Text: Unknown (ed. T. O. Mabbott), “Carrier's Address,” Doings of Gotham: Poe's Contributions to The Columbia Spy (1929), pp. 113-120 (This material is protected by copyright)


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[page 113:]

NEW-YEAR’S ADDRESS
of the
CARRIERS OF THE COLUMBIA SPY

A happy New Year, once again to all

A happy New Year; softly, gently fall,

Drear Winter’s frosts, upon each patron’s brow,

Small be his share of grief and worldly woe.

5

Though hidden now the charms of Nature he,

Beneath a fleecy shroud, from murky sky,

Still round your hearths form ye the social ring,

Pass round the joke, the mirthful sonnet sing.

Tell of the days when ye in youthful glee,

10

Knew nought of care, from every sorrow free,

How leap’t your hearts when Holiday came round,

How in each trifle, stores of joy were found.

Tell of each noisy sport, the bat and ball,

The bandy and the skate, the whoop and call;

15

To these revert; but let not present joy

Make you, forgetful of the “Carrier Boy.”

Like Hermes, heaven’s newsman, do I bring

The fleeting rumor; now the ditty sing

Anon the Dirge; Assertion and Reply;

20

Detect, although told ne’er so well, the Lie.

Here beams the line which speaks of gospel light

And there, the moral essay meets the sight;

The sprightly jest, the sparkling gems of fun

There intertwined with merry sonnets run.

25

I laugh with the jovial; with the grave am sad

Weep with the mourner; smile where all are glad;

But through all change am still the same as erst,

The last to tell of ill, of good the first.

I surely now may claim some boon for these,

30

Our efforts still the various taste to please

The moralist, the sage, the grave, the gay,

The witty and the dull, have each a way.

Beneath the rays of summer’s torrid sun,

True to task, my devious course is run;

35

That we may sip a literary treat

In arbor green or vine-embower’d seat.

And when, amid the sleet and driving hail,

Chill Winter’s breath, the biting Northern gale

Loud surging comes, still onward do I go,

40

Heedless of storm, or frost, or eddying snow, [page 114:]

Your Annual Gift I ask, — I shall not fail

To drink your health in Adam’s sparkling ale,

Rejoicing, leave your hospitable dome,

To spend a happy New-Year snug at home:

45

“Gramercy,” now I hear some one exclaim,

“Self praise, at best, is but ignoble fame,”

“Of other themes pray sing, ‘exempla gratia,’ try”

“To paint the life of the oft changing Spy.”

Agreed! —

Some dozen years ago

50

The Spy from nothing came to view —

A lively, pungent little sheet,

As e’er did smiling reader greet.

Sometimes in bright essay it shone;

Sparkling with wit — then all alone

55

In quest of news and novelties

Went wandering; careful but to please.

The flowers which by the wayside grew,

Yielded through it their sweetest dew;

And modest worth, like pansies, brought

60

To all a plenteous store of thought.

Here march’d the grave Essay along

In fellowship with Jest and Song,

Whilst there in solemn state would flit

The Sermon by the lively wit.

.... ....

65

Fierce grows in street and hall

The war of Party — great and small

Rush to the onset, — youth and age,

With impulse wild, meet on the stage;

The Spy? — Say, can the Spy lay still??

70

No, out it speaks with hearty will,

And ne’er did better banner wave

O’er mail-clad knight or crested brave.

When loud the clangour, and afar

Are heard the mingled cries of war,

75

Still goes the Spy, with spear and brand,

The Champion of a fearless band.

Now to the sacred wood,

The Muses’ chosen solitude,

The changeling once again doth fly

80

With them to seek a sanctuary. [page 115:]

Once more the soul-enlivening strain

Doth sweetly rise, and once again

The Spy, like early lavrock sings —

Of sloping banks, and pebbled springs,

85

Of woodlands broad, of fairy dell,

Of heath and forest, moor and fell —

Of rugged mount, and mossy glen,

Of precipice and hidden den, —

Of caves where stalking terror roams,

90

Where glinting sunlight never comes —

Of mountain peak, the cottage home,

Of hearth-stone joys, the silent tomb, —

Here fragrant lilies stately wave,

There, cypress from the early grave, —

95

Of bosom friends, in wreaths entwine

With twigs of sweetest jessamine, —

Anon the tale of youthful love,

Like tender’st song of cushat dove,

Is heard amid the mingled life

100

Of hope and tears, of joy and strife.

Death came. The lips which sweetly trill’d,

The moving strain by him are still’d —

The bird which warbled, breaks its chain

To rise and to be free again.

105

The dream is o’er, the spirit flies,

No more to sup the miseries

Which haunt the paths by mortals trod,

To gain sweet peace and rest with God. ........ .

