Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Lines on the Quarrel among the Students in Anatomy in Philadelphia
By Francis Hopkinson (1737–1791)
 
FRIENDS and associates! lend a patient ear,
Suspend intestine broils and reason hear.
Ye followers of —— your wrath forbear—
Ye sons of ——— your invectives spare;
The fierce dissension your high minds pursue        5
Is sport for others—ruinous to you.
 
Surely some fatal influenza reigns,
Some epidemic rabies turns your brains;
Is this a time for brethren to engage
In public contest and in party rage?        10
Fell discord triumphs in your doubtful strife,
And, smiling, whets her anatomic knife;
Prepared to cut our precious limbs away
And leave the bleeding body to decay.
 
  Seek ye for foes? alas, my friends, look round,        15
In every street, see numerous foes abound!
Methinks I hear them cry, in varied tones,
“Give us our father’s—brother’s—sister’s bones.”
Methinks I see a mob of sailors rise—
“Revenge!—revenge!” they cry, and damn their eyes—        20
“Revenge for comrade Jack, whose flesh they say,
You minced to morsels and then threw away.”
Methinks I see a black infernal train—
The genuine offspring of accursed Cain—
Fiercely on you their angry looks are bent,        25
They grin and gibber dangerous discontent,
And seem to say—“Is there not meat enough?
Ah! massa cannibal, why eat poor Cuff?”
Even hostile watchmen stand in strong array,
And o’er our heads their threatening staves display:        30
Howl hideous discord through the noon of night,
And shake their dreadful lanthorns in our sight.
 
  Say, are not these sufficient to engage
Your high wrought souls eternal war to wage?
Combine your strength these monsters to subdue,        35
No friends of science and sworn foes to you;
On these—on these, your wordy vengeance pour,
And strive our fading glory to restore.
 
  Ah! think how, late, our mutilated rites
And midnight orgies, were by sudden frights        40
And loud alarms profaned—the sacrifice,
Stretch’d on a board before our eager eyes,
All naked lay—even when our chieftain stood
Like a high priest, prepared for shedding blood;
Prepared, with wonderous skill to cut or slash,        45
The gentle sliver or the deep drawn gash;
Prepared to plunge even elbow deep in gore,
Nature and nature’s secrets to explore—
Then a tumultuous cry—a sudden fear—
Proclaim’d the foe—the enraged foe is near—        50
In some dark hole the hard-got corse was laid,
And we, in wild conclusion, fled dismay’d.
 
  Think how, like brethren, we have shared the toil,
When in the Potter’s field we sought for spoil,
Did midnight ghosts and death and horror brave—        55
To delve for science in the dreary grave.—
Shall I remind you of that awful night
When our compacted band maintained the fight
Against an armed host?—fierce was the fray,
And yet we bore our sheeted prize away.        60
Firm on a horse’s back the corse was laid,
High blowing winds the winding sheet display’d;
Swift flew the steed—but still his burthen bore—
Fear made him fleet, who ne’er was fleet before;
O’er tombs and sunken graves he coursed around,        65
Nor aught respected consecrated ground.
Meantime the battle raged—so loud the strife,
The dead were almost frighten’d into life—
Though not victorious, yet we scorn’d to yield,
Retook our prize, and left the doubtful field.        70
 
  In this degenerate age, alas! how few
The paths of science with true zeal pursue?
Some trifling contest, some delusive joy
Too oft the unsteady minds of youth employ.
For me—whom Esculapius hath inspired—        75
I boast a soul with love of science fired;
By one great object is my heart possess’d—
One ruling passion quite absorbs the rest—
In this bright point my hopes and fears unite;
And one pursuit alone can give delight.        80
 
  To me things are not as to vulgar eyes,
I would all nature’s works anatomize—
This world a living monster seems, to me,
Rolling and sporting in the aerial sea;
The soil encompasses her rocks and stones        85
As flesh in animals encircles bones.
I see vast ocean, like a heart in play,
Pant systole and diastole every day,
And by unnumbered venous streams supply’d
Up her broad river force the arterial tide.        90
The world’s great lungs, monsoons and tradewinds show
From east to west, from west to east they blow
Alternate respiration—
The hills are pimples which earth’s face defile,
And burning Ætna, an eruptive bile:        95
From her vast body perspirations rise,
Condense in clouds and float beneath the skies:
Thus fancy, faithful servant of the heart,
Transforms all nature by her magic art.
 
  E’en mighty love, whose power all powers controls;        100
Is not, in me, like love in other souls—
Yet I have loved—and Cupid’s subtle dart
Hath through my pericardium pierced my heart.
Brown Cadavera did my soul ensnare,
Was all my thought by night and daily care—        105
I long’d to clasp, in her transcendant charms,
A living skeleton within my arms.
 
  Long, lank, and lean, my Cadavera stood,
Like the tall pine, the glory of the wood—
Oft times I gazed, with learned skill to trace        110
The sharp edged beauties of her bony face—
There rose os frontis prominent and bold,
In deep sunk orbits two large eye-balls roll’d,
Beneath those eye-balls, two arch’d bones were seen
Whereon two flabby cheeks hung loose and lean;        115
Beneath those cheeks, proturberant arose,
In form triangular, her lovely nose,
Like Egypt’s pyramid it seem’d to rise,
Scorn earth, and bid defiance to the skies;
Thin were her lips, and of a sallow hue,        120
Her open’d mouth exposed her teeth to view;
Projecting strong, protuberant and wide
Stood incisores—and on either side
The canine ranged, with many a beauteous flaw,
And last the grinders, to fill up the jaw—        125
All in their alveoli fix’d secure,
Articulated by gomphosis sure.
Around her mouth, perpetual smiles had made
Wrinkles wherein the loves and graces play’d;
There, stretch’d and rigid by continual strain,        130
Appear’d the zygomatic muscles plain,
And broad montanus o’er her peaked chin
Extended to support the heavenly grin.
Long were her fingers and her knuckles bare,
Much like the claw-foot of a walnut chair.        135
So plain was complex metacarpus shown
It might be fairly counted bone by bone.
Her slender phalanxes were well defined,
And each with each by ginglymus combined.
Such were the charms that did my fancy fire,        140
And love—chaste, scientific love inspire.
 
 
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