1827
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Money Diggers.

Connecticut Mirror (16 July 1827).

John G. C. Brainard


Six burlesque Spenserians: a mountain witch sends two greedy Vermonters on a fool's errand: "And the shake | Of knocking knees and jaws that seem'd to break, | Told a wild tale of undertaking bold, | While as the oyster-tongs the chiels did take | Dim grew the sight, and every blood drop cold, | As knights in scarce romant sung by the bards of old." The poem is not signed. The theme of superstition had been treated many times in Spenserian stanzas. For another treasure hunt, compare R. Montgomery's "The Lost Treasure" in Death's Doings (1827).

Author's note: "It is a fact that two men from Vermont, are now, (July 11th) working by the side of one of the wharves in New-London, for buried money, by the advice and recommendation of an old woman of that state, who assured them that she could distinctly see a box of dollars packed edge-wise. The locality was pointed out to an inch, and her only way of discovering the treasure was by looking through a stone, which to ordinary optics was hardly translucent. For the story of the Spanish Galleon that left so much bullion in and about New-London, see Trumbull's History of Connecticut, and for Kidd inquire of the oldest lady you can find."

Edgar Allan Poe: "Of the merely humorous pieces we have little to say. Such things are not poetry. Mr. Brainard excelled in them, and they are very good in their place; but that place is not in a collection of poems. The prevalent notions upon this head are extremely vague; yet we see no reason why any ambiguity should exist. Humor, with an exception to be made hereafter, is directly antagonistical to that which is the soul of the Muse proper; and the omni-prevalent belief, that melancholy is inseparable from the higher manifestations of the beautiful, is not without a firm basis in nature and in reason" in "The Literati of New York City" Godey's Lady's Book 1846; Works (1853) 3:144.



Thus saith the book — "Permit no witch to live;"
Hence Massachusetts hath expell'd the race,
Connecticut, where swap and dicker thrive,
Allow'd not to their foot a resting place.
With more of hardihood and less of grace,
Vermont receives the sisters grey and lean,
Allows each witch her airy broomstick race,
O'er mighty rocks and mountains dark with green,
Where tempests wake their voice, and torrents roar between.

And one there was among that wicked crew
To whom the enemy a pebble gave,
Through which, at long-off distance, she might view
All treasures of the fathomable wave,
And where the Thames' bright billows gently lave,
The grass-grown piles that flank the ruin'd wharf,
She sent them forth, those two adventurers brave,
Where greasy citizens their bev'rage quaff,
Jeering at enterprize — aye ready with a laugh.

They came — those straight-hair'd honest meaning men,
Nor question ask'd they, nor reply did make,
Albeit their locks were lifted like as when
Young Hamlet saw his father. And the shake
Of knocking knees and jaws that seem'd to break,
Told a wild tale of undertaking bold,
While as the oyster-tongs the chiels did take
Dim grew the sight, and every blood drop cold,
As knights in scarce romaunt sung by the bards of old.

For not in daylight were their rites perform'd,
—When night-cap'd heads were on their pillow laid,
Sleep-freed from biting care, by thought unharm'd.
Snoring e'er word was spoke, or prayer was said—
'Twas then the mattock and the busy spade,
The pump, the bucket and the windlass rope,
In busy silence plied the mystic trade,
While resolution, beckon'd on by hope,
Did sweat and agonize the sought for chest to ope.

Beneath the wave, the iron chest is hot,
Deep growls are heard and read'ning eyes are seen,
Yet of the Black Dog she had told them not,
Nor of the grey wild geese with eyes of green,
That scream'd and yell'd and hover'd close between
The buried gold and the rapacious hand.
Here should she be, tho' mountains intervene,
To scatter, with her crook'd witch-hazle wand,
The wave-born sprites that keep their treasure from the land.

She cannot, may not come, the rotten wharf
Of mould'ring planks and rusty spikes is there,
And he who own'd a quarter or an half
Is disappointed, and the witch is — where?
Vermont still harbors her — go seek her there,
The Grand dame of Joe Strickland — find her nest,
Where summer icicles and snowballs are,
Where black swans paddle and where Petrils rest,
Symmes be your trusty guide and Robert Kid your guest.

[pp. 66-68]