Verse > Anthologies > Louis Untermeyer, ed. > Modern American Poetry
Louis Untermeyer, ed. (1885–1977). Modern American Poetry.  1919.
Guy Wetmore Carryl. 1873–1904
55. How Jack Found that Beans May Go Back On a Chap
WITHOUT the slightest basis 
For hypochondriasis 
  A widow had forebodings 
                    which a cloud around her flung, 
And with expression cynical         5
For half the day a clinical 
  Thermometer she held 
                    beneath her tongue. 
Whene'er she read the papers 
She suffered from the vapors,  10
  At every tale of malady 
                    or accident she'd groan; 
In every new and smart disease, 
From housemaid's knee to heart disease, 
  She recognized the symptoms  15
                    as her own! 
She had a yearning chronic 
To try each novel tonic, 
  Elixir, panacea, lotion, 
                    opiate, and balm;  20
And from a homeopathist 
Would change to an hydropathist, 
  And back again, 
                    with stupefying calm! 
She was nervous, cataleptic,  25
And anemic, and dyspeptic: 
  Though not convinced of apoplexy, 
                    yet she had her fears. 
She dwelt with force fanatical 
Upon a twinge rheumatical,  30
  And said she had a 
                    buzzing in her ears! 
Now all of this bemoaning 
And this grumbling and this groaning 
  The mind of Jack, her son and heir,  35
                    unconscionably bored. 
His heart completely hardening, 
He gave his time to gardening, 
  For raising beans was 
                    something he adored.  40
Each hour in accents morbid 
This limp maternal bore bid 
  Her callous son affectionate 
                    and lachrymose good-bys. 
She never granted Jack a day  45
Without some long "Alackaday!" 
  Accompanied by 
                    rolling of the eyes. 
But Jack, no panic showing, 
Just watched his beanstalk growing,  50
  And twined with tender fingers 
                    the tendrils up the pole. 
At all her words funereal 
He smiled a smile ethereal, 
  Or sighed an absent-minded  55
                    "Bless my soul!" 
That hollow-hearted creature 
Would never change a feature: 
  No tear bedimmed his eye, however 
                    touching was her talk.  60
She never fussed or flurried him, 
The only thing that worried him 
  Was when no bean-pods 
                    grew upon the stalk! 
But then he wabbled loosely  65
His head, and wept profusely, 
  And, taking out his handkerchief 
                    to mop away his tears, 
Exclaimed: "It hasn't got any!" 
He found this blow to botany  70
  Was sadder than were all 
                    his mother's fears. 
The Moral is that gardeners pine 
Whene'er no pods adorn the vine. 
Of all sad words experience gleans  75
The saddest are: "It might have beans." 
  (I did not make this up myself: 
  'Twas in a book upon my shelf. 
  It's witty, but I don't deny 
  It's rather Whittier than I!)  80

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