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The Fight with the Snapping Turtle; or, The American St George.


Have you heard of Philip Slingsby,
Slingsby of the manly chest;
How he slew the Snapping Turtle
In the regions of the West?

Every day the huge Cawana
Lifted up its monstrous jaws;
And it swallowed Langton Bennett,
And digested Rufus Dawes.

Riled, I ween, was Philip Slingsby,
Their untimely deaths to hear;
For one author owed him money,
And the other loved him dear.

“Listen now, sagacious Tyler,
Whom the loafers all obey;
What reward will Congress give me,
If I take this pest away?”

Then sagacious Tyler answered,
“You’re the ring-tailed squealer! Less
Than a hundred heavy dollars
Won’t be offered you, I guess!

“And a lot of wooden nutmegs
In the bargain, too, we’ll throw
Only you just fix the critter.
Won’t you liquor ere you go?”

Straightway leaped the valiant Slingsby
Into armour of Seville,
With a strong Arkansas toothpick
Screwed in every joint of steel.

“Come thou with me, Cullen Bryant,
Come with me, as squire, I pray;
Be the Homer of the battle
Which I go to wage to-day.”

So they went along careering
With a loud and martial tramp,
Till they neared the Snapping Turtle
In the dreary Swindle Swamp.

But when Slingsby saw the water,
Somewhat pale, I ween, was he.
“If I come not back, dear Bryant,
Tell the tale to Melanie!

“Tell her that I died devoted,
Victim to a noble task!
Han’t you got a drop of brandy
In the bottom of your flask?”

As he spoke, an alligator
Swam across the sullen creek;
And the two Columbians started,
When they heard the monster shriek;

For a snout of huge dimensions
Rose above the waters high,
And took down the alligator,
As a trout takes down a fly.

“’Tarnal death! the Snapping Turtle!”
Thus the squire in terror cried;
But the noble Slingsby straightway
Drew the toothpick from his side.

“Fare thee well!” he cried, and dashing
Through the waters, strongly swam:
Meanwhile, Cullen Bryant, watching,
Breathed a prayer and sucked a dram.

Sudden from the slimy bottom
Was the snout again upreared,
With a snap as loud as thunder,
And the Slingsby disappeared.

Like a mighty steam-ship foundering,
Down the monstrous vision sank;
And the ripple, slowly rolling,
Plashed and played upon the bank.

Still and stiller grew the water,
Hushed the canes within the brake;
There was but a kind of coughing
At the bottom of the lake.

Bryant wept as loud and deeply
As a father for a son
“He’s a finished ’coon, is Slingsby,
And the brandy’s nearly done!”


In a trance of sickening anguish,
Cold and stiff, and sore and damp,
For two days did Bryant linger
By the dreary Swindle Swamp;

Always peering at the water,
Always waiting for the hour
When those monstrous jaws should open
As he saw them ope before.

Still in vain; the alligators
Scrambled through the marshy brake,
And the vampire leeches gaily
Sucked the garfish in the lake.

But the Snapping Turtle never
Rose for food or rose for rest,
Since he lodged the steel deposit
In the bottom of his chest.

Only always from the bottom
Sounds of frequent coughing rolled,
Just as if the huge Cawana
Had a most confounded cold.

On the banks lay Cullen Bryant,
As the second moon arose,
Gouging on the sloping greensward
Some imaginary foes;

When the swamp began to tremble,
And the canes to rustle fast,
As though some stupendous body
Through their roots were crushing past.

And the waters boiled and bubbled,
And, in groups of twos and threes,
Several alligators bounded,
Smart as squirrels, up the trees.

Then a hideous head was lifted,
With such huge distended jaws,
That they might have held Goliath
Quite as well as Rufus Dawes.

Paws of elephantine thickness
Dragged its body from the bay,
And it glared at Cullen Bryant
In a most unpleasant way.

Then it writhed as if in torture,
And it staggered to and fro;
And its very shell was shaken
In the anguish of its throe:

And its cough grew loud and louder,
And its sob more husky thick!
For, indeed, it was apparent
That the beast was very sick.

Till, at last, a spasmy vomit
Shook its carcass through and through,
And as if from out a cannon,
All in armour Slingsby flew.

Bent and bloody was the bowie
Which he held within his grasp;
And he seemed so much exhausted
That he scarce had strength to gasp

“Gouge him, Bryant! darn ye, gouge him!
Gouge him while he’s on the shore!”
Bryant’s thumbs were straightway buried
Where no thumbs had pierced before.

Right from out their bony sockets
Did he scoop the monstrous balls;
And, with one convulsive shudder,
Dead the Snapping Turtle falls!

