Jim Bludso, of the Praire Belle

Original Text: 

John Hay, Pike Country Ballads and Other Pieces (Boston: James R. Osgood, 1874): 29-30. Internet Archive

2    Becase he don't live, you see;
3Leastways, he's got out of the habit
4    Of livin' like you and me.
5Whar have you been for the last three year
6    That you have n't heard folks tell
7How Jimmy Bludso passed in his checks
8    The night of the Prairie Belle?
9He were n't no saint, -- them engineers
10    Is all pretty much alike, --
11One wife in Natchez-under-the-Hill
12    And another one here, in Pike;
13A keerless man in his talk was Jim,
16    I reckon he never knowed how.
17And this was all the religion he had, --
18    To treat his engine well;
19Never be passed on the river
20    To mind the pilot's bell;
21And if ever the Prairie Belle took fire, --
22    A thousand times we swore,
23He 'd hold her nozzle agin the bank
24    Till the last soul got ashore.
25All boats has their day on the Mississip,
26    And her day come as last, --
27The Movastar was a better boat,
28    But the Belle she would n't be passed.
29And so she came tearin' along that night --
30    The oldest craft on the line --
31With a nigger squat on her safety-valve,
32    And her furnace crammed, rosin and pine.
34    And burnt a hole in the night,
35And quick as a flash she turned, and made
37There was runnin' and cursin', but Jim yelled out,
38    Over all the infernal roar,
39."I'll hold her nozzle agin the bank
41Through the hot, black breath of the burnin' boat
42    Jim Bludso's voice was heard,
43And they all had trust in his cussedness,
44    And knowed he would keep his word.
45And, sure's you're born, they all got off
46Afore the smokestacks fell, --
47    And Bludso's ghost went up alone
48In the smoke of the Prairie Belle.
49He were n't no saint, -- but at jedgment
50    I'd run my chance with Jim,
51'Longside of some pious gentlemen
52    That would n't shook hands with him.
53He seen his duty, a dead-sure thing, --
54    And went for it thar and then;
55And Christ ain't a going to be too hard
56    On a man that died for men.

Notes

1] "There is an interesting allusion in a newspaper clipping which I recently came across in an old scrap-book: 'Col. Thomas W. Knox, now on his way around the world, was told this story by an English gentleman in Tokio, Japan: The latter had attended, not long before, a dinner party in London, at which George Eliot was present, among other noted litUrO' teurs. The conversation naturally turned upon the shop, and, referring to American authors, she pronounced John Hay's "Jim Bludso" one of the finest gems in the English language. At the general request of the company she arose and recited the poem, the tears flowing from her eyes as she spoke the closing lines.'" (Clarence L. Hay, "Introduction.") Back to Line
14] row: fight. Back to Line
15] flunked: flinched, shirked, showed fear. Back to Line
33] clared the bar: cleared the sandbar. Back to Line
36] willer-bank: bank of willows. Back to Line
40] gallot: galoot, fool. Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Data entry: Sharine Leung
RPO Edition: 
2012
Rhyme: 
Form: