Compiled by Bill Hillman
ERB's Other Side: Poetry
1. The Poem That Inspired the Mucker
2. OUT THERE SOMEWHERE by Henry Herbert Knibbs
3. Minidoka 937th Earl of One Mile Series M -- An Historical Fairy Tale by ERB
4. WHAT ARE THE WILD WAVES SAYING?
AN EVENING LULLABY FOR THE CHILDREN -- A poem by ERB finally published in MINIDOKA
5. HORSES AND DOGS
6. 89 S.S.S.!
8."Once there was a man. . ." 1887
9. O, YES; IT’S GETTING THICK
10. NAY, IT HATH NOT GONE
11. THE CLIMATE AND THE VIEW
12. THE CONTRIBS OF YESTERYEAR
13. IT’S ANTS!
14. Other Little-Known Poems by ERB
15. ALONG THE SHORE by Henry Herbert Knibbs
16. HER FAVORITE UNCLE WAS TARZAN'S "DAD"
...Evelyn Burroughs McKenzie
Tarzan Wasn't Her Uncle's First Writing...
17. THE BLACK MAN'S BURDEN (1898 or 1899)
The title of Henry Herbert Knibbs poem Out There Somewhere was ERB’s original title for Part II of THE MUCKER, written in 1916. A prominent feature of this story was the educated vagabond named Bridge, who was continually breaking into verse with affectionate odes to the open road. Almost everything that is quoted by Bridge in THE MUCKER comes from the same Knibbs poem. Knibbs, born in 1874, was a Canadian contemporary of Burroughs, and it is clearly apparent that ERB was much taken by his verse. It was published in 1914 by the Houghton Mifflin Co. as part of a collection called “Songs of the Outlands: Ballads of the Hoboes and Other Verse.”
There is every indication that ERB actually was inspired to use his poem as a framework around which to build his story. “Out There Somewhere” has fourteen stanzas and Burroughs took them individually (not in their original order) and quoted no less than eleven of them all through the story. Stanzas 2 and 3, which ERB did not quote, appear to be the source for the character of Bridge. In addition to this, he used the last stanza to end the book, thus linking the conclusions of both works.
He must have been a
college guy, for he was talking big and high, --
The trees were standing all around as silent as a church --
A little closer I saw he was manufacturing poetry,
Just like a Mocker sitting on a pussy-willow perch.
I squatted down and
rolled a smoke and listened to each word he spoke;
He never stumbled, reared or broke; he never missed a word,
And though he was a Bo like me, he’d been a gent once, I could see;
I ain’t much strong on poetry, but this is what I heard:
“We’ll dance a merry saraband from here to drowsy Samarcand.
Along the sea, across the land, the birds are flying South,
267, 297 And you, my sweet Penelope, out there somewhere
you wait for me,
341 With buds of roses in your hair and kisses on your mouth.
mountains are all hid in mist; the valley is like amethyst;
The poplar leaves they turn and twist; oh, silver, silver green!
Out there somewhere along the sea a ship is waiting patiently,
While up the beach the bubbles slip with white afloat between.
tide-hounds race far up the shore -- the hunt is on!
The breakers roar,
(Her spars are tipped with gold and o’er her deck the spray is flung);
The buoys that rollic in the bay, they nod the way, they nod the way!
The hunt is up! I am the prey! The hunter’s bow is strung!”
“Out there somewhere, --” says I to me.
“By Gosh! I guess that’s poetry!
Out there somewhere - Penelope - with kisses on her mouth!”
And then, thinks I, “O college guy, your talk it gets me in the eye,
The North is creeping in the air; the birds are flying South.”
And yet, the sun was shining down, a-blazing on the little town,
A mile or so ‘way down the track a-dancing in the sun.
But somehow, as I waited there, there came a shiver in the air;
“The birds are flying South,” he says. “The winter has begun.”
Says I, “Then let’s be on the float; you certainly have got my goat;
You make me hungry in my throat for seeing things that’s new.
Out ere somewhere we’ll ride the range a-looking for the
new and strange;
My feet are tired and need a change. Come on! It’s up to you!
ain’t no sweet Penelope somewhere that’s longing
much for me,
But I can smell the blundering sea and hear the rigging hum;
And I can hear the whispering lips that fly before the outbound ships;,
And I can hear the breakers on the sand a-booming ‘Come!’”
And then that slim, poetic guy, turned and looked me in the eye:
“...It’s overland and overland and overseas to -- where?”
“Most anywhere that isn’t here. " I says. His face went kind of queer:
The place we're in is always here. The other place is there."
He smiled, though,
as my eye caught his. “Then what a lot of
there there is
To go and see and go and see and go and see some more.”
He did a fancy step or two. Says he, “I think I’ll go with you --”
... Two moons, and we were baking in the straits at Singapore.
Around the world and back again; we saw it all. The mist and rain
In England and the dry old plain from Needles to Berdoo.
