Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE FIGHT WITH THE SNAPPING TURTLE; OR, THE AMERICAN ST. GEORGE, by WILLIAM EDMONSTOUNE AYTOUN



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THE FIGHT WITH THE SNAPPING TURTLE; OR, THE AMERICAN ST. GEORGE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Have you heard of philip slingsby
Last Line: All in pennsylvanian bonds!'
Alternate Author Name(s): Bon Gaultier (With Theodore Martin)
Subject(s): Clay, Henry (1777-1852); Fights; Turtles; Tyler, John (1790-1862); United States - Politics & Government; Webster, Daniel (1782-1852); Tortoises


FYTTE FIRST

HAVE you heard of Philip Slingsby,
Slingsby of the manly chest;
How he slew the Snapping Turtle
In the regions of the West?

Every day the huge Cawana
Lifted up its monstrous jaws;
And it swallowed Langton Bennett,
And digested Rufus Dawes.

Riled, I ween, was Philip Slingsby,
Their untimely deaths to hear;
For one author owed him money,
And the other loved him dear.

'Listen now, sagacious Tyler,
Whom the loafers all obey;
What reward will Congress give me,
If I take this pest away?'

Then sagacious Tyler answered,
'You're the ring-tailed squealer! Less
Than a hundred heavy dollars
Won't be offered you, I guess!

'And a lot of wooden nutmegs
In the bargain, too, we'll throw --
Only you just fix the critter.
Won't you liquor ere you go?'

Straightway leaped the valiant Slingsby
Into armour of Seville,
With a strong Arkansas toothpick
Screwed in every joint of steel.

'Come thou with me, Cullen Bryant,
Come with me, as squire, I pray;
Be the Homer of the battle
Which I go to wage to-day.'

So they went along careering
With a loud and martial tramp,
Till they neared the Snapping Turtle
In the dreary Swindle Swamp.

But when Slingsby saw the water,
Somewhat pale, I ween, was he.
'If I come not back, dear Bryant,
Tell the tale to Melanie!

'Tell her that I died devoted,
Victim to a noble task!
Han't you got a drop of brandy
In the bottom of your flask?'

As he spoke, an alligator,
Swam across the sullen creek;
And the two Columbians started,
When they heard the monster shriek;

For a snout of huge dimensions
Rose above the waters high,
And took down the alligator,
As a trout takes down a fly.

''Tarnal death! the Snapping Turtle!'
Thus the squire in terror cried;
But the noble Slingsby straightway
Drew the toothpick from his side.

'Fare thee well!' he cried, and dashing
Through the waters, strongly swam:
Meanwhile, Cullen Bryant, watching,
Breathed a prayer and sucked a dram.

Sudden from the slimy bottom
Was the snout again upreared,
With a snap as loud as thunder, --
And the Slingsby disappeared.

Like a mighty steam-ship foundering,
Down the monstrous vision sank;
And the ripple, slowly rolling,
Plashed and played upon the bank.

Still and stiller grew the water,
Hushed the canes within the brake;
There was but a kind of coughing
At the bottom of the lake.

Bryant wept as loud and deeply
As a father for a son --
'He's a finished 'coon, is Slingsby,
And the brandy's nearly done!'

FYTTE SECOND

In a trance of sickening anguish,
Cold and stiff, and sore and damp,
For two days did Bryant linger
By the dreary Swindle Swamp;

Always peering at the water,
Always waiting for the hour,
When those monstrous jaws should open
As he saw them ope before.

Still in vain; -- the alligators
Scrambled through the marshy brake,
And the vampire leeches gaily
Sucked the garfish in the lake.

But the Snapping Turtle never
Rose for food or rose for rest,
Since he lodged the steel deposit
In the bottom of his chest.

Only always from the bottom
Sounds of frequent coughing rolled,
Just as if the huge Cawana
Had a most confounded cold.

On the bank lay Cullen Bryant,
As the second moon arose,
Gouging on the sloping greensward
Some imaginary foes.

When the swamp began to tremble,
And the canes to rustle fast,
As though some stupendous body
Through their roots were crushing past.

And the waters boiled and bubbled,
And, in groups of twos and threes,
Several alligators bounded,
Smart as squirrels, up the trees.

Then a hideous head was lifted,
With such huge distended jaws,
That they might have held Goliath
Quite as well as Rufus Dawes.

Paws of elephantine thickness
Dragged its body from the bay,
And it glared at Cullen Bryant
In a most unpleasant way.

Then it writhed as if in torture,
And it staggered to and fro;
And its very shell was shaken
In the anguish of its throe:

And its cough grew loud and louder,
And its sob more husky thick!
For, indeed, it was apparent
That the beast was very sick.

Till, at last, a spasmy vomit
Shook its carcass through and through,
And as if from out a cannon,
All in armour Slingsby flew.

Bent and bloody was the bowie
Which he held within his grasp;
And he seemed so much exhausted
That he scarce had strength to gasp --

'Gouge him, Bryant! darn ye, gouge him!
Gouge him while he's on the shore!'
Brvant's thumbs were straightway buried
Where no thumbs had pierced before.

Right from out their bony sockets
Did he scoop the monstrous balls;
And, with one convulsive shudder,
Dead the Snapping Turtle falls!
. . . . . .

'Post the tin, sagacious Tyler!'
But the old experienced file,
Leering first at Clay and Webster,
Answered, with a quiet smile --

'Since you dragged the 'tarnal crittur
From the bottom of the ponds,
Here's the hundred dollars due you,
All in Pennsylvanian Bonds!'





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