Monday, December 7, 2015

Not in the old Melville Log

The earliest help wanted ad I can find transcribed in my 1951 edition of The Melville Log is the one for hat trimmers in March 1836. Here's one from 1833. In this 1833 ad, Gansevoort specifically wants female applicants: "25 girls who are experienced hands at making fur and hair caps." Published in the Albany Argus August 31, 1833:

In the extant portion of his diary Gansevoort notes on January 18, 1834 that he "went to store and paid the hands off." Now I"m wondering, were some of these "hands" recently hired "girls"?

In the same issue of the Albany Argus that carried Gansevoort's 1833 help wanted ad, the following original poem appeared over the (less than humble?) signature of "AVON BARD." Long after, a correspondent of the Argus (December 4, 1844) identified "Avon Bard" as W[illiam]. H[owe]. C[uyler] Hosmer, author of Yonnandio: "Hosmer's Indians are the real hunters of the forest, with all their faults and with all their noble traits of character...."

Born in Avon, New York, nineteen-year old Hosmer wrote a number of poems for the Albany Argus in 1833 over his pseudonym "Avon Bard." "The Indian's Death Song" does not appear in Hosmer's 1854 collection, The Poetical Works of William H. C. Hosmer.


   The sun was slowly sinking to his ocean
Couch, and purple clouds were gathering in
The west. It was the hour when joyous hearts
Are filled with melancholy musings. Perched
On a mossy bough, the warbling red-breast
With the brook kept tune; the plaintive strain
A requiem seemed for dying leaves and flowers.
The Genesee his swelling banks between, bathed
In a golden flood, rolled on. Upon a rock
Which overhung his wave, an Indian stood;
On him the sculptor would have gladly
Gazed, and realized have found his dreams
Of manly beauty. The passing breeze the dark
Locks lifted from his dusky brow, on which was
Deeply traced the lines of thought. His features
Wore a sad expression; though at times, his falcon
Eye would flash, as if he mused on unrequited wrongs:
And when the sun went down, he westward
Gazed, as if his spirit panted to commence its
Flight to happy hunting-grounds. The scene,
The hour, the memory of buried joys recalled,
And the old chief, with gesture wild, thus sang:

“Thy waves, dark-rolling Genesee, still lave the flowery shore—
To gaze upon thy turbid tide, I have returned once more:
Thy glassy bosom pictures yet the sunbeam and the cloud,
Although the oak which fringed thy bank the ringing axe hath bowed;
The music of thy waters still bends with the wild bird’s song,
Although the vale is sadly changed through which you wind along;
The sun smiles on the meadow green, once shadowed by the wood,
And domes of beauty crown the hill where our rude cabin stood.
Where echoed once the hunter-shout, and blazed the council fire,
The joyous harvest-song is heard, and skyward points the spire;
The antlered monarch of the wood to distant wilds hath gone,
And velvet moss hath gathered now upon the altar stone;
The wild duck hath forsaken, too, his water-girdled nest—
Unscared, in streams far, far away, he bathes his glossy breast;
The bow of strength is broken now, from which the arrow flew,
The dusky pilot guides no more his flying bark canoe.
I visited the hallowed spot where my dead sires reposed;
But ah! The secrets of the tomb the plough-boy had disclosed:
And when I saw their bleaching bones to every eye revealed,
The long-sealed fount of childish tears was willingly unsealed.
The dark haired maid will not again, in pensive twilight hours,
To strew upon the grassy mound, bring blooming forest flowers;
The waving grain is bending there its bearded head of gold,
And strangers tread with careless foot upon their ashes cold.
The grave is rifled of the charms, by some destroying hand,
Placed there to guide their fainting steps unto the spirit land.
The waterfall, which rudely sends its murmur to my ear,
In solemn language telleth me the angry dead are near;
And when the winds sigh mournfully among the forest leaves,
Methinks for his degraded race my father’s spirit grieves.
The pale-face long since offered us the cup with poisoned brim—
Our lion hearts grew cowardly, our falcon eyes grew dim;
To join the spirits of my tribe, this is a glorious eve,
Of this dark world, forever, now I take a mournful leave.”
A sullen plunge was faintly heard, his form was seen no more—
The river lakeward glided on as calmly as before.


Hosmer's last couplet with its "sullen plunge" reminds me of similar-sounding lines about burial at sea quoted elsewhere, for example in a popular Naval Reminiscence and William Arthur's A Mission to the Mysore. There the couplet with "sullen plunge" (or "sudden plunge" as also frequently given) comes from 1829 lines on Burial at Sea by Nathaniel H. Carter. Published in more than one New York Newspaper, including the New York Observer, the New York Mirror, and  New York Evening Post.
The closing scene—the burial at sea.
From his room to the deck they brought him drest
For his funeral rites, by his own request,
With his boots, and stock, and garments on,
And naught but the breathing spirit gone;
For he wished a child might come and lay
An unstartled hand upon his clay.
   Then they wrapp'd his corse in the tarry sheet,
To the dead, as Araby's spices, sweet,
And prepared him to seek the depths below,
Where waves never beat, nor tempests blow.
No steeds with their nodding plumes were here,
No sable hearse, and no coffin'd bier,
To bear with parade and pomp away
The dead, to sleep with his kindred clay.
But the little groupe—a silent few,
His companions, mixed with the hardy crew.
Stood thoughtful around, till a prayer was said,
O'er the corse of the deaf, unconscious dead.
Then they bore his remains to the vessel's side,
And committed them safe to the dark blue tide;
One sullen plunge, and the scene is o'er,
The sea rolled on as it rolled before. 

In that classical sea, whose azure vies
With the green of its shores and the blue of its skies,
In some pearly cave—in some coral cell,
Oh! the dead shall sleep as sweetly, as well
As if shrined in the pomp of Parian tombs,
Where the east and the south breathe their rich perfumes.
   Nor forgotten shall be the humblest one,
Though he sleep in the watry wastes alone,
When the trump of the angel sounds with dread,
And the sea, like the earth, gives up its dead.  --New York Mirror, Vol 10 
 It's kind of like the Pequod voyage from beginning to end in one rhymed couplet.
"...we gave three heavy-hearted cheers, and blindly plunged like fate into the lone Atlantic."  --Moby-Dick, Merry Christmas
"... then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago."  --Moby-Dick, chapter 135

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