The Spy now to the field

110

With greaves and buckler, spear and shield,

Like warrior bold, struts forth in pride;

Satire and Scorn march by its side —

The biting jest, the quick reply;

The inuendo, deep and sly —

115

The cut and thrust of small-sword wit,

Are marshall’d by the broadside hit.

Fast fly its arrows, and are seen

Its foes in flight, for well they ween

From sport, the Lion goes to slay,

120

The Spy can strike as well as play. [page 116:]

Now to the change which later days have brought

Your kind attention is most humbly sought: —

Once more the Muses take their truant child

To their fond care; once more shall sweet and wild

125

Its tender song, like notes of wood-bird rise,

From this dull sphere to yonder azure skies.

No more shall discord throw its sable shade

O’er its fair page; no more the fierce tirade,

The bitter word, the wounding sentence go,

130

To make the doubtful friend a real foe.

The Spy regards with equal favor all —

Its flag extends its folds o’er great and small;

Pledg’d friend to right — in hut or palace found, —

And foe to wrong — it stands on neutral ground.

NOTE ON CARRIERS’ ADDRESS

Perhaps the most fascinating problem raised by Mr. Spannuth’s discovery of the file of the Spy is that of the authorship of the Carriers’ Address. Have we in it a new poem by Edgar Poe? That is a question indeed to “tease us out of thought,” for no absolute decision can be reached at the present time. But there is a great likelihood that we have a new poem by the author of the Raven, and how great that probability of authorship is, may be judged by the evidence now submitted. There is a disadvantage in having the arguments on both sides presented by the person who gives a decision on a case. But I have tried to take an unemotional position — and the decision is after all a tentative one. And at any rate we are willing and able to publish all our reasons for and against the poem’s authorship — a virtue not all attributors can boast. In America during the first half of the Nineteenth Century, New Year’s Day was more commonly the time for presenting gifts than Christmas — I have even seen a plate published with Willis and Morris’ New Mirror, which showed Santa Claus filling a stocking and bore the inscription The Night Before New Year’s. Well, among those who particularly expected gifts at the happy season were the boys who carried the paper to subscribers living at some distance from the office of publication; and lest patrons should be unmindful of that expectation it was the custom for the papers to publish a small Carriers’ Address at the beginning of every year, which the faithful carrier presented, and for which, it is hoped, he usually obtained something rather more than payment for value received. For the addresses, usually printed as broadsides, and usually in rhyme, were not always literary gems of purest ray serene, but more often bad enough to [page 117:] be the actual and not merely the pretended composition of the youths in whose names they were written, and whose grimy and frostbitten hands commonly presented them at the door. The actual authors were legion — the editor himself, the minister, the school teacher, the chief local contributor to the Poet’s Corner, often perhaps the local poet whose verses were at other seasons refused the honor of print — all of these might rhyme at will in the character of the newsboys. Yet for all the low standard of these antique poems, there were not infrequent occasions when newspapers sought to excel in this line, and many really noted men — Whittier, Longfellow, Pinkney and Hawthorne among them — had obliged journalistic friends with “an original carriers’ address” of one kind or another. I may add, this was usually for a consideration.

The present carriers’ address is without date and unsigned. But it bears at its foot the imprint of Bowen and Gossler, and since that firm was in existence at the beginning of only one year-1844, there is no doubt that the poem appeared then. Now Poe in his third letter to the Spy speaks of Bowen as if they had met frequently at the office of Graham’s Magazine in 1842, and the Spy from the commencement of Bowen’s interest in it, spoke kindly of Poe. Did Bowen send to Poe and purchase a Carriers’ Address? Or did he write the poem himself in the manner of his friend ? Bowen, a lover of poetry, is not known to have written verse, yet had he written verse, it might well have been as Poesque as that of A. M. Ide or Henry B. Hirst. Yet it is certainly curious that this poem resembles most of all the kind of verse Poe tossed off, on the one or two occasions that he did toss something off (for instance the lines in parody of Drake in the Southern Literary Messenger, reprinted by Harrison and in my Select Poems of Poe, published by Macmillan). And that is the kind of parallel one should expect.

As I read through the poem the following parallels strike me: Compare with lines 74, etc., the following quotation, as Poe cites it from Wordsworth in the Broadway Journal (ii, 6)

Armor rustling on the walls

On the blood of Clifford calls,

And to clash again in the field

Is the wild longing of the shield.

Actually what Wordsworth wrote is very different from this, but it is the way Poe had the lines stored in his memory, and it is by this incorrect version that he would have been influenced if he was influenced at all. [page 118:]

With the passage beginning at line 85 compare these lines from the 1831 version of Fairyland

In easy drapery falls

Drowsily over halls —

Over ruin’d walls —

Over waterfalls,

(Silent waterfalls!)

