Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
The Prize
By William Maxwell (1784–1857)
 
CLODPOLE, a simple rustic clown,
Lived just a few miles out of town—
The city’s name? I wont be sure,
I think though, it was Baltimore—
An honest countryman by trade,        5
Extremely clever with his spade,
Could drive his plough off in a race,
And plant potatoes with a grace.
His wife too was a tidy soul,
A thriving pair upon the whole.        10
But times grew hard; Embargo came;
Poor things! they did ’nt know who to blame.
Some said, “the English are the cause:”
Some said, “Red-Breeches—burn his laws!”
But now a lottery appear’d!        15
Poor Clodpole read the scheme and stared.
For certainly the plan was great,
And was n’t it sanction’d by the state?
He goes at once to buy a ticket,
And begs the clerk to let him pick it;        20
(’T was at the office kept by Waite,
That is so truly fortunate;)
Then looks and looks with all his eyes,
And wisely thinks to choose the prize,
And now all day he reads the scheme,        25
And ev’ry night he dreams—a dream.
He thought the money in his pocket,
And bought a chest and key to lock it.
  At length the lottery is drawn.
Clod hears the news, and he is gone.        30
“My wife,” says he, “I ’m off for town,
To see if I am still a clown.
So if you see me coming, Harriot,
A sure ’nough great man in my chariot,
Mind, see it well with both your eyes,        35
You may be sure I ’ve got the prize.
Then seize your longest-handled broom,
And fly like lightning round the room;
Break ev’rything you ’ve got—more too—
And we ’ll buy everything that ’s new.        40
Yes! and I ’ll give you such a gown!
Like Mrs Dashaway’s in town.”
  He goes to town, or rather flies:
“My ticket, Sir, is it a prize?”
The clerk soon read the fellow through,        45
And felt a little waggish too.
So with a strange, mysterious look,
He turns, and turns, and turns his book.
“Your ticket, friend”—Clod stretch’d his eyes—
“Has drawn—has drawn—” “what? what?”—“no prize        50
But a dead blank!” Clod heard no more,
But down he fell upon the floor.
“A doctor! run! the man will die.”
A doctor was just riding by;
(These doctors are as thick as crows;)        55
He smelt the carrion I suppose.
He feels Clod’s pulse, and shakes his head
“It is a fit: he must be bled.
His constitution though ’s good stuff.
I ’ll give him medicine enough.        60
They ’ll cure him—if they should n’t kill—
At any rate they ’ll help the bill.”
Out lancet, and he stuck a vein.
The clown comes to himself again,
And rolls around his wondering eyes,        65
Like a wise owl, in great surprise.
The doctor bears him off in haste
To his own chariot, sees him placed,
And bids the coachman drive him home.
Dame Harriot sees the carriage come,        70
“O! he has got the prize! we ’re made!
Good by t’ ye to the hoe and spade!”
Away she ran, and seized the broom,
And flew like lightning round the room,
Breaking up all she could get at—        75
Except the jug—she could n’t break that—
A present from her mother Gray,
And given her on her wedding day:
There was none like it to be sold,
And such fine beer as it would hold!        80
But all the rest demolished quite,
You never saw now such a sight.
  Just then poor Clodpole enters in:
“Stop! stop!” he cries; “it is a sin.
For mercy quit this foolish prank,        85
He says my prize has drawn a blank.”
See! there they stand as stiff as posts;
And white as two meal-powder’d ghosts!
At last Clod cries, “Give me a hug.
I ’m glad to find you ’ve saved the jug.        90
Confound all lotteries, I say!
Stick to the plough, and work away!
Bad luck has made me monstrous wise,
So, spite of chance, I ’ve got the prize.”
 
 
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