It's not about the house.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Ooh, I Forgot!

You might should like to see the inspiration behind the title of the fifteen-part series about my schmortage?

It comes from a poem by a 19th-century American poet named Will Carleton. It is waaay past old enough to be protected by copyright, so I present it here in its entirety with a 99.44% Ivory-pure conscience...

So, without further ado...

[The Tramp’s Story]

by: William McKendree Carleton

If experience has gold in it (as discerning folks agree),
Then there’s quite a little fortune stowed away somewhere in me,
And I deal it out regardless of a regular stated price,
In rough-done-up prize package of common-sense advice;
The people they can take it, or run round it, as they please;
But the best thing they’ll find in it is some words like unto these:

Worm or beetle—drought or tempest—on a farmer’s land may fall;
But for first-class ruination, trust a mortgage ’gainst them all.

On my weddin’-day my father touched me kindly on the arm,
And handed me the papers for an eighty acre farm,
With the stock an’ tools an’ buildin’s for an independent start;
Saying, “Here’s a wedding present from my muscle and my heart;
And, except the admonitions you have taken from my tongue,
And the reasonable lickin’s that you had when you was young,
And your food and clothes and schoolin’ (not so much as I could wish,
For I had a number eatin’ from a some’at scanty dish),
And the honest love you caprtured when you first sat on my knee,
This is all I have to give you—so expect no more from me.”

People’d said I couldn’t marry the sweet girl I tried to court,
Till we smilingly submitted a minority report;
Then they laid their theories over, with a quickness queer to see,
And said they knew we’d marry, but we never could agree;
But we did not frame and hang up all the neighbors had to say,
But ran our little heaven in our own peculiar way;
We started off quite jolly, wondrous full of health and cheer,
And a general understanding that the road was pretty clear.

So we lived and toiled and prepared; and the little family party
That came on from heaven to visit us were bright, and hale, and hearty;
And today we might ha’ been there, had I only just have known
How to lay my road down solid, and let well enough alone.
But I done commenced a-kicking in the traces, I confess;
There was too much land that joined me that I didn’t yet possess.
When once he gets land-hungry, strange how ravenous one can be!
‘Twasn’t long before I wanted all the ground that I could see.

So I bought another eighty (not foreboding any harm),
And for that and some down-money put a mortgage on my farm.
Then I bought another forty—fired some cash to fix up new—
And to buy a covered carriage, and of course the mortgage grew.
Now my wife was square against this, ‘tis but right that you should know
(Though I’m very far from saying that I think it’s always so):
But she went in hearty with me, working hard from day to day.
For we knew that life was business, now we had that debt to pay.

We worked through spring and winter—through summer and through fall—
But that mortgage worked the hardest and the steadiest of all;
It worked on nights and Sundays—it worked each holiday—
It settled down among us and it never went away.
Whatever we kept from it seemed a’most as bad as theft;
It watched us every minute, and it ruled us right and left.
The rust and blight were with us sometimes, and sometimes not;
The dark-browed, scowling mortgage was forever on the spot.
The weevil and the cut-worm, they went as well as came;
The mortgage staid forever, eating hearty all the same.
It nailed up every window—stood guard at every door—
And happiness and sunshine made their home with us no more.

Till with failing crops and sickness we got stalled upon the grade,
And there came a dark day on us when the interest wasn’t paid;
And there came a sharp foreclosure, and I kind o’ lost my hold,
And grew weary and discouraged, and the farm was cheaply sold.
The children left and scattered when they hardly yet were grown;
My wife she pined an’ perished, an’ I found myself alone.
What she died of was “a mystery,” an’ the doctors never knew;
But I knew she died of mortgage—just as well’s I wanted to.
If to trace a hidden sorrow were within the doctor’s art,
They’d ha’ found a mortgage lying on that woman’s broken heart.

Two different kinds of people the devil most assails:
One is the man who conquers—the other he who fails.
But still I think the last kind are soonest to give up,
And to hide their sorry faces behind the shameful cup;
Like some old king or other, whose name I’ve somehow lost.
They straightway tear their eyes out, just when they need ‘em most.
When once I had discovered that the debt I could not pay,
I tried to liquidate it in a rather common way:
I used to meet in private a fellow-financier,
And we would drink ourselves worth ten thousand dollars clear;
As easy a way to prosper as ever has been found;
But one’s a heap sight poorer when he gets back to the ground.
                 
Of course I ought to ha’ braced up, an’ worked on all the same;
I ain’t a-tryin’ to shirk out, or cover up from blame;
But still I think men often, it safely may be said,
Are driven to temptations in place of being led;
And if that tyrant mortgage hadn’t cracked its whip at me,
I shouldn’t have constituted the ruin that you see.
For though I’ve never stolen or defaulted, please to know,
Yet, socially considered, I am pretty middlin’ low.

I am helpless an’ forsaken—I am childless an’ alone;
I haven’t a single dollar that it’s fair to call my own;
My old age knows no comfort, my heart is scant o’ cheer,
The children they run from me as soon as I come near.
The women shrink and tremble—their alms are fear-bestowed—
The dogs howl curses at me, and hunt me down the road.
My home is where night finds me; my friends are few and cold;
Oh, little is there in this world for one who’s poor and old!
But I’m wealthy in experience, all put up in good advice,
To take or not to take it—with no difference in the price;
You may have it, an’ thrive on it, or run round it, as you please,
But I generally give it wrapped in some such words as these:

Worm or beetle—drought or tempest—on a farmer’s land may fall;
But for first-class ruination, trust a mortgage ’gainst them all.

3 comments:

pork luck said...

oh god... we just bought a house. Why didnt you publish this a month ago? oh god...

12ontheinside said...

heh. cheery story.

ege said...

PorkPie! You bought a HOUSE!? Have I taught you NOTHING over the years!? Kidding (sort of). Congratulations to you and Milo/Michelle.

12 -- I know. Right?