Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THANKSGIVING DAY AT HUNCHLEY'S, by JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY



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THANKSGIVING DAY AT HUNCHLEY'S, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: If you never heard of hunchley, I would say in his behalf
Last Line: In keeping with his bounty than the laws of harmony.
Alternate Author Name(s): Johnson Of Boone, Benj. F.
Subject(s): Actors & Actresses; Holidays; Parties; Quarrels; Thanksgiving; Arguments; Disagreements


IF you never heard of Hunchley, I would say in his behalf,
He's as jovial a bachelor as ever raised a laugh,
And as fond of boon companions, yet withal as tried and true
A gentleman of honor as the writer ever knew.

And if he has a weakness, as a weakness it depends
On a certain strength of kindness he bestows upon his friends;
Being simple, undesigning, and of courteous address,
All hearts are open to him and his friends are numberless.

And this is how it happened some discrepancies befell
At the late Thanksgiving dinner which began at his hotel,
Where, it seems, the guests invited were selected more to be
In keeping with his bounty than the laws of harmony.

For there among the number were two rivals of the press,
Who had paragraphed each other with prolonged maliciousness,
And in their respective columns had a thousand times declared
That the other fellow "daresn't," when the other fellow dared.

And cheek by jowl together were two members of the bar,
Politically, legally, and socially at war,
Who denounced each other daily, and in every local phrase
That could make the matter binding all the balance of their days.

Of the medical fraternity ("fraternity" is good)
There were four or five disciples of the healing brotherhood --
Botanic and eclectic, and some others that persist
In orthographic wranglings, such as "homeopathist";

And an ordinary actor, and an actor of renown,
Whose cue, it seemed, for smiling was the other actor's frown;
And the most loquacious author my remembrance can recall,
And a little bench-leg poet that couldn't talk at all.

In fact the guests assembled, as they gathered round the feast
Wore expressions such as savored not of thankfulness the least,
And to a close observer were suggestive of the dread
And shadowy disaster that was hanging overhead.

Now the simple Mr. Hunchley had invited, with the rest,
A melancholy pastor, and, in honor of the guest
And the notable occasion, he desired a special "grace,"
Which the thankful pastor offered with a very thankless face.

And at this unhappy juncture came a journalistic pun,
Which the rival designated as a most atrocious one,
At which the grim projector, with a covert look of hate,
Shook a little dust of "fine-cut" in the other fellow's plate.

And the viands circulated, with a sudden gust of wit
From a lawyer -- instituted for the other's benefit, --
Then the victim spun a story with exasperating mirth
That reflected his opponent as of small judicial worth.

Then a medical discussion on the stomach swelled the gale
And the literary appetite began to droop and fail;
While a sportive reminiscence from the absented-minded host
Blanched the features of the pastor to the pallor of a ghost.

And a deep sonorous murmur slowly grew, and grew, and grew
Till the similes that suited it were singularly few, --
For even now at leisure, and with nothing else to do,
A task of lesser promise I can say I never knew.

I have heard the tread of armies as they marched upon the foe,
And, among the Alps, have listened to the avalanche of snow;
I have leaned upon Niagara, and head the wailing tide
Where it leaps its awful chasm in unending suicide:

I have heard the trampling footsteps of the roaring hurricane
As he lashed his tail of lightning, and tossed his shaggy mane;
I have heard the cannonading of the devastating storm,
And the falling politician howling loudly for reform:

But no mystic voice of terror ever bred of Nature's law
Could awake the sense of wonder and dismay, and doubt and awe
That thrilled my inmost being as the conversation swelled
To a mad, chaotic focus in which everybody yelled.

There's a vision in my fancy, misty-like and undefined,
Of an actor with his collar loose and sticking up behind,
And another (though I hesitate to chronicle the fact)
Writhing underneath the table in a wild contortion act.

There's a shadowy remembrance of a group of three or four
Who were seemingly dissecting another on the floor;
And the form of Mr. Hunchley dancing round a couple more,
And a phantom with a chicken-leg a-breaking for the door.

And here my memory wavers -- I recall the heated breath
Of the gentleman who held me with the very grip of death,
And as my reeling pencil scrawls the scene of my release
I'm as full of glad thanksgiving as my soul is full of peace.

But this is how it happened these discrepancies befell
At the late Thanksgiving dinner Hunchley gave at his hotel,
Where, it seems, the guests invited were selected more to be
In keeping with his bounty than the laws of harmony.





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