We kept a-rambling all the time. I rustled grub, he rustled rhyme --
Blind baggage, hoof it, ride or climb -- we always put it through.
Just for a con I’d like to know (yes, he crossed over long ago;
And he was right, believe me, Bo!) if somewhere in the South,
Down where the clouds lie on the sea, he found his sweet Penelope,
With buds of roses in her hair and kisses on her mouth.
3. Minidoka 937th Earl of One Mile Series M -- An Historical Fairy Tale (circa 1903 and adapted here from the Porges Bio) By Edgar Rice Burroughs
Horses are large
And horses are small
Some horses kick
But hurrah for them all.
Dogs are good,
And dogs are bad,
Dogs are solom,
And dogs are sad,
Some dogs snarl,
And some dogs bite,
Some dogs are playfull
And their all right.
In eight teen hundred
and eighty nine,
For my brothers to be seniors it will be time
And then you bet their hats will shine,
In eight teen hundred and eighty nine.
From September eighty seven to September eighty eight,
Will be the first and last of their Junior date.
---Edgar Rice Burroughs, Circa 1887
The snow is falling
thick and fast
And I hope every gust will be the last
And it falls on every side walk
And the lazy folks talk
How tired they will get Before it will melt,
---Edgar Rice Burroughs Circa 1887
Once there was a man
who thought himself quite grand
There was a dagger in his belt and pistol in each hand
But when he saw a poor blind mole
He climbed up a very tall pole
But before he reached
halfway to the top
One of his pistols he had to drop.
But at the bottom it hit the pole
And going off shot dead the mole.
Then this grand man
came sliding down.
And carried the mole in to the town
And told the people (the wicked knave)
That he was good, and strong, and brave
He told them too he
killed the mole,
But never mentioned climbing the pole.
---Edgar Rice Burroughs
Accompanying this poem, included in a letter to his brothers George and Harry, are excellent examples of ERB's early artwork. He illustrated the poem with a man in a cowboy suit climbing an flagpole toward an American flag.
9. O, YES; IT’S GETTING THICK
My dear, he said at
The Cubs have lost some more;
But as a loser I’m sublime,
‘A Good Game Loser,’ that is I’m;
List’ not, you’ll hear no roar.
Say, what in -----is
It tastes to me like slops;
As coffee it’s a rotten bluff.
This steak is raw and awful tough;
Those market guys are wops.
Then at the office;
“Say, how much
Do you folks think I’ll stand?
That straight front blonde’ll get in Dutch
If she ain’t here on time. Lord, such
A bunch should all be canned.
“Say, boy, you ain’t
You’re paid to do some work.
Hike out o’ here, and don’t come back.
Who wrote these credits here in black?
Where’s that-----------billing clerk?
“My sweet,” he said,
at eats that night,
“Although it’s naught to me,
I note the Cubs played outosight
Today. They’ll nail that pennant right.
This is delicious tea”
Edgar Rice Burroughs Chicago Daily Tribune, Sept. 16, 1911
Oh, who hath copped
the Wailing Place
I ask you, dear old pal.
No Place they keep where one may weep
In sunny southern Cal.
The butcher man he robs me blind;
Robs me the grocer deft;
The brigand cruel who sells me fuel
He taketh what is left.
The garage man (accent the gar),
Unmindful of my groans,
He wrecks my car with loud Har! Har!
And later picks my bones.
And now the Wailing Place is gone
Where shall we find us rest?
Unless you say: “Come hither pray,
And weep upon my vest.”
When one first comes
to southern Cal
And gloms the cloudless blue,
One swallows nearly everything
While listening to the natives sing
The Climate and the View
And when one’s robbed
and bilked and bled
And flimflammed through and through,
The native tries to ease the pain
By bleating loudly and amain
Of Climate and the View.
The lean and hungry
Adheres to one like glue.
He has not eaten for a year,
Yet still one hears him bravely cheer
The Climate and the View.
And when one comes
to leave for home,
And bids the south adieu.
One must admit, would one be fair,
That Sunny Southern Cal is there
With Climate and with View.*
*And nothing else.
From out the yellow,
Of faded files and drear
I wriggle from oblivion
To answer, “Master, here!”
My old blood starts
and almost flows -
Ah, memory sublime! -
Of long gone day when first I made -
(Aw, shucks! that doesn’t rime.)
Yet once again before
To reap reward condign,
I’m glad that I have heard the call -
The old call of the line;
The call that’s old,
yet ever young,
Nor time, nor age can stint;
The ancient call for which I fall -
To see my name in print.
---Edgar Rice Burroughs Chicago Daily Tribune, May 31, 1915
I wonder what is wrong
And why the dither and the fuss
That we should travel anywhere
To get from here to go to there.
Nor give continental damn
Just so we can be on the lam.
Cuelebra Cut! Kailua hut!
