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Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Ode to Stephen Dowling Bots, Dec'd.


              1And did young Stephen sicken,
              2    And did young Stephen die?
              3And did the sad hearts thicken,
              4    And did the mourners cry?

              5No; such was not the fate of
              6    Young Stephen Dowling Bots;
              7Though sad hearts round him thickened,
              8    'Twas not from sickness' shots.

              9No whooping-cough did rack his frame,
            10    Nor measles drear, with spots;
            11Not these impaired the sacred name
            12    Of Stephen Dowling Bots.

            13Despised love struck not with woe
            14    That head of curly knots,
            15Nor stomach troubles laid him low,
            16    Young Stephen Dowling Bots.

            17O no. Then list with tearful eye,
            18    Whilst I his fate do tell.
            19His soul did from this cold world fly,
            20    By falling down a well.

            21They got him out and emptied him;
            22    Alas it was too late;
            23His spirit was gone for to sport aloft
            24    In the realms of the good and great.

Notes

1] Twain's parody of obituary poetry popular in the late 19th century (Adventures, pp. 402-03). A poem described by Huckleberry Finn as by the late Emmeline Grangerford (who died before her 14th birthday) and as printed in the Presbyterian Observer. "Buck said she could rattle off poetry like nothing. She didn't ever have to stop to think. He said she would slap down a line, and if she couldn't find anything to rhyme with it she would just scratch it out and slap down another one, and go ahead. She warn't particular, she could write about anything you choose to give her to write about, just so it was sadful. Every time a man died, or a woman died, or a child died, she would be on hand withher `tribute' before he was cold. She called them tributes. The neighbors said it was the doctor first, then Emmeline, then the undertaker--the undertaker never got in ahead of Emmeline but once, and then she hung fire on a rhyme for the dead person's name, which was Whistler. She warn't ever the same, after that; she never complained, but she kind of pined away and did not live long" (p. 141).


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Works of Mark Twain, vol. 8, ed. Walter Blair and Victor Fischer, with the assistance of Dahlia Armon and Harriet Elinor Smith (Berkeley: University of California Press in cooperation with the University of Iowa, 1988), p. 139. PS 1300 F72 v. 8 Trinity College.
First publication date: 1885
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO, 1998.
Recent editing: 2:2002/1/30

Rhyme: abab


Other poems by Mark Twain