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From Half-Hours With The Best Humorous Authors, selected and arranged by Charles Morris, Vol. II. American; J. B. Lippincott Company; Philadelphia; 1889, pp. 164-167.




[One of the best bits of Carleton’s humorous poetry is that here given, from the “Farm Ballads.” The spectacle of the ancient singing “sister” struggling with the new-fangled musical invention, and finally giving up the unequal contest in despair, must be familiar to the personal experience of many of our readers. The author was born at Hudson, Michigan, in 1845. He has published several volumes of the poetry of rural life, full of mingled pathos and humor.]

THEY’VE got a brand-new organ, Sue,
For all their fuss an’ search;
     They’ve done just as they said they’d do,
And fetched it into church.
     They’re bound the critter shall be seen,
And on the preacher’s right
     They’ve hoisted up their new machine,
In everybody’s sight.
     They’ve got a chorister and choir,
Ag’in’ my voice an’ vote;
     For it was never my desire
To praise the Lord by note!

I’ve been a sister good an’ true
     For five-an’-thirty year;
I’ve done what seemed my part to do,
     An’ prayed my duty clear;
I’ve sung the hymns both slow and quick,
     Just as the preacher read;
And twice, when Deacon Tubbs was sick,
     I took the fork an’ led!
165 And now their bold, new-fangled ways
     Is comin’ all about,
And I, right in my latter days,
     Am fairly crowded out!

To-day, the preacher, good old dear,
     With tears in all his eyes,
Read, “I can read my title clear
     To mansions in the skies;”
I al’ays liked that blessed hymn, —
     I s’pose I al’ays will;
It somehow gratifies my whim,
     In good old Ortonville;
But when that choir got up to sing,
     I couldn’t catch a word;
They sung the most dog-gonedest thing
     A body ever heard!

Some worldly chaps was standin’ near;
     An’ when I seed them grin,
I bid farewell to every fear,
     And boldly waded in.
I thought I’d chase their tune along,
     An’ tried with all my might;
But, though my voice is good and strong,
     I couldn’t steer it right;
When they was high, then I was low,
     An’ also contra’-wise,
And I too fast, or they too slow,
     To “mansions in the skies.”

An’ after every verse, you know,
     They played a little tune:
I didn’t understand, an’ so
     I started in too soon.
166 I pitched it pretty middlin’ high,
     I fetched a lusty tone,
But oh! alas! I found that I
     Was singing there alone!
They laughed a little, I am told;
     But I had done my best,
And not a wave of trouble rolled
     Across my peaceful breast.

And Sister Brown, — I could but look, —
     She sits right front of me;
She never was no singin’-book,
     An’ never meant to be;
But then she al’ays tried to do
     The best she could, she said;
She understood the time, right through,
     An’ kep’ it with her head;
But when she tried this mornin’, oh,
     I had to laugh, or cough!
It kep’ her head a-bobbin’ so,
     It e’en-a’most came off!

An’ Deacon Tubbs, — he all broke down,
     As one might well suppose:
He took one look at Sister Brown,
     And meekly scratched his nose.
He looked his hymn-book through and through,
     And laid it on the seat,
And then a pensive sigh he drew,
     And looked completely beat.
An’ when they took another bout,
     He didn’t even rise,
But drawed his red bandanner out
     An’ wiped his weepin’ eyes.

I’ve been a sister good an’ true
     For five-an’-thirty year;
I’ve done what seemed my part to do,
     An’ prayed my duty clear;
But death will stop my voice, I know,
     For he is on my track,
And some day I to church will go
     And nevermore come back;
And when the folks get up to sing, —
     Whene’er that time shall be, —
I do not want no patent thing
     A-squealin’ over me!


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