Ode to the Frog of the Bandusian Font, by Henry Augustin Beers

APRIL 18. The financial panic in the class has passed its crisis. Last term the little busy B. compiled an ‘Index to the Yale Literary Magazine,’ which he foisted upon a reluctant public at fifty cents a copy, exacting payment in advance of publication. Pending the appearance of this valuable guide to the treasures of genius buried in the Li., each subscriber received a ticket entitling the holder to one copy of the ‘Index’ as soon as it should be issued. These choses in action, being negotiable, got into circulation in the class, and were used in the payment of debts and otherwise. They began to depreciate rapidly, and were finally bought up by one speculator, and employed as poker chips by the gamblers of South College, being redeemed at eleven cents apiece, or twenty-two per cent., on their face value. The Courant now asserts that B. is trying to bull the market by threatening to issue a limited edition of the ‘Index’ and retain five hundred copies for his own use.

APRIL 23. Spring vacation to-morrow. Have been packing my trunk all the afternoon. I think, on the whole, I won’t take this diary home, but will give father my reflections on the studies of the term, etc., orally.

MAY 17. Last night I was initiated into the Red Letter Club – nicknamed by outsiders ‘The Dead Letter Club.’ Father wrote last week, giving his consent to my joining the club. He objects to the Greek letter societies as frivolous and a waste of time; but he cordially approved my entering an association whose object is defined by the constitution – a noble instrument – as ‘the culture of the mind and the mutual improvement of the members, socially, intellectually, and morally.’

The meetings are held at Mrs. Bruno’s alehouse, a place not as unspotted of the world as the President’s lecture room, but very respectable – for an alehouse. I was told to report there at 8 P.M. On entering the taproom I was a little in doubt, as there was no one there but the usual barkeeper, with red face and blue mustache. I asked him if this was Mrs Bruno’s, and he answered with that indirectness which I have noticed in barkeepers (and which is singularly like the responses in the Greek tragic dialogue):

‘Wal, Bruno’s the name on the signboard, I guess.’

At this moment Hudson, who is president of the club, heard my voice, and opening an inner door, beckoned me into the snuggery. All the members were present except Watson, who came in late and was fined fifty cents. I signed my name to the constitution, and took an iron-clad oath to support it to the bloody end. There were some Babylonish red curtains at the window, which lent a cheerful air to the scene, but my feelings were outraged by the mural decorations – a green and yellow lithograph of the Prodigal Son and a chromo of the Good Samaritan pouring arnica into the wounds of the man who fell among thieves.

Dempster opened the literary exercises by reading an essay on life insurance. He was frequently interrupted by bursts of applause. Impatient and critical spirits solaced themselves during the reading by munching the soothing almond and raisin. But he was followed by Higginson, who told from memory De Quincey’s story of the ‘Spanish Nun,’ an affliction which lasted an hour and a half, and which neither sweetmeats nor stimulants could mitigate. A contribution was then read from the Harvard Chapter, of which I obtained a copy:

HORATIAN DIALOGUE.

LEWIS.
Walter, about your room you often tell,
To talk about your pictures never cease;
But in one thing you’ll own that I excel –
I have a cattle piece.

WALTER.
Lewis, in vain you try to shake my mind
By saying this thing, which you hope is new.
Unreasoning boaster, ignorant and blind,
I have one, too!

LEWIS.
My cattle lie upon a gentle hill,
And calmly gaze into the distant west,
While the low sun shines on each glistening rill,
And sinks to rest.

WALTER.
Mine proudly stand upon the mountain turf,
And view with wondering eyes the landscape wide,
Silently listening to the tumbling surf
On far off ocean side.

LEWIS.
From this vain striving now let each one cease;
This much I own, your cattle piece is fine.

WALTER.
Well said, O friend: praise you your cattle piece,
And I’ll praise mine.

The MSS, are filed away in a box, labeled ‘Veal Cutlets.’ A Hebe with a retroussé nose then brought in the Welsh rabbits. They were a little too Welsh for me, and were made of what our Sheffield member called ‘granulated’ cheese. Not wishing to be unfaithful to traditions of the club, I ate a rabbit and a half, and experienced the most deplorable consequences afterward. Nor were the entire resources of science applied to the ventilation of the oyster pie which followed. Watson informed me that they once had roast duck, but the strain on the resources of Mrs Bruno’s cuisine had been awful. The wine was an offense to taste – a North Carolina product known as ‘Scuppernong.’

The members of the club then had the opportunity of enjoying that inestimable privilege – the right of suffrage – in balloting for officers for the ensuing year. The result was announced amid the wildest enthusiasm, and the idols of popular favor received their honors in the customary blushing manner.

I have written to father for the initiation fee (ten dollars), saying that the exercises of the club are of a most profitable character, and that I feel my mind already greatly improved.

