Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
The Monkey Who Shaved Himself and His Friends
By David Humphreys (1752–1818)
 
A Fable.

A MAN who own’d a barber’s shop
At York, and shaved full many a fop,
A monkey kept for their amusement;
He made no other kind of use on ’t—
This monkey took great observation,        5
Was wonderful at imitation,
And all he saw the barber do,
He mimic’d straight, and did it too.
  It chanced in shop, the dog and cat,
While friseur dined, demurely sat,        10
Jacko found nought to play the knave in,
So thought he ’d try his hand at shaving.
Around the shop in haste he rushes,
And gets the razor, soap, and brushes;
Now puss he fix’d (no muscle miss stirs)        15
And lather’d well her beard and whiskers,
Then gave a gash, as he began—
The cat cry’d “waugh!” and off she ran.
  Next Towser’s beard he try’d his skill in,
Though Towser seem’d somewhat unwilling:        20
As badly here again succeeding,
The dog runs howling round and bleeding.
  Nor yet was tired our roguish elf;
He’d seen the barber shave himself;
So by the glass, upon the table,        25
He rubs with soap his visage sable,
Then with left hand holds smooth his jaw,—
The razor in his dexter paw;
Around he flourishes and slashes,
Till all his face is seam’d with gashes.        30
His cheeks despatch’d—his visage thin
He cock’d, to shave beneath his chin;
Drew razor swift as he could pull it,
And cut, from ear to ear, his gullet. 1
 
Moral.
  Who cannot write, yet handle pens,
        35
Are apt to hurt themselves and friends.
Though others use them well, yet fools
Should never meddle with edge tools.
 
Note 1. Humphreys had completed this fable with the exception of the last couplet, and made several attempts to give it that pointed finish which he desired, but coud not succeed. He then went with it to the author of M’Fingal, and told him his difficulty. Trumbull took the piece and read it aloud; then looking upward with that keen glance for which his eye was remarkable, added without pausing—
“Drew razor swift as he could pull it,
And cut from ear to ear his gullet.”
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