January 3, 2011
Chicago: A Satire
"Farewell, Chicago! Ruin fall on you!
I hate, despise, and loathe you through and through.
I hate the tricks of this intemperate clime,
The dust in summer and in spring the slime;
Nature is here on one perpetual spree;
She shifts from hot to cold with devilish glee;
From flare to frost so quick the vile jade turns,
Your left hand freezes while your right hand burns.
Sometimes you stroll forth. May in all your veins;
You turn a corner and December reigns."
These lines, accurately describing Chicago's unpredictable weather, were published in a 1901 poem titled, "Chicago: A Satire." The author is listed as Thomas P. Johnson, but don't bother revving up the Google search engine. This little poem first appeared in "The Inlander," a University of Michigan student publication established in 1890, and it doesn't appear that Mr. Johnson continued writing.
In the poem, the author is saying goodbye to his friend, Jack, at the train station. It seems Jack has not done very well in Chicago and laments, "When stocks is watered, somebody gets soaked." Jack doesn't like Chicago's air, the trains, feels the city is crime-ridden, hates the people and immigrants. In fact, he is just glad to be getting out of Chicago. His friend, the author, counters the arguments, and reminds the reader that Chicago is a different sort of city:
"And even this filth, are blessings in disguise.
The former drive the weak forth in dismay;
The latter keeps the gilded drone away;
Hence our proud energy, our manners free.
Our ways of kindly hospitality.
This is no place, my boy, to whine or shirk;
This soil is sacred to the god of work.
The deep low song the laboring city sings
Is full of discords to the ears of kings.
I love the people's insolence and pride;
Long be the rich by their stern hate defied."
It's a wonderful oddity; a little gem of prairie prose poetry. Enjoy.
Posted by Chicagobookbabe
Labels: Chicago poetry