At other times while the great poet was singing his sweetest songs, we would seize his ancient roosters by their tails, and while they were making night hideous with their lamentations, the angry couple would bombard the hen-roosts with shovels, hoes and other weapons in the hope of slaughtering the marauders. These pleasantries made much fun for us, and varied the monotony of the lives of our entertainers.
The ancient daughter firmly believed that she possessed the fatal gift of beauty, although her elongated face was of the thickness and color of sole leather, and one eye was hideously closed, while the other was of spotless green. It was wonderful to see her cork-screw curls and languishing smirks when the young men took turns in pretending to court her, while an admiring crowd gazed at their amours through the window.
I can recall but two of the greatest of the poems of this man who delighted in the full belief that Shakespeare could not “hold a candle to him.” These I take pleasure in handing down through the ages.
“A youth of parts, a witty blade
To college went and progress made
Sounding round his logick;
The prince of hell wide spread his net,
And caught him by one lucky hit
And dragged him down to tophet.”
“In the year 1801
I, Enoch B——, was born
Without any shirt on.”
Career of A dominie-pedagogue.
Dear old fathers and mothers! Of all the people in this world, they look through the rubbish of our imperfections, and see in us the divine ideal of our natures, love in us not perhaps the men we are, but the angels we may be in the evolution of the “sweet by and by,” like the mother of St. Augustine, who, even while he was wild and reckless, beheld him standing clothed in white a ministering priest at the right hand of God.
They see through us as Michel Angelo saw through the block of marble, declaring that an angel was imprisoned within it. They are soul artists. They can never acknowledge our faults, only our divine possibilities; so, when I left the academy, my parents, with strong yearning and with tears, entreated me to become a minister. I had not the heart to disappoint them and as one hypnotized, on a Sabbath morning during that summer, the clergyman immersed me in the river, while a wondering crowd watched from the shore. The very waters seemed to protest, for as I gasped for breath at the cold backward plunge, I imbibed copious draughts of the briny deep, and was well-nigh strangled. I survived the ordeal, and that afternoon preached in the church to nearly the entire population of the town on the “Final state of the impenitent dead.”
Oh, the terrors of this my first sermon, horrors to preacher as well as to “preachees.” As I sat in the pulpit beside our pastor, listening to the tremulous tones of the organ which followed the prayer, and gazing at the sea of upturned faces, they seemed taunting me with all the wild pranks of my boyhood, and crying “Oh fool and hypocrite.”