September 25, 2014

Elmore: Tramping, hurrying, rushing

Indiana poet James B. Elmore earned a reputation writing about ordinary things, from sassafras to mushrooms, and from kittens to cuckoo clocks. His poetry was intentionally jaunty and fun, and he earned a great reputation in his region (they called him the "Bard of Alamo," after his home town in Indiana). He was a layer, a preacher, and carpenter, before retiring as a farmer. He found time to write poetry every fee moment he had, and his themes represented his somewhat unpolished rural background. His poem "Streetcar and Elevator," dated September 25, 1900, took an interesting view of the modernization of society (with tongue in cheek):

I'm in the city;
   I don't know what to do,
Unless I take a street car
   And ride the whole town through.

Buzz — they come a-rushing,
   Buzz — they pass you by;
Tramping, hurrying, rushing,
   The people turn and sigh.

A man that works a lever
   Is sitting on in front;
Another, on the rear end,
   With cash, fare bell, and punch.

The sparks are flying round you,
   And something makes a siz;
Your heart is near collapsing.
   O, what a feeling it is!

Jing-a-ling! You're stopping,
   And then you pass along,
While holding to some straps
   That dangle o'er the throng.

As soon as you have started
   They ask you for your fare;
If you don't a nickel have,
   You're trotted off the car.

Yet there is another thing
   Which is not very clear—
How the fleeting elevator
   Goes up and down so queer.

It is always ready;
   You just step in and on.
You can't say your baby prayers
   Until your heart is gone.

You're going up so very fast
   You cannot see about,
And you feel so awful queer,
   As though the bottom was out.

I saw a great big fellow
   A-standing proud and stiff,
And at his first experience
   You should have seen him twist.

He crouched down in one corner
   And expressed himself: "By grit!
I believe I'll take that flight of stairs
   For fear the thing may slip."

I saw him going down the stairs,
   Three hundred pounds avoirdupois,
And by the time he'd reach the ground
   You'd be in Illinois.

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