It was printed, and street-car poetry became popular. Different papers had a turn at it, and each usually preceded its own effort with all other examples, as far as perpetrated. Clemens discovered the lines, and on one of their walks recited them to Twichell. “A Literary Nightmare” was written a few days later. In it the author tells how the jingle took instant and entire possession of him and went waltzing through his brain; how, when he had finished his breakfast, he couldn’t tell whether he had eaten anything or not; and how, when he went to finish the novel he was writing, and took up his pen, he could only get it to say:
Punch in the presence of the passenjare.
He found relief at last in telling it to his reverend
friend, that is,
Twichell, upon whom he unloaded it with sad results.
It was an amusing and timely skit, and is worth reading to-day. Its publication in the Atlantic had the effect of waking up horse-car poetry all over the world. Howells, going to dine at Ernest Longfellow’s the day following its appearance, heard his host and Tom Appleton urging each other to “Punch with care.” The Longfellow ladies had it by heart. Boston was devastated by it. At home, Howells’s children recited it to him in chorus. The streets were full of it; in Harvard it became an epidemic.
It was transformed into other tongues. Even Swinburne, the musical, is said to have done a French version for the ’Revue des deux mondes’*. A St. Louis magazine, The Western, found relief in a Latin anthem with this chorus:
Pungite, fratres, pungite, Pungite cum amore, Pungite pro vectore, Diligentissime pungite.
* Le chant du conducteur
Ayant ete paye, le conducteur
Percera en pleine vue du voyageur,
Quand il regoit trois sous un coupon vert,
Un coupon jaune pour six sous c’est l’affaire,
Et pour huit sous c’est un coupon couleur
De rose, en pleine vue du voyageur.
Donc, percez soigneusement, mes freres
Tout en pleine vue des voyageurs, etc.
MARK TWAIN AND HIS WIFE
Clemens and his wife traveled to Boston for one of those happy fore-gatherings with the Howellses, which continued, at one end of the journey or another, for so many years. There was a luncheon with Longfellow at Craigie House, and, on the return to Hartford, Clemens reported to Howells how Mrs. Clemens had thrived on the happiness of the visit. Also he confesses his punishment for the usual crimes: