fleetingly perhaps and knowing when we do it is a moral wrong-thing to think, before chastizing ourself and begging forgiveness from whatever source (if any) one has as a moral pole-star to whom/which we give thanks and pray to, or don’t believe in.

    ‘I was never a racist.’ Manning wrote in his obituary. ‘That’s
    just an easy, catch-all term of abuse bandied around by the media elite against anyone who does not follow their agenda. It was just meaningless.
    When told by some toffee-nosed southerner that I was prejudiced, I used to say: “Have you actually seen my act?” They would then admit they hadn’t. “Then you don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re the one who is prejudiced because you are pre-judging me.”

    If they’d ever bothered to turn up at one of my shows, they’d have soon discovered I told gags about everyone, including all sorts of politicians and the Royal Family.

    In fact the Queen once told me with a smile, after a Royal Command Performance, how much she liked my act. If it was good enough for her, it should have been good enough for anyone.’

    Bernard was an ardent royalist, lurved his monarch he did. A true Englishman, as they say. I’ll have to read the English traits piece, but in the fictional court of my imagination, I am currently minded to act as counsel for the defence of Emerson, but am willing to switch sides if it benefits one to do so. If it brings me kudos, cash, or just for a laugh, like good old Bernard the ‘racist’ who never made it funny like the noin-racist Liverpool comdian and living legend who wrote a doctorate on Humour, Ken Dodd, who will now speak what Emerson wrote:

    “I think we must get rid of slavery, or we must get rid of freedom” Emerson said in 1856, at a meeting in Concord, around the time English Traits was published. Wikipedia states:

    ‘Emerson used slavery as an example of a human injustice, especially in his role as a minister. In early 1838, provoked by the murder of an abolitionist publisher from Alton, Illinois named Elijah Parish Lovejoy, Emerson gave his first public antislavery address. As he said, “It is but the other day that the brave Lovejoy gave his breast to the bullets of a mob, for the rights of free speech and opinion, and died when it was better not to live”.

    I’m wholly lost now Tom, take no notice of my ramblings, I am merely marshalling the writings of the dead, and Emerson is a big ask to down. The author of The American Scholar, I always thought (since reading it last summer) was a peculiarly imaginative soul who was windy as heck and could blather about with great skill and class. Was he ‘really’ a Racist Tom?

    The evidence thus far suggests not, but I like this piece, because it says stuff that might ‘fail’ and this is what stands out about your writing, that one day you write a turkey and the next a work of genius. You are unafraid to say silly stuff with a straight face, and believe it. Not many out there are capable of this, in the world of po-biz that is, have this quality and gumption of wit which is the most obvious sign of a poetic intelligence doing what it says on the tin: being imaginative and fabricating claims about the dead which are so outrageously NMS (non main-stream), that the MS mass of main-stream casuals in this business of ours, trading language for the craic, playing the game Tom, pretending – most of ’em, just don’t get what you guys do. That the way to be different is to juxtapose stuff whose contrasting qualities make it stand-up and be read because it may be silly, stupid and plain wrong, but never less than interesting and provoking a response. Perhaps the most challenging stunt to pull of: actually getting people to read poetry-in-prose.

    Happy new year, Emerson was a puff.

    Desmond

  5. thomasbrady said,

    January 2, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Poeblogger,

    Happy New Year!

    “You provide absolutely no evidence at all (nothing!!) to support Poe was not a racist,”

    This is ‘when did you stop beating your wife?’ rhetoric. Please provide evidence to me that you are not a racist. Oy vey.

    “English Traits” is not some private piece of correspondence scribbled when Emerson was 15. It is a mature work, his most ambitious work, existing as both text and lecture on his lecture-circuit in the tinderbox years, the 1850s, leading up to the American Civil War when Britain was praying for the U.S. to be torn apart by the slavery issue (and Great Britain provided weapons to the Confederacy, too).

