13 March 2009

Go to the Groggery’s Cell

For Poetry Friday, here's some of the deathless verse of Dr. Charles Jewett, as published in the Almanac of the American Temperance Union, for 1842, recently acquired by the Boston Athenaeum.

Ye who have felt the joy
Of childhood's guiltless life,
Pity the drunkard's boy,
And the drunkard's wretched wife.

For through the winter day
He leaves them cold and ill;
The night comes on his way,
But he returns not still.

The fire is getting low,
And o'er the dreary plain
That barefoot boy must go,
To seek for wood again.

He weeps when he is told
That he again must go;
It makes his feet so cold
To tread upon the snow.

But where's the father, where?
Go to the groggery's cell,
And ask the question there:--
The rum-seller could tell.
Jewett died in 1879 at the age of 72 after a lifetime of crusading against alcohol. He was also known for his Holmesian powers of observation. (He's not to be confused with his contemporary Charles Coffin Jewett, one of the founders of American library cataloguing.)

The same imagery survives in an urban setting in Hal Standish's Fred Fearnot series, as published in "an interesting weekly" in 1906. We just don't see children's literature like this anymore.

No comments: