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: I. Woman
The Proud Miss MacBride
John Godfrey Saxe (1816–1887)
A Legend of Gotham

O, TERRIBLY proud was Miss MacBride,
The very personification of pride,
As she minced along in fashion’s tide,
Adown Broadway—on the proper side—
    When the golden sun was setting;        5
There was pride in the head she carried so high,
Pride in her lip, and pride in her eye,
And a world of pride in the very sigh
    That her stately bosom was fretting!
O, terribly proud was Miss MacBride,        10
Proud of her beauty, and proud of her pride,
And proud of fifty matters beside—
    That wouldn’t have borne dissection;
Proud of her wit, and proud of her walk,
Proud of her teeth, and proud of her talk,        15
Proud of “knowing cheese from chalk,”
    On a very slight inspection!
Proud abroad, and proud at home,
Proud wherever she chanced to come—
When she was glad, and when she was glum;        20
    Proud as the head of a Saracen
Over the door of a tippling-shop!—
Proud as a duchess, proud as a fop,
“Proud as a boy with a brand-new top,”
    Proud beyond comparison!        25
It seems a singular thing to say,
But her very senses led her astray
    Respecting all humility;
In sooth, her dull auricular drum
Could find in humble only a “hum,”        30
And heard no sound of “gentle” come,
    In talking about gentility.
What lowly meant she didn’t know,
For she always avoided “everything low,”
    With care the most punctilious;        35
And, queerer still, the audible sound
Of “super-silly” she never had found
    In the adjective supercilious!
The meaning of meek she never knew,
But imagined the phrase had something to do        40
With “Moses,” a peddling German Jew,
Who, like all hawkers, the country through,
    Was “a person of no position;”
And it seemed to her exceedingly plain,
If the word was really known to pertain        45
To a vulgar German, it wasn’t germane
    To a lady of high condition!
Even her graces—not her grace—
For that was in the “vocative case”—
Chilled with the touch of her icy face,        50
    Sat very stiffly upon her!
She never confessed a favor aloud,
Like one of the simple, common crowd—
But coldly smiled, and faintly bowed,
As who should say, “You do me proud,        55
    And do yourself an honor!”
And yet the pride of Miss MacBride,
Although it had fifty hobbies to ride,
    Had really no foundation;
But, like the fabrics that gossips devise—        60
Those single stories that often arise
And grow till they reach a four-story size—
    Was merely a fancy creation!
Her birth, indeed, was uncommonly high—
For Miss MacBride first opened her eye        65
Through a skylight dim, on the light of the sky;
    But pride is a curious passion—
And in talking about her wealth and worth,
She always forgot to mention her birth
    To people of rank and fashion!        70
Of all the notable things on earth,
The queerest one is pride of birth
    Among our “fierce democracie”!
A bridge across a hundred years,
Without a prop to save it from sneers,—        75
Not even a couple of rotten peers,
A thing for laughter, fleers, and jeers,
    Is American aristocracy!
English and Irish, French and Spanish,
German, Italian, Dutch and Danish,        80
Crossing their veins until they vanish
    In one conglomeration!
So subtle a tangle of blood, indeed,
No Heraldry Harvey will ever succeed
    In finding the circulation.        85
Depend upon it, my snobbish friend,
Your family thread you can’t ascend,
Without good reason to apprehend
You may find it waxed, at the farther end,
    By some plebeian vocation!        90
Or, worse than that, your boasted line
May end in a loop of stronger twine,
    That plagued some worthy relation!
But Miss MacBride had something beside
Her lofty birth to nourish her pride—        95
For rich was the old paternal MacBride,
    According to public rumor;
And he lived “up town,” in a splendid square,
And kept his daughter on dainty fare,
And gave her gems that were rich and rare,        100
And the finest rings and things to wear,
    And feathers enough to plume her.
