Saturday, November 23, 2013

"The Book-Selling Man" by Himself (1883)

The Book-Selling Man.



Oh, the book-selling man was young and was fair,

Had a dewy blue eye and bright yellow hair.

He was straight and was strong, as fat as possum,

And his nose was as red as a peony in blossom.

His forehead of marble rose straight from his nose;

He wore a straw hat and his best Sunday clothes;

His cheek, it was dimpled; his conceit was not small,

As he went valiantly forth to make his first call.


"Oh, wise literati, most learned of thy village:—

Of the great poet Wordsworth thy face is the image:—

A most valuable work I now offer to thee;

'T is highly commended by the LL.D.

Our professors have examined this book with great care,

And pronounce it a work of excellence rare;

Of Athens and Rome and of buried Pompeii

Of Babylon's gardens and palace of brass,

Of Karnac's great temple, of Thermopylae pass;

Of all that the ancients e'er thought or conceived,

This work gives account that may be believed.

On one of your wisdom and learning and taste

It is quite unnecessary more time to waste

In showing the value of a work such as this.

Pray put your name there, at the head of my list,

For a name such as yours, well-known and respected,

To have first on my list I most wisely elected,

For when the less-knowing see your name at the head

Proud, by one of your wisdom to be wisely led,

They'll all follow on, will quickly subscribe,

And to you my success I will largely ascribe,

There, put your name down, right here if you please,

And the rest of my task I'll accomplish with ease."

But the man of such wisdom, learning and taste,

Looked silently at him, stared full in his face,

Then towering aloft, he fiercely began;

"Get out of my house—you book-selling man!"


"Oh, farmer so wealthy, the lord of the meadow—

This horse, what a strong-built, fine-looking fellow—

I've a book which to show, I've been often advised,

Is one that you would most surely be prized.

What a fine house you have, sir, what wonderful crops;

What a thrift young orchard; what excellent hops.

I've sene no such farm in the country about;

You have an A one place, of that there's no doubt.

But—this book that I have, examine it pray,

Your neighbors by it are quite carried away.

It tells of the ancients and their curious ways,

How they lived, loved and died in those far-away days.

It tells how they farmed it long ages ago,

How they reaped and, most curious, how they did sow;

They scattered the seed on the on soft, mellow ground,

Then turned in the swine to trample it down;

Just read it—'t will increase your crops forty fold

To know how they tilled it and farmed it of old."

But the farmer scarce "list" while he finished his lingo

Till he swore a great oath, by the great living jingo,

He was poor as Job's turkeys, his crops didn't pan,

"'Sides, he never took stock in no book-selling man."


"Oh, ancient maiden, whose charms fade so fast,

I bring thee relief from all trouble at last;

A book that tells of that ancient cosmetic,

'T is avouched by the scholars, what I say is authentic,

By which ancient old maids kept their beauty from fading,

And envious age their charms from invading.

Why—'t is wonderful, and yet very true,

How much these old fossils actually knew,

Such skill had they in the art of preserving

'T is hard to believe it—without some reserving—

And blushed when uncovered, cast its eyes on the ground,

Simpered and smiled, half-pouted her lips,

And blew a sweet kiss from her dark finger tips.

And the wonderful secret of this strange preservation,

This marvelous book tells without reservation;

So, if you'd be happy, be gay and admired,

By all the young gallants be madly desired,

Just purchase my book, where the secret is told,

How to be always young and ne'er grow old."

But this ancient maiden with wild-flowing curls

At the poor helpless agent scorn and anger fast hurl;

She hit him, she cuffed him, felled him flat with her fan,

"You insulting young booby, you book-selling man."


"Oh, maiden sweet, where trip 'st thou so merrily,

Singing so happily, laughing so cheerily,

Oh, sprite of the unknown, fair nymph of the woodland!

Thy bright blushed cheeks by soft zephyrs fanned,—

Thy long, waving lashes, half hide from our view,

Thy eyes dark and tender, so deep and so true.

Thy forehead is snow-white, thy soft golden hair

Floats gracefully out on the wings of the air.

Thou art Helen and Venus, Diana in one,

The greatest and fairest that lives under the sun,

Or, a beautiful fairy, whose splendor and grace

Proclaim thee the queen of that thrice-happy race,

The soft tapering fingers—deep-veined and so white—

Are the envy of women, thy lover's delight.

And I am thy lover and from those lips for one kiss

I could give thee a world—I will give thee this,

A book—"

But he never got further.

The sprite, (she was, Irish) cried out "Bloody murther!"

She screeched and she howled, said the man was a liar,

She had many a lover, but her name was Marlar.

She howled and she screeched as a girl only can.

She had niver a kiss for no book-selling man!"


The book-selling man is weary and worn,

And life of all beauty is suddenly shorn.

Gone's the blue from the sky and the gold from the sunset,

And the bright silver crowd that the moon gives the wavelet;

His dewy blue eye is a cold chilly grey,

And his bright yellow hair is in sad negligee.

His nose that was red is redder than ever,

And his forehead is brown, from all sorts of weather.

You may call his hat straw, if you're not too conscientious,

But his best Sunday clothes are quite filamentous.

'Tis his conceit now is dimpled and his cheek that's not small,

For he's seen much of life since he made that first call.

He has seen much of life, of its cuffs and its kicks,

Believes the "objective real'ty" of bull-dogs and bricks.

He had learned to be meek and to lie like the Trojans,

And to judge of some men by the size of their brogans.

He has found the world hollow, been oft hollow himself,

And now, like his books, he's laid on the shelf.

"The Book-Selling Man." Troy Daily Times. January 20, 1883: 1 col 1.

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