    I appreciate your interest on the issue, and I agree that it’s complex, but your objection seems to rest mostly on ‘So, when did you (Poe) stop beating your (his) wife?’

    Thomas

  6. thomasbrady said,

    January 2, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Porsey,

    I’d never heard of Bernard Manning. Thanks.

    Was Winston Churchill a hero or a bigoted monster? There are good arguments on both sides. It’s complex, innit?

    “Quck, Find the Racist” is merely an (attention-getting) attempt to correct an imbalance in past perception; it’s not meant as the final word.

    Thomas

  7. poeblogger said,

    January 3, 2010 at 1:58 am

    Earlier, you asked, “Should we find him [Poe] guilty on lack of evidence?” Now you’re suggesting that I’m asking when Poe stopped beating his wife. I’ve already provided several instances that show Poe’s racism – or, if nothing else, his sensibilities common to the time period for a Southerner (yes, he lived and worked in the North for a time; he also lived and worked in the South for just as long and in his youth was attended by slaves). Show me one time that Poe said something like what Whittier, Lowell, Longfellow, Sumner, Whitman and countless others said on behalf of blacks in this period. Or, better, show why we should ignore Poe’s direct responses to the abolitionists. Here’s one more: According to one of his letters, Poe is most hurt by his foster-father John Allan when he is treated as lesser than a black person – a true insult for a Southerner. Ultimately, I agree that all generalizations are false (including this one) but let’s keep it complicated: Poe was certainly not free of racism.

  8. thomasbrady said,

    January 3, 2010 at 4:41 am

    Poeblogger,

    I like the way you put this: Poe, and I guess none of us, are “free of racism.”

    Whitman was a racist, by the way, as were many abolitionists. Right after the Civil War, you saw two things happening: First: Northerners exploiting former slaves as poorly paid, cheap labor. These included brothers of Henry and William James. Secondly: Northerners hoping to stir up freed slaves to start a second Civil War of black against white in the South. This included New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, who was hawkish and pro-Union in the beginning of the war, in favor of stopping the war in the middle of the conflict, (even talking to Napolean III on this issue behind Lincoln’s back!) and at the end of the war, spent his own money to get Jefferson Davis freed. Like the American revolution, the American Civil War was a geopolitical conflict of vast international scope, and many in America saw radical abolitionism as a foreign plot to divide and conquer the United States; my point is not to argue the validity of this view, just to point out that it was a factor, and Poe may have been convinced; that Poe was not an out-spoken abolitionist at his death in 1849 does not prove that he was a racist. Poe’s political views were as subtle as anyone’s. He was not a yahoo. Poe is often tacitly excluded from the moral dinner table of American Letters where the Emersons and the Whitmans and the Alcotts dine, and I don’t think this is fair.

    Thomas

  9. poeblogger said,

    January 3, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    First, “racist” is a strong anachronistic term; I maintain that we should be talking about commonly-held views for the time period. The post started as, “Who is racist, Poe or Emerson?” Because it is an “either/or” question, the conclusion that Emerson is a racist implies that Poe is not. I would argue that Emerson, despite his racism, still tried to follow the moral high ground in support of ending slavery. Whitman did the same thing.

    Again, I’m not saying that Poe should be considered a racist because there is no evidence that he was an abolitionist. I’m pointing out all the evidence that Poe had fairly common opinions on black people. There is plenty of evidence of this. There is no evidence that he was an abolitionist; your only source is “why not?” My evidence is, “Because of all this evidence that he was anti-black people.” To reiterate:

    Jupiter in “The Gold-Bug” is presented as a stereotypical, uneducated black servant, using colloquial expressions and being so dumb that he doesn’t know right from left.

    The black character in “A Predicament” (the name escapes me right now) is a perpetual joke in the story who eventually abandons his master when trouble starts.

    Poe’s review of “Poems on Slavery” by Longfellow clearly responds to abolitionist poetry (before the so-called Longfellow War). In particular, he notes that Longfellow writes especially for “negrophilic old ladies of the North” and that Longfellow should get off his high horse and stop telling the South “to give up our all.” Note that “our” rather than “their.”

