From The Wit and Humor of America, edited by Marshall P. Wilder, Volume III, New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls and Company, 1911; pp. 549-555.
THE DIAMOND WEDDING
BY EDMUND CLARENCE STEDMAN
O Love! Love! Love! What times were those
Long ere the age of belles and beaux,
And Brussels lace and silken hose
When, in the green Arcadian close,
You married Psyche under the rose,
With only the grass for bedding!
Heart to heart, and hand to hand,
You followed Nature’s sweet command,
Roaming lovingly through the land,
Nor sighed for a Diamond Wedding.
So have we read in classic Ovid,
How Hero watched for her belovèd,
Impassioned youth, Leander.
She was the fairest of the fair,
And wrapt him round with her golden hair,
Whenever he landed cold and bare,
With nothing to eat and nothing to wear,
And wetter than any gander;
For Love was Love, and better than money;
The slyer the theft, the sweeter the honey;
And kissing was clover, all the world over,
Wherever Cupid might wander.
So thousands of years have come and gone,
And still the moon is shining on,
Still Hymen’s torch is lighted;550
And hitherto, in this land of the West,
Most couples in love have thought it best
To follow the ancient way of the rest,
And quietly get united.
But now, True Love, you’re growing old —
Bought and sold, with silver and gold,
Like a house, or a horse and carriage!
The glance of the eye and sweetheart sigh,
The shadowy haunts, with no one by,
I do not wish to disparage;
But every kiss
Has a price for its bliss,
In the modern code of marriage;
And the compact sweet
Is not complete
Till the high contracting parties meet
Before the altar of Mammon;
And the bride must be led to a silver bower,
Where pearls and rubies fall in a shower
That would frighten Jupiter Ammon!
I need not tell
How it befell,
(Since Jenkins has told the story)
Over and over and over again
In a style I can not hope to attain,
And covered himself with glory!)
How it befell, one summer’s day,
The king of the Cubans strolled this way —
King January’s his name, they say —
And fell in love with the Princess May,551
The reigning belle of Manhattan;
Nor how he began to smirk and sue,
And dress as lovers who come to woo,
Or as Max Maretzek and Julien do,
When they sit full-bloomed in the ladies’ view,
And flourish the wondrous baton.
He wasn’t one of your Polish nobles,
Whose presence their country somehow troubles,
And so our cities receive them;
Nor one of your make-believe Spanish grandees,
Who ply our daughters with lies and candies
Until the poor girls believe them.
No, he was no such charlatan —
Count de Hoboken Flash-in-the-pan,
Full of gasconade and bravado —
But a regular, rich Don Rataplan,
Santa Claus de la Muscovado,
Señor Grandissimo Bastinado.
His was the rental of half Havana
And all Matanzas; and Santa Anna,
Rich as he was, could hardly hold
A candle to light the mines of gold
Our Cuban owned, choke-full of diggers;
And broad plantations, that, in round figures,
Were stocked with at least five thousand niggers!
“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may!”
The Señor swore to carry the day,
To capture the beautiful Princess May,
With his battery of treasure;
Velvet and lace she should not lack;
Tiffany, Haughwout, Ball & Black,
Genin and Stewart his suit should back,
And come and go at her pleasure;552
Jet and lava — silver and gold —
Garnets — emeralds rare to behold —
Diamonds — sapphires — wealth untold —
All were hers, to have and to hold:
Enough to fill a peck measure!
He didn’t bring all his forces on
At once, but like a crafty old Don,
Who many a heart had fought and won,
Kept bidding a little higher;
And every time he made his bid,
And what she said, and all they did —
’Twas written down,
For the good of the town,
By Jeems, of The Daily Flyer.
A coach and horses, you’d think, would buy
For the Don an easy victory;
But slowly our Princess yielded.
A diamond necklace caught her eye,
But a wreath of pearls first made her sigh.
She knew the worth of each maiden glance,
And, like young colts, that curvet and prance,
She led the Don a deuce of a dance,
In spite of the wealth he wielded.
She stood such a fire of silks and laces,
Jewels and gold dressing-cases,
And ruby brooches, and jets and pearls,
That every one of her dainty curls
Brought the price of a hundred common girls;
Folks thought the lass demented!
But at last a wonderful diamond ring,
An infant Kohinoor, did the thing,553
And, sighing with love, or something the same,
(What’s in a name?)
The Princess May consented.
Ring! ring the bells, and bring
The people to see the marrying!
Let the gaunt and hungry and ragged poor
Throng round the great cathedral door,
To wonder what all the hubbub’s for,
And sometimes stupidly wonder
At so much sunshine and brightness which
Fall from the church upon the rich,
While the poor get all the thunder.
Ring, ring! merry bells, ring!
O fortunate few,
With letters blue,
Good for a seat and a nearer view!
Fortunate few, whom I dare not name;
Dilettanti! Créme de la Créme!
We commoners stood by the street façade,
And caught a glimpse of the cavalcade.
We saw the bride,
In diamond pride,
With jeweled maidens to guard her side —
Six lustrous maidens in tarletan.
She led the van of the caravan;
Close behind her, her mother
(Dressed in gorgeous moire antique,
That told as plainly as words can speak.
She was more antique than the other)
Leaned on the arm of Don Rataplan,
Santa Claus de la Muscovado,
Señor Grandissimo Bastinado.554
Happy mortal! fortunate man!
And Marquis of El Dorado!
In they swept, all riches and grace,
Silks and satins, jewels and lace;
In they swept from the dazzled sun,
And soon in the church the deed was done.
Three prelates stood on the chancel high:
A knot that gold and silver can buy,
Gold and silver may yet untie,
Unless it is tightly fastened;
What’s worth doing at all’s worth doing well,
And the sale of a young Manhattan belle
Is not to be pushed or hastened;
So two Very-Reverends graced the scene,
And the tall Archbishop stood between,
By prayer and fasting chastened;
The Pope himself would have come from Rome,
But Garibaldi kept him at home.
Haply those robed prelates thought
Their words were the power that tied the knot;
But another power that love-knot tied,
And I saw the chain round the neck of the bride —
A glistening, priceless, marvelous chain,
Coiled with diamonds again and again,
As befits a diamond wedding;
Yet still ’twas a chain, and I thought she knew it,
And half-way longed for the will to undo it,
By the secret tears she was shedding.
But isn’t it odd to think, whenever
We all go through that terrible River —
Whose sluggish tide alone can sever
(The Archbishop says) the Church decree,
By floating one into Eternity555
And leaving the other alive as ever —
As each wades through that ghastly stream,
The satins that rustle and gems that gleam,
Will grow pale and heavy, and sink away
To the noisome River’s bottom-clay!
Then the costly bride and her maidens six,
Will shiver upon the banks of the Styx,
Quite as helpless as they were born —
Naked souls, and very forlorn;
The Princess, then, must shift for herself,
And lay her royalty on the shelf;
She, and the beautiful Empress, yonder,
Whose robes are now the wide world’s wonder,
And even ourselves, and our dear little wives,
Who calico wear each morn of their lives,
And the sewing-girls, and les chiffonniers,
In rags and hunger — a gaunt array —
And all the grooms of the caravan —
Ay, even the great Don Rataplan
Santa Claus de la Muscavado
Señor Grandissimo Bastinado —
That gold-encrusted fortunate man —
All will land in naked equality:
The lord of a ribboned principality
Will mourn the loss of his cordon;
Nothing to eat and nothing to wear
Will certainly be the fashion there!
Ten to one, and I’ll go it alone;
Those most used to a rag and a bone,
Though here on earth they labor and groan,
Will stand it best, as they wade abreast
To the other side of Jordan.