“Post the tin, sagacious Tyler!”
But the old experienced file,
Leering first at Clay and Webster,
Answered, with a quiet smile

“Since you dragged the ’tarnal crittur
From the bottom of the ponds,
Here’s the hundred dollars due you,
All in Pennsylvanian Bonds!”

The Lay of Mr Colt.

[The story of Mr Colt, of which our Lay contains merely the sequel, is this: A New York printer, of the name of Adams, had the effrontery to call upon him one day for payment of an account, which the independent Colt settled by cutting his creditor’s head to fragments with an axe. He then packed his body in a box, and sprinkling it with salt, despatched it to a packet bound for New Orleans. Suspicions having been excited, he was seized and tried before Judge Kent. The trial is, perhaps, the most disgraceful upon the records of any country. The ruffian’s mistress was produced in court, and examined, in disgusting detail, as to her connection with Colt, and his movements during the days and nights succeeding the murder. The head of the murdered man was bandied to and fro in the court, handed up to the jury, and commented on by witnesses and counsel; and to crown the horrors of the whole proceeding, the wretch’s own counsel, a Mr Emmet, commencing the defence with a cool admission that his client took the life of Adams, and following it up by a detail of the whole circumstances of this most brutal murder in the first person, as though he himself had been the murderer, ended by telling the jury, that his client was “entitled to the sympathy of a jury of his country,” as “a young man just entering into life, whose prospects, probably, have been permanently blasted.” Colt was found guilty; but a variety of exceptions were taken to the charge by the judge, and after a long series of appeals, which occupied more than a year from the date of conviction, the sentence of death was ratified by Governor Seward. The rest of Colt’s story is told in our ballad.]


And now the sacred rite was done, and the marriage-knot was tied,
And Colt withdrew his blushing wife a little way aside;
“Let’s go,” he said, “into my cell; let’s go alone, my dear;
I fain would shelter that sweet face from the sheriff’s odious leer.
The jailer and the hangman, they are waiting both for me,
I cannot bear to see them wink so knowingly at thee!
Oh, how I loved thee, dearest! They say that I am wild,
That a mother dares not trust me with the weasand of her child;
They say my bowie-knife is keen to sliver into halves
The carcass of my enemy, as butchers slay their calves.
They say that I am stern of mood, because, like salted beef,
I packed my quartered foeman up, and marked him ‘prime tariff;’
Because I thought to palm him on the simple-souled John Bull,
And clear a small percentage on the sale at Liverpool;
It may be so, I do not know these things, perhaps, may be;
But surely I have always been a gentleman to thee!
Then come, my love, into my cell, short bridal space is ours,
Nay, sheriff, never con thy watch I guess there’s good two hours.
We’ll shut the prison doors and keep the gaping world at bay,
For love is long as ’tarnity, though I must die to-day!”


The clock is ticking onward,
It nears the hour of doom,
And no one yet hath entered
Into that ghastly room.
The jailer and the sheriff,
They are walking to and fro:
And the hangman sits upon the steps,
And smokes his pipe below.
In grisly expectation
The prison all is bound,
And, save expectoration,
You cannot hear a sound.

The turnkey stands and ponders;
His hand upon the bolt,
“In twenty minutes more, I guess,
’Twill all be up with Colt!”
But see, the door is opened!
Forth comes the weeping bride;
The courteous sheriff lifts his hat,
And saunters to her side,
“I beg your pardon, Mrs C.,
But is your husband ready?”
“I guess you’d better ask himself,”
Replied the woeful lady.

The clock is ticking onward,
The minutes almost run,
The hangman’s pipe is nearly out,
’Tis on the stroke of one.
At every grated window,
Unshaven faces glare;
There’s Puke, the judge of Tennessee,
And Lynch, of Delaware;
And Batter, with the long black beard,
Whom Hartford’s maids know well;

And Winkinson, from Fish Kill Reach,
The pride of New Rochelle;
Elkanah Nutts, from Tarry Town,
The gallant gouging boy;
And ’coon-faced Bushwhack, from the hills
That frown o’er modern Troy;
Young Julep, whom our Willis loves,
Because, ’tis said, that he
One morning from a bookstall filched
The tale of “Melanie;”
And Skunk, who fought his country’s fight
Beneath the stripes and stars,
All thronging at the windows stood,
And gazed between the bars.
The little boys that stood behind
(Young thievish imps were they!)
Displayed considerable nous
On that eventful day;
For bits of broken looking-glass
They held aslant on high,
And there a mirrored gallows-tree
Met their delighted eye.
The clock is ticking onward;
Hark! hark! it striketh one!
Each felon draws a whistling breath,
“Time’s up with Colt! he’s done!”