    Poe’s response to James Russell Lowell’s anti-slavery poems is similar and is one of the reasons the Poe-Lowell friendship breaks down.

    Poe is especially insulted when John Allan treats him like less than a black person, implying that he expects to be treated as better than a black person.

    How about Poe siding with Southern authors? He supports William Gilmore Simms, Thomas Holley Chivers, and Edward Coate Pinkney by noting that each had their popularity suppressed simply by being Southerners.

    There is no evidence to believe Poe would have been an abolitionist – which Emerson certainly was – though you say “that Poe was not an out-spoken abolitionist at his death in 1849 does not prove that he was a racist.” There is plenty of evidence (above cited) that he would have sided with the South and that he held typical Southern sensibilities. Please don’t continue to suggest that this point of view has no evidence (see above).

  10. thomasbrady said,

    January 4, 2010 at 12:22 am

    Poeblogger,

    You continue to ignore “English Traits.”

    I said I wasn’t going to play ‘gotcha’ and that’s what you’re doing.

    I never said Emerson being a racist is evidence that Poe was not a racist, yet you keep chasing this bone.

    “The Gold Bug” and “A Predicament” are not racist tracts; they are tales and the point of neither tale (not even close) is to advance the idea that there is a superior race; this is, in fact, the theme of “English Traits.”

    I don’t if you are up on the latest in Poe studies, but scholars are discovering that pro-slavery reviews in the Southern Literary Messenger formerly thought to have been written by Poe, were not. There now exist no pro-slavery writings by Poe.

    Poe was a Whig, which, as you know, was a liberal party back then.

    Also, Poe inherited a slave and freed him even though laws back then made this action costly. He sold the slave to a free black family in order to set him free.

    Finally, you continue to miss the complexity of the geopolitical situation by taking the simplistic position that abolitionism was never used for cynical purposes by Britain against the United States.

    Yes, I certainly agree with you that we should put ourselves back in that time period to get an understanding of political issues.

    Imagine you love your country and you feel that it’s about to be destroyed by a devastating civil war. You feel this civil war is being urged on by those who wish nothing more than your country’s destruction. Those who wish your country’s destruction are hiding behind a hatred of slavery, even though, in fact, the issue means nothing to them at all, except as a means to destroy the United States. You understand that actual racism is everywhere and that the inflamed issue of abolitionism pushed to its immediate and logical conclusion will rip your nation apart and probably destroy it forever. For the sake of your country, you can’t bring yourself to join the abolitionist cause, even though you are against slavery, for you feel it will push your nation into a holocaust and certain destruction.

    Now, given this context, which is an accurate reflection of how things looked back then during the time leading up to the Civil War, Poe’s writings and Emerson’s “English Traits” need to be examined in a new light. That’s really all I’m saying. I’m looking at the issue geopolitically; I’m not trying to play ‘gotcha, ‘ guessing who and who is not a racist in their deepest being.

    Again, writers who supported abolitionism sincerely are not to be faulted, but the whole issue cannot be used as a simple-minded litmus test.

    Thomas

  11. poeblogger said,

    January 4, 2010 at 4:01 am

    Yes, I’m up on the latest Poe studies (card-carrying member of the Poe Studies Association). Where did you hear Poe was a Whig? Besides one minor mention of it when trying to get in good with someone? I’m not playing “gotcha” either but, your post is. “Quick, find the racist” implies that one is and one isn’t. Poe was a racist, hands-down. Evidence provided above (not including SLM editorials, which I never brought up). His pro-slavery writings, which you continue to ignore, were mentioned by me twice now, particularly his reviews of anti-slavery writers. Emerson was an abolitionist, that’s clear. I’m ignoring “English Traits” because, well, I’m not saying anything about Emerson (unless you disagree that he was an abolitionist). If you’ve noticed, I’ve been talking about Poe; “English Traits” is not relevant to my responses.