A thriving tailor begged her hand,
But she gave “the fellow” to understand,
    By a violent manual action,        105
She perfectly scorned the best of his clan,
And reckoned the ninth of any man
    An exceedingly vulgar fraction!
Another, whose sign was a golden boot,
Was mortified with a bootless suit,        110
    In a way that was quite appalling;
For, though a regular sutor by trade,
He wasn’t a suitor to suit the maid,
Who cut him off with a saw—and bade
    “The cobbler keep to his calling!”        115
A rich tobacconist comes and sues,
And, thinking the lady would scarce refuse
A man of his wealth, and liberal views,
Began, at once, with “If you choose
    And could you really love him—”        120
But the lady spoiled his speech in a huff,
With an answer rough and ready enough,
To let him know she was up to snuff,
    And altogether above him!
A young attorney, of winning grace,        125
Was scarce allowed to “open his face,”
Ere Miss MacBride had closed his case
    With true judicial celerity;
For the lawyer was poor, and “seedy” to boot,
And to say the lady discarded his suit,        130
    Is merely a double verity!
The last of those who came to court,
Was a lively beau, of the dapper sort,
“Without any visible means of support,”
    A crime by no means flagrant        135
In one who wears an elegant coat,
But the very point on which they vote
    A ragged fellow “a vagrant!”
Now dapper Jim his courtship plied
(I wish the fact could be denied)        140
With an eye to the purse of the old MacBride,
    And really “nothing shorter!”
For he said to himself, in his greedy lust,
“Whenever he dies—as die he must—
And yields to Heaven his vital trust,        145
He ’s very sure to ‘come down with his dust,’
    In behalf of his only daughter.”
And the very magnificent Miss MacBride,
Half in love, and half in pride,
    Quite graciously relented;        150
And, tossing her head, and turning her back,
No token of proper pride to lack—
To be a bride, without the “Mac,”
    With much disdain, consented!
Old John MacBride, one fatal day,        155
Became the unresisting prey
    Of fortune’s undertakers;
And staking all on a single die,
His foundered bark went high and dry
    Among the brokers and breakers!        160
But, alas, for the haughty Miss MacBride,
’T was such a shock to her precious pride!
She couldn’t recover, although she tried
    Her jaded spirits to rally;
’T was a dreadful change in human affairs,        165
From a place “up town” to a nook “up stairs,”
    From an avenue down to an alley!
’T was little condolence she had, God wot,
From her “troops of friends,” who hadn’t forgot
    The airs she used to borrow!        170
They had civil phrases enough, but yet
’T was plain to see that their “deepest regret”
    Was a different thing from sorrow!
And one of those chaps who make a pun,
As if it were quite legitimate fun        175
To be blazing away at every one
With a regular, double-loaded gun—
    Remarked that moral transgression
Always brings retributive stings
To candle-makers as well as kings;        180
For “making light of cereous things”
    Was a very wick-ed profession!
And vulgar people—the saucy churls—
Inquired about “the price of pearls,”
    And mocked at her situation:        185
“She wasn’t ruined—they ventured to hope—
Because she was poor, she needn’t mope;
Few people were better off for soap,
    And that was a consolation!”
And to make her cup of woe run over,        190
Her elegant, ardent plighted lover
    Was the very first to forsake her;
“He quite regretted the step, ’t was true—
The lady had pride enough ‘for two,’
But that alone would never do        195
    To quiet the butcher and baker!”
And now the unhappy Miss MacBride—
The merest ghost of her early pride—
    Bewails her lonely position;
Cramped in the very narrowest niche,        200
Above the poor, and below the rich—
    Was ever a worse condition!
Because you flourish in worldly affairs,
Don’t be haughty, and put on airs,
    With insolent pride of station!        205
Don’t be proud, and turn up your nose
At poorer people in plainer clothes,
But learn, for the sake of your mind’s repose,
That wealth ’s a bubble that comes—and goes!
And that all proud flesh, wherever it grows,        210
    Is subject to irritation!

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