The sheriff cons his watch again,
Then puts it in his fob,
And turning to the hangman, says
“Get ready for the job.”
The jailer knocketh loudly,
The turnkey draws the bolt,
And pleasantly the sheriff says,
“We’re waiting, Mister Colt!”

No answer! no! no answer!
All’s still as death within;
The sheriff eyes the jailer,
The jailer strokes his chin.
“I shouldn’t wonder, Nahum, if
It were as you suppose.”
The hangman looked unhappy, and
The turnkey blew his nose.

They entered. On his pallet
The noble convict lay,
The bridegroom on his marriage-bed
But not in trim array.
His red right hand a razor held,
Fresh sharpened from the hone,
And his ivory neck was severed,
And gashed into the bone.

And when the lamp is lighted
In the long November days,
And lads and lasses mingle
At the shucking of the maize;
When pies of smoking pumpkin
Upon the table stand,
And bowls of black molasses
Go round from hand to hand;
When slap-jacks, maple-sugared,
Are hissing in the pan,
And cider, with a dash of gin,
Foams in the social can;

When the goodman wets his whistle,
And the goodwife scolds the child;
And the girls exclaim convulsively,
“Have done, or I’ll be riled!”
When the loafer sitting next them
Attempts a sly caress,
And whispers, “Oh, you ’possum,
You’ve fixed my heart, I guess!”
With laughter and with weeping,
Then shall they tell the tale,
How Colt his foeman quartered,
And died within the jail.

The Death of Jabez Dollar.

[Before the following poem, which originally appeared in ’Fraser’s Magazine,’ could have reached America, intelligence was received in this country of an affray in Congress, very nearly the counterpart of that which the Author has here imagined in jest. It was very clear, to any one who observed the then state of public planners in America, that such occurrences must happen, sooner or later. The Americans apparently felt the force of the satire, as the poem was widely reprinted throughout the States. It subsequently returned to this country, embodied in an American work on American manners, where it characteristically appeared as the writer’s own production; and it afterwards went the round of British newspapers, as an amusing satire, by an American, of his countrymen’s foibles!]

The Congress met, the day was wet, Van Buren took the chair;
On either side, the statesman pride of far Kentuck was there.
With moody frown, there sat Calhoun, and slowly in his cheek
His quid he thrust, and slaked the dust, as Webster rose to speak.

Upon that day, near gifted Clay, a youthful member sat,
And like a free American upon the floor he spat;
Then turning round to Clay, he said, and wiped his manly chin,
“What kind of Locofoco’s that, as wears the painter’s skin?”

“Young man,” quoth Clay, “avoid the way of Slick of Tennessee;
Of gougers fierce, the eyes that pierce, the fiercest gouger he;
He chews and spits, as there he sits, and whittles at the chairs,
And in his hand, for deadly strife, a bowie-knife he bears.

“Avoid that knife. In frequent strife its blade, so long and thin,
Has found itself a resting-place his rivals’ ribs within.”
But coward fear came never near young Jabez Dollar’s heart,
“Were he an alligator, I would rile him pretty smart!”

Then up he rose, and cleared his nose, and looked toward the chair;
He saw the stately stripes and stars, our country’s flag was there!
His heart beat high, with eldritch cry upon the floor he sprang,
Then raised his wrist, and shook his fist, and spoke his first harangue.

“Who sold the nutmegs made of wood the clocks that wouldn’t figure?
Who grinned the bark off gum-trees dark the everlasting nigger?
For twenty cents, ye Congress gents, through ’tarnity I’ll kick
That man, I guess, though nothing less than ’coonfaced Colonel Slick!”

The Colonel smiled with frenzy wild, his very beard waxed blue,
His shirt it could not hold him, so wrathy riled he grew;
He foams and frets, his knife he whets upon his seat below
He sharpens it on either side, and whittles at his toe.

“Oh! waken snakes, and walk your chalks!” he cried, with ire elate; “Darn my old mother, but I will in wild cats whip my weight! Oh! ’tarnal death, I’ll spoil your breath, young Dollar, and your chaffing, Look to your ribs, for here is that will tickle them without laughing!”

His knife he raised with fury crazed, he sprang across the hall;
He cut a caper in the air he stood before them all:
He never stopped to look or think if he the deed should do,
But spinning sent the President, and on young Dollar flew.