    Anyway, here’s your conclusion: Poe might have been anti-slavery. You have no evidence to support it. So, let’s just call a spade a spade: this is speculative. You won’t hear much support from the Poe crowd. You’ll hear no more from me.

  12. thomasbrady said,

    January 4, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Poeblogger,

    Thanks for stopping in. I’ve enjoyed our discussion.

    “Quick, find the racist” does not imply that one is or one isn’t a racist, as you say, at all. You’re missing the whole point: “FIND the racist” makes the whole question one of perception and this is all I’m doing: questioning the perception that Emerson was not a racist and that Poe was. It’s not cut-and-dried whatsoever. Of course you can believe anything you want.

    Secondly, “English Traits” IS relevant to your responses, because, as I’ve taken pains to point out, the whole issue of racism and slavery in the pre-Civil War period in America is a complex geo-political one and the relations between Poe and Emerson figure into that formula very prominently. You can’t know Poe if you ignore the people and writers around him.

    Matthew Pearl just published The Top Five Myths About Edgar Allan Poe in the Huffington Post. Did you see it? It’s almost as if Pearl read my article. It’s a great piece. I hope you read it.

    It’s somewhat a shame that you have all this information and you are obviously intelligent but you keep insisting on looking at the whole issue in this one-dimensional manner.

    Again, I’ve enjoyed the discussion.

    Good luck to you,

    Thomas

  13. poeblogger said,

    January 4, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Sorry, I can’t keep away. “Quick, find the racist” was the challenge. Emerson was the answer and Poe was not (I’m just going off what was given: “It’s the guy on top, of course” rather than “Both” or “Possibly both”). I suppose it can’t be helped how I read into that but all I’m saying is, can’t Poe be considered racist (if you choose to use the anachronistic term) at all in your complicated geopolitical view? You have yet to acknowledge that possibility, despite your other speculation with little to no evidence (Poe might have been anti-slavery).

    As far as the “Poe freed a slave” argument, altruism is also speculative. He was asked to get rid of someone else’s slave, had trouble selling him, so he used an unconventional method to free him. Does that make him anti-slavery?

    I’m taking pains to get you to see that you’re positing only one point of view and dismissing all others. Despite my one-dimensional nature, you have focused on only one thing (Emerson’s “English Traits”) which is not relevant to proving what I’m trying to say (Poe had racist views). Just say, “Yes, that’s possible.”

    Yes, I’ve read Matthew Pearl’s articles (he’s a friend of mine). Have you read “Romancing the Shadow” – a full length book of essays discussing Poe’s views of race?

    • thomasbrady said,

      January 4, 2010 at 4:35 pm

      “Romancing the Shadow” recently came to my attention. I’ll check it out.

      The whole issue of racism and slavery when it comes to Poe and the world he lived in—which includes Emerson and those sorts of writers he quarreled with—is a very large ‘connect-the-dots’ reality, and many of the dots haven’t been connected yet.

      I’m only trying to expand the discussion.

      Thanks for coming back! I liked Pearl’s 5 Poe Myths article because, well, it’s really time to stop apologizing for Poe.

  14. Bob Tonucci said,

    April 16, 2010 at 9:36 am

    Slough

    by John Betjeman

    Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
    It isn’t fit for humans now,
    There isn’t grass to graze a cow.
    Swarm over, Death!

    Come, bombs and blow to smithereens
    Those air-conditioned, bright canteens,
    Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans,
    Tinned minds, tinned breath.

    Mess up the mess they call a town-
    A house for ninety-seven down
    And once a week a half a crown
    For twenty years.

    And get that man with double chin
    Who’ll always cheat and always win,
    Who washes his repulsive skin
    In women’s tears:

    And smash his desk of polished oak
    And smash his hands so used to stroke
    And stop his boring dirty joke
    And make him yell.

    But spare the bald young clerks who add
    The profits of the stinking cad;
    It’s not their fault that they are mad,
    They’ve tasted Hell.