OCTOBER 13. Rushton has been absent from the class this term. Some of the fellows saw him the other day in the lower part of the town, dragging a small go-cart, full of packages. He explained that so many horses down with the epizootic, that merchants had to hire men to deliver parcels. So he had become a horse, and he said was more money in it than in being a Greek pony, at cents an hour, or writing compositions on ‘The Law of Decay in Nations,’ at two dollars apiece, for men in the third division. He will not return to college so long as his job holds out to burn.

OCTOBER 22. Another good man gone! This time it is Gudgeon, the Caliban with a pink beard, who was imported last year from somewhere in Boone County by Henderson. Henderson has always been rather anxious about him. When he first came up to be examined, he was afraid that he might get mad and lick some of the examiners if they asked him too many questions. He said that Gudgeon was a Southern boy, and could cut and shoot, and wouldn’t stand any bigod nonsense.

It seems that Gudgeon and some others had been down town, and came into the yard about 11 P.M. feeling quite racy. They made such happy noises that Barlow, who was studying Conics in his room in North Middle, opened his window and yelled out, ‘Get me so; I want to be so.’ This woke Tutor Divitiacus – known as old Privative Entity – who watched the subsequent proceedings with interest.

The crowd then went down to the fence, and seeing a light in Tuckerman’s shop across the street, they began to sing a variation of the well known German cradle song, ‘Schlaf, Kindele, Schlaf.’

‘Sleep, Tuckerman, sleep! Sleep, Tuckerman, sleep!
Your oil and your chimneys will do very well;
Your matches won’t light if you stick ’em in –
‘Sleep,’ etc.

The words are by Higginson, whose big astral lamp – which he calls Pharos – drinks so much oil and breaks so many chimneys that he is dreadfully in debt to Tuckerman. Tuckerman lately refused him any further credit, so Higginson wrote this song for revenge, and has trained a quartette to sing it.

Pretty soon Tuckerman’s light went out, and all the fellows went off to bed except Gudgeon and Nimrod.

The ironmonger opposite South College uses his front yard to advertise his wares. On the door-steps is a pair of ‘portal-warding lion-whelps.’ On one side of the walk is a deer with liver-colored mottlings, and on the other a realistic Newfoundland dog. In the center of the right-hand grass plot is a bathukolpos sphinx on a pedestal, and in the centre of the left-hand plot an ornamented fountain with goldfish. On the edge of the basin squats a large green frog. This is the third of the family, two predecessors having been stolen by Nimrod for memorabil. To guard against further losses, the ironmonger had had this one riveted to the fountain by a spike driven through its body. But this fact was unknown to Gudgeon. Nimrod was telling him, as they sat on the fence, of his capture of the two previous frogs, which he offered to show him if he would come to his room over the Old Chapel some day, and look over his collection.

The tale fired Gudgeon to emulation. With a wild Boone County whoop, he ran across the street, vaulted the (iron) fence and strove to tear the reptile from its moorings. But the frog – like him of Calaveras County – ‘with fixed anchor in his scaly rind,’ refused to budge. Gudgeon tugged and pushed, and his imprecations filled the night. Then, suddenly abandoning his first design, he jumped into the water and chased the gold fish around the basin, clutching at their darting forms in the uncertain gleams of the gaslights which adorned the ironmonger’s gate-posts. It was while he was thus engaged that Tutor Divitiacus and Policeman X. simultaneously, though not preconcertedly, wwooped upon him from opposite sides.

NOVEMBER 8. Gudgeon’s suspension was the subject of our table talk to-day. Punderson, the class poet, produced and read an ‘Ode to the Frog of the Bandusian Font.’ It began

‘O hapless saurian.’

But Watson, who is in the zoology elective and has been vivisecting frogs all this term, pointed out to Punderson that he was way off in his natural history; and he changed it accordingly to,

‘O hoarse batrachian.’

It came out that, on the night after Gudgeon’s adventure, Hudson, who is full of merry conceits, had taken a paint pot and brush and painted two inscriptions on the rim of the fountain, one on each side of the frog; to wit: ‘Marry come up!’ and ‘The iron hath entered his soul.’ This had embittered the monger, who complained to the Faculty and Gudgeon was sacrificed.

Henderson reproached Hudfor thus compromising Gudgeon’s case pendente lite. But Hudson said he didn’t think Gudgeon was much of a loss to the class anyway; he was a very uncultivated man, called his father his ‘paw,’ and pronounced does ‘dooz.’ Henderson retorted that Hudson was pedantic and narrow-minded, and very small in his way of judging men. He called him an iota subscript and a microscopic siliceous spiculum of a sponge, and said that Gudgeon might be rough in his ways, but he had a great big soul.