They met they closed they sank they rose, in vain young Dollar strove For, like a streak of lightning greased, the infuriate Colonel drove His bowie-blade deep in his side, and to the ground they rolled, And, drenched in gore, wheeled o’er and o’er, locked in each other’s hold.

With fury dumb with nail and thumb they struggled and they thrust,
The blood ran red from Dollar’s side, like rain, upon the dust;
He nerved his might for one last spring, and as he sank and died,
Reft of an eye, his enemy fell groaning by his side.

Thus did he fall within the hall of Congress, that brave youth;
The bowie-knife has quenched his life of valour and of truth;
And still among the statesmen throng at Washington they tell
How nobly Dollar gouged his man how gallantly he fell.

The Alabama Duel.

“Young chaps, give ear, the case is clear. You, Silas Fixings, you
Pay Mister Nehemiah Dodge them dollars as you’re due.
You are a bloody cheat, you are. But spite of all your tricks, it
Is not in you Judge Lynch to do. No! nohow you can fix it!”

Thus spake Judge Lynch, as there he sat in Alabama’s forum,
Around he gazed, with legs upraised upon the bench before him;
And, as he gave this sentence stern to him who stood beneath,
Still with his gleaming bowie-knife he slowly picked his teeth.

It was high noon, the month was June, and sultry was the air,
A cool gin-sling stood by his hand, his coat hung o’er his chair;
All naked were his manly arms, and shaded by his hat,
Like an old senator of Rome that simple Archon sat.

“A bloody cheat? Oh, legs and feet!” in wrath young Silas cried;
And springing high into the air, he jerked his quid aside.
“No man shall put my dander up, or with my feelings trifle,
As long as Silas Fixings wears a bowie-knife and rifle.”

“If your shoes pinch,” replied Judge Lynch, “you’ll very soon have ease;
I’ll give you satisfaction, squire, in any way you please;
What are your weapons? knife or gun? at both I’m pretty spry!”;
“Oh! ’tarnal death, you’re spry, you are?” quoth Silas; “so am I!”

Hard by the town a forest stands, dark with the shades of time,
And they have sought that forest dark at morning’s early prime;
Lynch, backed by Nehemiah Dodge, and Silas with a friend,
And half the town in glee came down to see that contest’s end.

They led their men two miles apart, they measured out the ground;
A belt of that vast wood it was, they notched the trees around;
Into the tangled brake they turned them off, and neither knew
Where he should seek his wagered foe, how get him into view.

With stealthy tread, and stooping head, from tree to tree they passed,
They crept beneath the crackling furze, they held their rifles fast:
Hour passed on hour, the noonday sun smote fiercely down, but yet
No sound to the expectant crowd proclaimed that they had met.

And now the sun was going down, when, hark! a rifle’s crack!
Hush hush! another strikes the air, and all their breath draw back,
Then crashing on through bush and briar, the crowd from either side
Rush in to see whose rifle sure with blood the moss has dyed.

Weary with watching up and down, brave Lynch conceived a plan,
An artful dodge whereby to take at unawares his man;
He hung his hat upon a bush, and hid himself hard by;
Young Silas thought he had him fast, and at the hat let fly.

It fell; up sprang young Silas, he hurled his gun away;
Lynch fixed him with his rifle, from the ambush where he lay.
The bullet pierced his manly breast yet, valiant to the last,
Young Fixings drew his bowie-knife, and up his foxtail cast.

With tottering step and glazing eye he cleared the space between,
And stabbed the air as stabs in grim Macbeth the younger Kean:
Brave Lynch received him with a bang that stretched him on the ground,
Then sat himself serenely down till all the crowd drew round.

They hailed him with triumphant cheers in him each loafer saw
The bearing bold that could uphold the majesty of law;
And, raising him aloft, they bore him homewards at his ease,
That noble judge, whose daring hand enforced his own decrees.

They buried Silas Fixings in the hollow where he fell,
And gum-trees wave above his grave that tree he loved so well;
And the ’coons sit chattering o’er him when the nights are long and damp;
But he sleeps well in that lonely dell, the Dreary ’Possum Swamp.

The American’s Apostrophe to Boz.

[So rapidly does oblivion do its work nowadays that the burst of amiable indignation with which America received the issue of his American Notes and Martin Chuzzlewit is now almost wholly forgotten. Not content with waging a universal rivalry in the piracy of the Notes, Columbia showered upon its author the riches of its own choice vocabulary of abuse; while some of her more fiery spirits threw out playful hints as to the propriety of gouging the “stranger,” and furnishing him with a permanent suit of tar and feathers, in the then very improbable event of his paying them a second visit. The perusal of these animated expressions of free opinion suggested the following lines, which those who remember Boz’s book, and the festivities with which he was all but hunted to death, will at once understand. The object aimed at was to do justice to the bitterness and “immortal hate” of these thin-skinned sons of freedom. Happily the storm passed over: Dickens paid, in 1867-68, a second visit to the States, was well received, made a not inconsiderable fortune by his Readings there, and confessed that he had judged his American hosts harshly on his former visit.]