    It’s not their fault they do not know
    The birdsong from the radio,
    It’s not their fault they often go
    To Maidenhead

    And talk of sport and makes of cars
    In various bogus-Tudor bars
    And daren’t look up and see the stars
    But belch instead.

    In labour-saving homes, with care
    Their wives frizz out peroxide hair
    And dry it in synthetic air
    And paint their nails.

    Come, friendly bombs and fall on Slough
    To get it ready for the plough.
    The cabbages are coming now;
    The earth exhales.

    • Desdi said,

      March 5, 2018 at 2:19 pm

      Hey this one is great. Thank you, Noochinator.

  15. Bob Tonucci said,

    April 30, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Industrious Carpenter Dan

    by Wallace Irwin

    An honest man what loves his trade
    Deserves me honest grip;
    And Carpenter Dan was a handy man
    To have about a ship.

    The things he couldn`t hammer up
    Them things he hammered down;
    He sawed the rails and spliced the sails
    And done his bizness brown.

    He scroll-sawed all the masts and spars
    And varnished `em with ile,
    Then he shingled the poop of our gallant sloop
    With a gable, Queen Anne style.

    Along the basement porthole sills
    He worked for hours and hours
    A-building tiers of jardineers
    And planting `em with flowers.

    He filled the deck with rustic seats
    And many a grapevine swing —
    Yes, a handy man was Carpenter Dan,
    For he thought of everything.

    Then pretty soon he got a scheme
    To ease the Capting`s cares,
    So he fitted the sloop with a fine front stoop,
    With rugs and Morris chairs.

    And there we sat a-drinking tea,
    The Capting and his crew,
    When we heard arise, to our great surprise,
    An awful hulleroo.

    The Capting looked across the rail
    And sort of chawed his lip —
    For Carpenter Dan was building an
    Extension to the ship.

    “Avast there, Dan!” the Capting cried,
    “What have you gone to do?”
    “Don`t bother me, man,” said Carpenter Dan,
    “I`m fixing things for you.”

    Then he toe-nailed on a rafter beam
    And sawed a two-by-four;
    Then he gave a yank to a six-inch plank
    And started on the floor.

    So Dan he worked three solid weeks
    Till on a happy day
    A double craft with a Queen Anne aft
    We sailed into the bay.

    And from that bonny lean-to boat
    We vowed no more to roam;
    From window panes to weather vanes
    We loved our floating home.

    And as we sat among the vines
    On many an ocean trip
    We vowed that Dan was a handy man
    To have about the ship.

  16. The Noochie-Coochie Man said,

    August 4, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Sorry I offended you,
    Don’t know what else to tell ya.
    I’m a lumberjack, and you’re
    A tree I couldn’t fell (yeah).

    Sorry I offended you,
    Don’t know what else to say to ya.
    You’re a lumberjack and I’m
    A tree that you put paid to (yeah).

  17. Noochness said,

    November 28, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    http://www.box.net/shared/cks2t41ya7

    Me and Dorothy Parker

    by the Flash Girls

    When my thumbs both started aching I just sat down by the road
    To read the newspapers I’d got stuffed in my shoes
    I had a double-barrelled twelve-gauge and a long red leather coat
    And a phone number in Cleveland, but I was not certain whose

    And so I didn’t see the car pull up, I heard the brake pads squeal
    It was an Oldsmobile, as hot and black as sin
    And there she sat behind the wheel; she said “You look just how I feel”
    She said, “My name’s Dorothy Parker,” and she told me to get in

    We found a lonely filling station right outside Miami Beach
    It was too good an opportunity to miss
    The old man started up to screech; I slipped some shells into the breech
    She pulled a pen out of her garter and said, “Let me handle this”

    And then she cut him with an epigram and slew him with a word
    We took his cash, filled the Oldsmobile with fuel
    And at the motel later, in my mouth her breast pulsed like a bird
    And I have never known a woman half as funny; half as cruel, she said

    “Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
    A medley of extemporanea;
    And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
    And I am Marie of Romania.”

