Tagged: ballads

Treading Clams

National Poetry Month is almost over but we have time for one more power ballad. This time, we’re looking over the body of work of Paul Bailey. Bailey was a newspaperman from Amityville (founder of the Amityville Sun) as well as the publisher of the Long Island Forum. His dedication to Long Island history ran deep as he was also president of the Suffolk County Historical Society and Suffolk County Historian. He wrote a syndicated column on Long Island History and was a sought-after public speaker on the topic.

So it’s no surprise that his posthumous book of poetry, Treading Clams (1965) is filled with light verse on all aspects of Long Island. Today we read through excerpts of three of the poems, “The Midnight Rides of Austin Roe,” “Shoes from the Sea,” and “When Prohibition Came.”

Born in 1885, Bailey actually spent some time out west before settling down to his newspaper career. He worked on cattle ranches and possibly in the movies – enough experience, at least, to fuel a number of Western stories that he wrote for pulps like Argosy later on. He also struck up a friendship at home with nearby neighbors Will Rogers and Fred Stone. Stone was an actor and comedian and the first person to play the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz (in the 1902 Broadway version).

Our reader today is Dr. Josh Gidding, Professor of English at Dowling College. Thanks, Josh! And we hope you’ve enjoyed our spelunking through poetry history. Make sure you check out our other Long Island Power Ballads and leave a comment on what you thought.

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Writing the Rails

Back when men were men and railroads were railroads, Charles M. Murphy challenged a locomotive and lived to tell the tale. He rode behind a Long Island Railroad locomotive in 1899 and clocked a mile in under 58 seconds, earning him the immortal nickname Mile-a-Minute Murphy.

1899ad

Geneva Daily Times, Sept 2, 1899

 

On today’s episode we look back at Murphy’s accomplishment through the eyes of Si Tannhauser. Who was Si Tannhauser, you ask? Only the “poet laureate of Long Island” circa 1934. That’s when he published his ode to Murphy in the Leader Observer. Si was a ticket agent for the Long Island Railroad by day, poet by night.

The lives of both men brim with anecdote and pathos. Tannhauser survived the San Francisco earthquake as well as hardscrabble times that left him near blind, lame and half-deaf. Murphy went on to Vaudeville and the New York City Police department where, among other things, he wrestled down a runaway horse.

This episode is part of our celebration of National Poetry month and the reader of this particular Long Island power ballad is Rick Jackofsky of the Home Grown String Band. Many thanks, Rick! And check out our past ballads for more poetry/history mashups.

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“The Land of Rum and Romance”

We continue our celebration of National Poetry Month with our second Long Island power ballad from the past. This time out we are looking at “A Babylonish Ditty” by Frederick Swartwout Cozzens (writing as Richard Haywarde).

Frederick Swarthout Cozzzens. From The Knickerbocker Gallery, 1855.

Frederick Swartwout Cozzzens. From The Knickerbocker Gallery, 1855.

Few will remember New York wine merchant-turned poet Cozzens and his heyday as a humor writer in the mid 1800s (although you should try his Sparrowgrass Papers, something of a 19th-century prototype for the sticom Green Acres.) Fewer still will remember the Knickerbocker, the magazine where he cut his teeth. But that’s where, in 1850, he first published “A Babylonish Ditty,” a quick-trotting ode to a long gone summer romance.

Why Babylon? Well, the south shore of Long Island (“the merry old south side”) had a reputation that drew men out from New York City. Mostly they were merchants and lawyers, amateur sportsmen drawn to the abundant fish and game along the Great South Bay. They came by rail and stage coach and after a long day traipsing through the great outdoors, they retired to one of the many inns and taverns strung along the South Country Road (today’s Montauk Highway).

knick

Listen to Cozzens relive those hazy summer days and wonder to yourself how the “fickle” object of his affection viewed the whole affair. Many thanks to our guest reader, Steve Birkeland.

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Long Island Power Ballads

Monument

Monument to Woodhull in Cypress Hills (proposed but never built). From Marsh, L.R. (1848). General Woodhull and His Monument. New York: Leavit, Trow.

It’s National Poetry Month and we’re celebrating with a series of poetry/history mashups that we like to call Long Island Power Ballads. We’re dusting off some deserving yet obscure poems (and poets) dealing with Long Island history and giving them another look. Over the next few weeks you’ll hear stories of broken hearts, tragic deaths, and the indomitable human spirit. But when we say obscure, we mean obscure. If you’re looking for Walt Whitman, seek ye elsewhere.

Today’s episode deals with “The Death of Woodhull: An American Ballad” which tells one version of the death of Nathaniel Woodhull, American patriot, Brigadier General and brother-in-law of William Floyd. Learn the history of the man and the story of the legend that sprung up around his demise. His connection to AMC’s Turn is also explained.

Hear our fearless poetry reenactors bring this ballad back to life amid fanfare, galloping horses and flashing blades. Many thanks to Anne McCaffrey, Frances Schauss and Kristine Hanson.

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