We liked Havana also, but
We didn’t find sands point so bad,
Nor all the planters punch we had
With Mr. X and his Miss Z
Beside an azure tropic sea;
And I will bet that some pretext
Will take us on to Shanghai next,
It seems there’s something in our pants.
My diagnosis is: It’s Ants.
---Edgar Rice Burroughs
14. OTHER LITTLE-KNOWN POEMS BY ERB
A number of typed manuscripts of poems by ERB were discovered in the office safe at Tarzana. The earliest, a short stanza written around 1908, bears the stark title, “Poverty”. Reflecting the family situation at that time, this was one of his first literary efforts. There are a number of ditties written circa 1925 for a Breakfast Club to which Mr. Burroughs belonged. There is also a humorous poem written in August 1936 entitled, The $ Steamship cow”, with references to the Dollar Line’s S.S. President Garfield, on which ERB as possibly a passenger. One of his most elaborate attempts at verse among the papers was a ten-page epic entitled, “Genghis Khan”. Other poems have been reported as having appeared in various newspapers, particularly during his younger days and perhaps even before 1908.
A sample of Burroughs poetry in his published novels is the corrupted version of “God Save the King” which appears on page 69 of the 1957 book edition of BEYOND THIRTY (page 64 in the Ace paperback, “The Lost Continent”). Another example -- probably originally a Breakfast Club special -- is on page 231 of THE MUCKER.
It has been said that ERB put much of himself into character Bridge in The Mucker, and it has been speculated by some that for the use of Knibbs' verse in his books -- i.e. The Mucker and The Oakdale Affair -- ERB returned the favour by doing some writing for Knibbs.
The waves come walkin' up the sand;
"Weep! Weep! and "Hush!" along the shore,
Fretting' and teasin' at the land,
And rollin' up the smooth brown floor,
Frettin' and sayin' things galore.
One night in June I left the ties
And made a fire to boil some tea
Down on the beach; a paradise,
With nothin' round to bother me
Except the talkin' of the sea.
The stars were blinkin' big and still;
The drift-wood fire was snappin' bright;
The moon, back of me on the hill,
Was flirtin' with the summer night,
Just a-pertendin' to make light.
I had the makings and I smoked
and wondered over different things,
Thinkin' as how this old world joked
In callin' only some men kings
While I sat there a-blowin' rings.
Me? I was king of anywhere,
Peggin' away at nothing, hard.
Havin' no pet, paric'lar care;
Havin' no trouble, or no pard;
"Just me," filled up my callin' card.
The waves come walkin' up the sand;
"Weep! Weep! and "Hush!" along the shore;
Fumin' and frettin' at the land,
And rollin' something up the floor;
Frettin' and sayin' things galore.
Something -- The moon was growin' bright
And cold and high and big and round --
Something that floated limp and white;
Something I wish'd I hadn't found,
A woman in the moonlight, drowned!
And then I saw that she was young;
Was pretty-dressed and not long dead.
Her hair was black and thick and hung
Just like a cloth wound round her head.
"Weep! Weep!" and "Hush!" the ocean said.
No storm had lately been that June;
There was no sign of wreck of boat,
But shinin' in the rising moon
I saw a locket on her throat,
And in the locket was a note.
The note I read close to the flame;
--The fire with some fresh wood I fed --
Just one word, and below, a name;
-- Close to the fire a-dancin' red --
One word, "Good-bye" the locket said.
I thought I knew her story then,
For she was pretty-like and sweet;
"Good-bye" I stooped and read again,
I crossed her hands and made her neat;
Then shakin' I got on my feet.
I might 'a' left her there for such
As come and stare to see next day;
But thinks I, I can do this much;
I'll hide her from what folks will say,
Guessin' at why she went away.
I buried her there in the sand.
"Good-bye" I said for her once more.
I left the locket in her hand;
The waves were sayin' things galore;
"Weep! Weep!" and "Hush!" along the shore.
---Henry Herbert Knibbs
Mrs. McKenzie has proof that ERB's writing career started much earlly than with Under the Moons of Mars. She has three small handmade books composed, lettered and illustrated by the man whose Tarzan of the Apes would beocme one of the most popular and profitable characters of all time.
Her Uncle Ed made them to entertain his little niece around the turn of the century, when he was gold-dredging with his brother Harry, her father, in the rugged Northwest. The books show the same imagination and liveliness their creator would display later in his published work. He was about 25 at the time, an impractical dreamer with a droll sense of humor.
"I adored him," (she) said...as she leafed through a neat collection of yellowed photographs from the time. "He was my favorite uncle. He was always full of jokes and nonsense. And he had a twinkle in his eye that was...well, it was just different."
When her uncle was producing his first books for her personal pleasure, she was a curly-haired child spending summers on the Snake River in southwest Idaho. Her mother would take the two children -- Evvie and her brother Studley -- from Chicago, their winter home, by train.
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