    I guess it all got out of hand, became a verbal killing spree
    I’d shoot to wound, but when she spoke they all dropped dead
    Though every headline in the country featured Dorothy and me
    We were too young and drunk to care, too much in love and too well-read

    We’d lacerate each other or our friends behind their backs
    We’d screw all night or lay in anger side by side
    She was like poetry between the covers, okay in the sack
    And every word so sad and true we laughed until we cried

    They caught up with us in Fresno when she cached some bad reviews
    In a position she had no way to defend
    And I don’t know if the SWAT team or the heartbreak or the booze
    Was what shot her up so badly by the end

    I wanted to surrender but she fought to the last line
    She said, “Let’s shoot our way outside and make a stand”
    I laughed and said, “Age before beauty,” she replied, “Pearls before swine”
    And we went out with both lips blazing and a pen in either hand, she said

    “Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
    A medley of extemporanea;
    And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
    And I am Marie of Romania.”

  18. Noochness said,

    February 9, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    A Brief Political Manifesto

    Jess Walter

    I was driving around the packed Costco parking lot
    looking for a space and listening to some guy
    on NPR talk about America’s growing suburban poor
    when I saw this woman with four kids—
    little stepladders, two-four-six-eight—
    waiting to climb in the car while Mom
    loaded a cask of peanut butter and
    pallets of swimsuits into the back
    of this all-wheel drive vehicle
    and the kids were so cute I waved
    and that’s when I saw the most amazing thing
    as the woman bent over
    to pick up a barrel
    of grape juice:
    her low-rise pants rose low and right there
    in the small of her large back
    stretched a single strained string,
    a thin strap of fabric, yes,
    the Devil’s floss, I shit you not
    a thong, I swear to God, a thong,
    now me, I’m okay with the thong
    politically and aesthetically, I’m fine
    with it being up there or out there,
    or wherever it happens to be.

    My only question is:
    when did Moms start wearing them?

    I remember my mom’s underwear
    (Laundry was one of our chores:
    we folded those things awkwardly,
    like fitted sheets. We snapped them
    like tablecloths. Thwap.
    My sister stood on one end,
    me on the other
    and we walked toward each other
    twice.

    We folded those things
    like big American flags,
    hats off, respectful
    careful not to let them
    brush the ground.)

    Now I know there are people out there
    who constantly fret about
    the Fabric of America;
    gay couples getting married, violent videos, nasty TV,
    that sort of thing.
    But it seems to me
    the Fabric of America
    would be just fine
    if there was a little more of it
    in our mothers’ underpants.

    And that is the issue I will run on
    when I eventually run:
    Getting our moms out of thongs
    and back into hammocks
    with leg holes
    the way God
    intended.

    • Desdi said,

      March 5, 2018 at 2:35 pm

      I like this one for its droll cultural commentary —
      but it is PROSE !

      (thame old thong and danth, my friend)

      • noochinator said,

        March 5, 2018 at 3:37 pm

        It’s from a very funny novel titled The Financial Lives of the Poets

  19. Excerpt/Link support said,

    March 27, 2011 at 11:42 am

    From “Alphonso of Castile” by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

    Earth crowded cries, “Too many men,”—
    My counsel is, Kill nine in ten,
    And bestow the shares of all
    On the remnant decimal.
    Add their nine lives to this cat;
    Stuff their nine brains in his hat;
    Make his frame and forces square
    With the labors he must dare;
    Thatch his flesh, and even his years
    With the marble which he rears;
    There growing slowly old at ease,
    No faster than his planted trees,
    He may, by warrant of his age,
    In schemes of broader scope engage:
    So shall ye have a man of the sphere,
    Fit to grace the solar year.

    http://www.eliteskills.com/analysis_poetry/Alphonso_Of_Castile_by_Ralph_Waldo_Emerson_analysis.php

  20. March 3, 2018 at 10:42 pm

    I want to remind everyone that “Cask of Amontillado” is incredibly insulting to Italians.