Sneak across the wide Atlantic, worthless London’s puling child,
Better that its waves should bear thee, than the land thou hast reviled;
Better in the stifling cabin, on the sofa thou shouldst lie,
Sickening as the fetid nigger bears the greens and bacon by;
Better, when the midnight horrors haunt the strained and creaking ship,
Thou shouldst yell in vain for brandy with a fever-sodden lip;
When amid the deepening darkness and the lamp’s expiring shade,
From the bagman’s berth above thee comes the bountiful cascade,
Better than upon the Broadway thou shouldst be at noonday seen,
Smirking like a Tracy Tupman with a Mantalini mien,
With a rivulet of satin falling o’er thy puny chest,
Worse than even N. P. Willis for an evening party drest!

We received thee warmly kindly though we knew thou wert a quiz, Partly for thyself it may be, chiefly for the sake of Phiz! Much we bore, and much we suffered, listening to remorseless spells Of that Smike’s unceasing drivellings, and these everlasting Nells. When you talked of babes and sunshine, fields, and all that sort of thing, Each Columbian inly chuckled, as he slowly sucked his sling; And though all our sleeves were bursting, from the many hundreds near Not one single scornful titter rose on thy complacent ear. Then to show thee to the ladies, with our usual want of sense We engaged the place in Park Street at a ruinous expense; Even our own three-volumed Cooper waived his old prescriptive right, And deluded Dickens figured first on that eventful night. Clusters of uncoated Yorkers, vainly striving to be cool, Saw thee desperately plunging through the perils of la Poule: And their muttered exclamation drowned the tenor of the tune,
“Don’t he beat all natur hollow? Don’t he foot it like a ’coon?”

Did we spare our brandy-cocktails, stint thee of our whisky-grogs?
Half the juleps that we gave thee would have floored a Newman Noggs;
And thou took’st them in so kindly, little was there then to blame,
To thy parched and panting palate sweet as mother’s milk they came.
Did the hams of old Virginny find no favour in thine eyes?
Came no soft compunction o’er thee at the thought of pumpkin pies?
Could not all our chicken fixings into silence fix thy scorn?
Did not all our cakes rebuke thee, Johnny, waffle, dander, corn?
Could not all our care and coddling teach thee how to draw it mild?
Well, no matter, we deserve it. Serves us right! We spoilt the child!
You, forsooth, must come crusading, boring us with broadest hints
Of your own peculiar losses by American reprints.

Such an impudent remonstrance never in our face was flung; Lever stands it, so does Ainsworth; you, I guess, may hold your tongue. Down our throats you’d cram your projects, thick and hard as pickled salmon, That, I s’pose, you call free trading, I pronounce it utter gammon. No, my lad, a ’cuter vision than your own might soon have seen, That a true Columbian ogle carries little that is green; That we never will surrender useful privateering rights, Stoutly won at glorious Bunker’s Hill, and other famous fights; That we keep our native dollars for our native scribbling gents, And on British manufacture only waste our straggling cents; Quite enough we pay, I reckon, when we stump of these a few For the voyages and travels of a freshman such as you.

I have been at Niagara, I have stood beneath the Falls,
I have marked the water twisting over its rampagious walls;
But “a holy calm sensation,” one, in fact, of perfect peace,
Was as much my first idea as the thought of Christmas geese.
As for “old familiar faces,” looking through the misty air,
Surely you were strongly liquored when you saw your Chuckster there.
One familiar face, however, you will very likely see,
If you’ll only treat the natives to a call in Tennessee,
Of a certain individual, true Columbian every inch,
In a high judicial station, called by ’mancipators Lynch.
Half an hour of conversation with his worship in a wood,
Would, I strongly notion, do you an infernal deal of good.
Then you’d understand more clearly than you ever did before,
Why an independent patriot freely spits upon the floor,
Why he gouges when he pleases, why he whittles at the chairs,
Why for swift and deadly combat still the bowie-knife he bears,
Why he sneers at the old country with republican disdain,
And, unheedful of the negro’s cry, still tighter draws his chain.
All these things the judge shall teach thee of the land thou hast
Get thee o’er the wide Atlantic, worthless London’s puling child!