It is reported that Gudgeon is at Stamford, and that he threatens to lick Tutor Divitiacus as soon as his suspension is over.

NOVEMBER 17. The sensation of the day is the appearance of Higginson in a silk hat with a weed. It is said that G. Horne, who has recently lost an uncle, went down to the hatter’s to get a weed put on his hat. Higginson happened to walk down Chapel Street with him, and, arrived at the hatter’s. G. Horne urged him, almost with tears in his eyes, to go inside with him and get a new hat, discarding the cap with a fur button on top, which has made it so painful of late to associate much with Higginson.

‘Have some style about you!’ implored G. Horne.

‘Well, what shall I get?’ asked Higginson.

‘Get a tall hat, like mine,’ said G. Horne.

Higginson finally consented, and the hat was bought. The hatter asked G. Horne how wide he wanted his weed. Was he in mourning for a very near relative?

‘An uncle,’ answered G. Horne.

‘Then about three inches will be correct,’ said the hatter.

‘Say,’ struck in Higginson, ‘I believe you can put a weed on mine, too. It makes a hat look tony.’

‘Yes, sir,’ said the hatter: ‘and what shall I make it?’

‘Oh, about an uncle,’ answered Higginson.”
-Excerpt and (top) image courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library, Yale University, “The Ways of Yale in the Counselship of Plancus,” by Henry Augustin Beers, 1895

TO HENRY AUGUSTIN BEERS.

“The bays are fading on your brown,
So long ago Fame placed them there;
You wear them as serenely now
As when they were more fresh and fair.

New wreaths your later years have won,
The scholar’s and the teacher’s due,
Meet honor for work nobly done;
But can they mean so much to you

As those first laurels won in youth,
When through the Beaver marsh you came
And what you saw with poet’s truth,
Your pen could sketch in words of flame?

I well remember the first time
I turned your pages; I recall
The careful art, the perfect rime,
Your genial spirit kindling all.

They hold their power to move me still;
Most keenly when, with fingers certain,
I find my favorite, and thrill
To read ‘The Rising of the Curtain.’

I wonder if, in some sad hour,
The pain of which you never tell,
You mourn your youth’s departed flower
And sighing wait the prompter’s bell.

I do you wrong: with undimmed ray
Still burns, like some clear amethyst,
The poet’s fire; but yesterday
You wrote ‘The Dying Pantheist.’

The bays are fadeless on your brow,
Green leaves replace the old and sere;
You wear them as serenely now
As those Fame placed there yesteryear.”
-Excerpt courtesy of Archive.org, University of Michigan, “The World’s Best Poetry,” by Bliss Carman, 1904

THE RISING OF THE CURTAIN.

“WE sit before the curtain, and we heed the pleasant bustle:
The ushers hastening up the aisles, the fans and programmes’ rustle;
The boy that cries librettos, and the soft, incessant sound
Of talking and low laughter that buzzes all around.

How very old the drop-scene looks! A thousand times before
I’ve seen that blue paint dashing on that red distemper shore;
The castle and the gouache sky, the very ilex-tree, –
They have been there a thousand years, – a thousand more shall be.

All our lives we have been waiting for that weary daub to rise;
We have peeped behind its edges, ‘as if we were God’s spies;’
We have listened for the signal; yet still, as in our youth,
The colored screen of matter hangs between us and the truth.

When in my careless childhood I dwelt beside a wood,
I tired of the clearing where my father’s cabin stood;
And of the wild young forest paths that lured me to explore,
Then dwindled down, or led me back to where I stood before.

But through the woods before our door a wagon track went by,
Above whose utmost western edge there hung an open sky;
And there it seemed to make a plunge, or break off suddenly,
As though beneath that open sky it met the open sea.

Oh, often have I fancied, in the sunset’s dreamy glow,
That mine eyes had caught the welter of the ocean waves below;
And the wind among the pine-tops, with its low and ceaseless roar,
Was but an echo from the surf on that imagined shore.

Alas! as I grew older, I found that road led down
To no more fair horizon than the squalid factory town:
So all life’s purple distances, when nearer them I came,
Have played me still the same old cheat, – the same, the same, the same!

And when, O King, the heaven departeth as a scroll,
Wilt thou once more the promise break thou madest to my soul?
Shall I see thy feasting presence thronged with baron, knight, and page?
Or will the curtain rise upon a dark and empty stage?

For lo, quick undulations across the canvas run;
The foot-lights brighten suddenly, the orchestra has done;
And through the expectant silence rings loud the prompter’s bell;
The curtain shakes, – it rises. Farewell, dull world, farewell!

Henry A Beers.”
-Excerpt courtesy of Google Books, “The Two Twilights,” by Henry Augustin Beers, 1917

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