Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE BLACKSMITH OF SIPPICAN, by EDWARD NOYES POMEROY



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THE BLACKSMITH OF SIPPICAN, by            
First Line: Search not the map, o curious man
Last Line: Can touch the record dandy made?
Subject(s): Blacksmiths


Search not the map, O curious man,
To find the town of Sippican,
But listen while my verses bound it
And tell the regions lying round it.
Northward is Rochester's fair land,
With roads and people famed for sand;
And southward, stretching far away,
The windy wastes of Buzzards Bay;
While east and west the silence broods
O'er Mattapoisett's piny woods
And Weweantit's briny floods.

In recent days the quaint old town
Has gained a highly prized renown;
For hither comes a lady true
As age of chivalry e'er knew—
One who commands without command,
The first and fairest of the land.
And here, like her, in summer time,
Come those who write in prose and rhyme;
Statesmen and sages, brawn and brain;
And pleasure's gay and giddy train—
A happy throng, and brave and bright.
And yet 'tis not of these I write.

A man from Middleboro town
One afternoon came driving down.
In Little Neck his quest he ceased
And shelter found for man and beast.
When horse was baited well, and he
Had smoked his pipe and drank his tea,
Before the twilight glow had fled
He called his host and this he said:
"One day at home I struck a man
Whose place was 'down in Sippican.'

"He stopped with me a winter night,
And slipped away before 'twas light.
He paid me well with tales he told,
A-talking till the night was old.
A man he was of giant frame;
Of Goths or Anakim he came.
His arms could swing prodigious weights,
His shoulders carry Gaza's gates;
He stooped as if to ease his power
And stood like Pisa's leaning tower.
The half his yarns I cannot tell,
But two or three remember well,
And now have driven down, of course,
To see the 'ferryboat' and 'horse.'"

The other begged him to explain,
And did not spend his breath in vain,
For, while the air was dense with smoke,
He cleared his throat and thus he spoke:

"He told me, I remember well,
The vessel was a tortoise shell,
A whaler brought from southern seas—
The isles of Cannibals and ease;

"And that her steady course she plows
Betwixt Nye's wharf and Henry Dow's.
I've often wondered how 'twould seem
To see a tortoise go by steam.
But this was nothing to the other:
He talked about him like a brother—
The famous horse with limb and wind
To leave the thunder storm behind."

The host with blank amazement dumb,
Intent to hear the tale to come,
A trifle closer hitched his chair,
And like an oak was rooted there.

"My name," said he, "is Rufus Briggs.
I drove to Mattapoise' for pigs
One afternoon. The sky was black
Behind us as we started back.

"'Twas dog-days an' a time of drouth;
The dust was deep, the wind was south;
The thunder grumbled down the bay;
The lightnin's flash was thereaway.

"We didn't travel slow nor fast
Till red-roofed Cannonville was passed,
When, by my soul! I got a scare
That shook my teeth and raised my hair.
The thunder busted overhead
As ef 'twas sent to raise the dead;
An' Dandy, layin' back 'is ears,
Jumped like a yoke o' frightened steers,
An' went as ef a red-hot goad
His flanks was prickin' all it knowed.

I dropped the reins and throwed the whip
To ketch the seat with double grip,
An' watched the horse as on he tore
With rain behind an' dust before.
My breath was gone from Cannonville
Clean to the bridge 't Macomber's Mill.
From Macomber's to Rocky Nook
Like wus'n fever-ag'e I shook.
All through the woods 'twas black as night.
Only the flashes gin us light.
An' sparks that flew from Dandy's hoofs
Like hail-st'ns dancin' on the roofs.

But when she slewed at Braley's Corner
I guessed the go-cart was a gorner;
It seemed as ef capsize we must,
An' drown in mud or choke in dust;
I call it sence the cape o' trouble;
'Twas wus'n Hatteras to double;
But spite o' fate the thing was done,
An' faster yet we pelted on.
House after house went screamin' by;
The little wagon seemed to fly,
An' in a jiffy fetched a lurch,
As we was roundin' at the church,
That twitched my heart, an' jerked my breath,
An' made me think the thing was death.

"Hear what I say an' don't forget;
Not by a drop was Dandy wet,
The dasher an' the seat was dry,
An' drier 'n any bone was I,
But at the shop I turned to find
The pigs was drownded in behind,"

The stranger ceased; so must my lay;
Suffice it, in a word, to say,
The blacksmith flourishes today.
The ferryboat is lying by,
At least it does not meet the eye.
The famous horse is famous still,
Though now as steady as a mill.

The shop stands where it stood before,
A furlong from the church or more;
A beast is always on the floor,
For, spite of tortoises and pigs,
There's none can set a shoe like Briggs.

CONCLUSION

Decades have passed since this was told;
The writer of the rhyme is old;
His hair is white, his eyes are dim;
His hearing has gone back on him;
The blacksmith and the rapid horse
Are gone to their progenitors;
The town that knew this horse and man
Is quite another Sippican;
The generation now in view
Is one these heroes never knew.
And yet the road is quite the same
As that o'er which the go-cart came.
Macomber's Mill has passed away
And Rocky Nook is changed, they say;
But Mattapoise' still raises pigs,
As good as those that beckoned Briggs.
But is there one, or young or old,
Can match the yarns that Rufus told?
And who shall find the equine jade
Can touch the record Dandy made?





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