O’er the strange woods — o’er the sea —

Alas! over the sea!

and from the 1831 version of The Sleeper

The rosemary sleeps upon the grave —

The lily lolls upon the wave —

And million bright pines to and fro,

Are rocking lullabies as they go,

To the lone oak that reels with bliss,

Nodding above the dim abyss.

With lines 72 and 93, etc., compare the following, from an early version of the poem the Valley of Unrest, as published in the Southern Literary Messenger for February, 1836 —

Low crouched on Earth, some violets lie,

And, nearer Heaven, some lilies wave

All banner-like, above a grave.

and these from a later version of the poem,

Over the lilies there that wave

And weep above a nameless grave.

With lines 107f compare the following from Dreamland, first published in Graham’s, June, 1844 — the only signed poem by Poe of this period —

By each spot the most unholy —

In each nook most melancholy —

There the traveller meets, aghast,

Sheeted Memories of the Past —

Shrouded forms that start and sigh

As they pass the wanderer by —

White-robed forms of friends long given,

In agony, to the Earth — and Heaven.

With lines 110f compare the parody of Drake, mentioned before, as given in the Southern Literary Messenger, April, 1836.

His blue-bell helmet we have heard,

Was plumed with the down of the humming-bird,

The corslet on his bosom bold

Was once the locust’s coat of gold, ...

His target was the crescent shell

Of the small sea Sidrophel,

And a glittering beam from a maiden’s eye

Was the lance which he proudly wav’d on high. [page 119:]

Indeed, the whole of Dreamland, the Valley of Unrest (in all versions) and the Parody on Drake must be read in connection with this Address, which is far more in Poe’s manner and far more likely to have been written by him than many a copy of unsigned verses which people have wished to assign to his pen.

But now a curious bit of external evidence must be considered. In the Columbia Spy for December 9, 1843 (the number in which the purchase of the paper by Bowen and Gossler was announced) appeared the following notice:

NEW-YEAR’S ADDRESS

The Carriers of this paper desire us to state, that they will award to the author of the best New-Year’s Address, a beautiful Annual for 1844. The merits of the Addresses handed in to be judged by a Committee of literary gentlemen, and the premium awarded according to their decision. The productions must be handed in on or before the 24th inst.

This notice raises a series of unanswerable questions and troublesome doubts, for it is not followed up by any announcement of a winner or decision, or any names of members of the committee, all of which commonly would be expected. It is obviously unlikely that Poe would have written a long poem for so small a prize as a gift-book — whatever he might have done for friendship or a little cash. But there is the curious silence about the contest. Did it really take place? Who were the literary gentlemen — was Bowen’s friend of two years standing, Poe, a member? Poe certainly judged young ladies’ compositions on one occasion. Was the contest a failure, and Poe asked to write the poem? Was the contest one in which the best poem was a weak one, and Poe asked to patch it up ? That would account for the badness of some of the verses, especially the 25th, which it is hard to believe Poe could have written. Or was the contest a success, and the judges (whether Poe or Bowen was among them or both) partial to a poem in the manner of their favorite, Mr. Poe? Or, finally, was the contest a failure, and the winning poem composed by Bowen in Poe’s manner? The bad misprint in line 94 where “‘express” was put for “cypress” suggests the manuscript was in a round hand — no more. The grammar of line 69 is doubtful, but Byron misused the word “lay.”

My conclusion must be inconclusive. Parts of the poem are bad, but Poe was often careless in the first draft of a poem, and there was no chance for revision here, and one cannot judge a scrap tossed off to oblige a friend, where no author is to be named, by the standards of work written seriously and slowly. And in [page 120:] case of part authorship bad lines might be allowed to stand if inoffensive. Perhaps some day a manuscript or some other evidence may turn up to settle some or all of these questions; I have but little hope, yet it is possible. Meanwhile each reader may incline to one opinion or another, as the evidence moves him. Certainly the suspicion that Poe had a hand in the poem is strong enough to justify a consideration of all the evidence by the student of Poe’s work. The numbers of the lines are added for convenience in referring to different parts of the poem, of which it seems hard to avoid the idea that the author or reviser may have been Poe.


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Notes:

In the printed edition, the line numbers for the poem are given to the right, while in the current presenation, they have been rendered on the left, so as not to interfere with page numbers.

Mabbott explicitly rejects this poem from the Poe canon in both his draft introduction for his own edition of the Doings of Gotham and in his volume of the Poems.

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[S:0 - SPM29, 1929] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Doings of Gotham: Poe's Contributions to The Columbia Spy (J. Spannuth and T. O. Mabbott) (Carrier's Address)