Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IX. Tragedy: Humor
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IX. Tragedy: Humor.  1904.
Humorous Poems: II. Miscellaneous
The Mystified Quaker in New York
RESPECTED WIFE: By these few lines my whereabouts thee ’ll learn:
Moreover, I impart to thee my serious concern.
The language of this people is a riddle unto me;
For words with them are figments of a reckless mockery.
For instance, as I left the cars, a youth with smutty face        5
Said, “Shine?” “Nay I ’ll not shine,” I said, “except with inward grace.”
“What ’s inward grace?” said this young Turk;
“A liquid or a paste? Hi, daddy, how does the old thing work?”
I then said to a jehu, whose breath suggested gin,
“Friend, can thee take me to a reputable inn?”        10
But this man’s gross irrelevance I shall not soon forget;
Instead of simply Yea or Nay, he gruffly said, “You bet!”
“Nay, nay, I will not bet,” I said, “for that would be a sin.
Why dost not answer plainly? can thee take me to an inn?
Thy vehicle is doubtless made to carry folks about in;        15
Why then prevaricate?” Said he, “Aha! well now, you ’re shoutin’!”
“I did not shout,” I said, “my friend; surely my speech is mild:
But thine (I grieve to say it) with falsehood is defiled.
Thee ought to be admonished to rid thy heart of guile.”
“Look here, my lovely moke,” said he, “you sling on too much style.”        20
“I ’ve had these plain drab garments twenty years or more,” said I;
“And when thee says I ‘sling on style’ thee tells a wilful lie.”
With that he pranced about as tho’ a bee were in his bonnet,
And with hostile demonstrations inquired if I was “on it.”
“On what? Till thee explain, I cannot tell,” I said;        25
But he swore that something was “too thin,” moreover it was “played.”
But all his antics were surpassed in wild absurdity
By threats, profanely emphasized, to “put a head” on me.
“No son of Belial,” I said, “that miracle can do.”
With that he fell upon me with blows and curses too;        30
But failed to work that miracle, if such was his design;
Instead of putting on a head, he strove to smite off mine.
Thee knows that I profess the peaceful precepts of our sect,
But this man’s acts worked on me to a curious effect;
And when he knocked my broad-brim off, and said, “How ’s that for high!”        35
It roused the Adam in me, and I smote him hip and thigh.
This was a signal for the crowd, for calumny broke loose;
They said I ’d “snatched him bald-headed,” and likewise “cooked his goose.”
But yet I do affirm, that I had not pulled his hair;
Nor had I cooked his poultry, for he had no poultry there.        40
They called me “bully boy,” though I have seen full three-score year;
And they said that I was “lightning when I got upon my ear.”
And when I asked if lightning climbed its ear, and dressed in drab,
“You know how ’t is yourself,” said one insolent young blab.
So I left them in disgust: plain-spoken men like me        45
With such perverters of our tongue can have no unity.

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