    There is enough evidence to prove that Poe was influenced by Southern bigotry.

    Southern Self-Importance of his times and Racial Arrogance made Poe believe that even Italians were second class below him and “the true white men”.

    Poe has no problem writing insults as a joke against Italians, masked by the words of his main character and villain of “Cask of Amontillado”. It is so subtle that it may go unnoticed, something that you might say was only written “in character”, but it proves a shade of racism and ignorance that powers racist beliefs lingering in Poe’s work.

    It is strange that Poe wrote poems about Italian historical landmarks, and he was praised in Italy, but Poe also thought it was wise to insult Italians in Cask of Amontillado.

    I just don’t want people to forget, because I feel like this is something that doesn’t get enough attention about Poe and his racism.

    • thomasbrady said,

      March 5, 2018 at 12:07 am

      Poe didn’t like Italians? Wow. Never heard that one.

      Is “Southern Self-Importance” really a thing? I suppose native pride exists everywhere to some extent. Poe’s Virginia guardian was one of the wealthiest men on the planet but didn’t leave Poe a penny. Poe wrote his world famous works while living in Philly and NYC. He once said he was a citizen of the universe. He wasn’t a provincial man at all.

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        March 5, 2018 at 6:03 am

        Sadly many people found when they moved up North there was just as much bigotry there. It is truly a myth and still is that racism exists only in the South. It is a myth that all Southerners are racist too. I realize that is a peripheral point outside the realm of Poe but I also have reason to know that many people in the South WERE NOT bigoted and ARE NOT bigoted now. Sweeping generalizations are never the whole truth and nothing but. On any topic. And the majority of Southerners DID NOT own slaves and DID NOT WANT TO.

        • maryangeladouglas said,

          March 5, 2018 at 6:07 am

          Also just as one swallow does not a Spring make, one short story about revenge taken on one Italian does not an Italian hater make and certainly many southerns who took the Grand Tour of Europe would NEVER dream of coming back home without seeing the great works of art there. WHAT ABOUT THE GODFATHER MOVEIS ALL THREE OF THEM. Those were certainly not made in the South. I have heard many Italian Americans lament those stereotypes, Mafia stereotypes perpetuated.

          • March 5, 2018 at 7:10 pm

            Poe insults “Blacks” in a few of his works and he insults Italians in Cask of Amontillado. Poe is known to be at least “Racist Adjacent” in his works, so it is easy for me to see that he was insensitive. He has no problem with making these kinds of insults. Either he doesn’t even realize he was being racist, or he hid it well enough.

            Cask of Amontillado openly insults Italians in a way that Poe doesn’t ever usually use against any other race or Nation. Poe goes out of his way to write about how Italians are “quacks”. Why throw that in the story from the perspective of the main character in such a matter-of-fact way?

            It is disrespectful of Poe to write this way.

            • thomasbrady said,

              March 5, 2018 at 10:21 pm

              Matthew,

              Poe’s tale is written from the point of view of a character; it is not Poe’s opinion in the tale—and further, it raises the issue of what is legitimate in things like art and wine: it’s an open, philosophical question. To construe this as Poe “insulting Italians” is a complete stretch.

              And you’ll have to back up your claim of “insults Blacks” with evidence. Poe did defend the South at one point by saying it’s unfair to assume every plantation owner tortured and abused his slaves. The Civil War which ripped apart the country in a genocidal war was something Poe was afraid of, and he was not a fanatic on either side. Poe was not pro-slavery nor did he insult blacks.

              Have you read Emerson’s “English Traits?”

              Tom

  21. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 5, 2018 at 8:45 am

    An article from the Baltimore Sun Examiner from june 2014 that argues that Edgar Allen Poe was not himself a Southern bigot.

    http://baltimorepostexaminer.com/edgar-allan-poe-fall-house-tale-announced-american-apocalypse/2014/06/04


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