Poetry of Kansas

Hand-Me-Down Maxims

Ben Franklin was a wondrous sage
Who flourished in a former age;
He made a kite and flew it high
And yanked the lightning from the sky.
If he had stuck to tricks like that,
Upon his science standing pat,
His never dying memory
Would be a lot more dear to me.
But Ben was overwise and smart
And took himself too much to heart,
And wrote a lot of silly verse,
As bad as this and maybe worse,
To tell folks what they ought to do,
As if he thought that I or you
Would like to base our daily acts
Upon his blamed old almanacs.
Once, in an evil moment caught,
Down at the picture store I bought
A cardboard motto, in a frame,
And in my bedroom hung the same;
Which told me what great Ben had said,
That I must early go to bed
And in the morning early rise,
For that would make me rich and wise.
So when the twilight shadows came
Methought I'd buck his little game,
That I might walk in Wisdom's ways
And pile up wealth for future days.
I hung my pants across a chair
And sought my couch of gander hair
And there upon the bed I tossed
Till all my patience I had lost;
And counted ninety thousand sheep
Before I closed my eyes in sleep.
Ere long a pain across my lap
Awoke me from a troubled nap
And when the doctor came he said:
"You should not go so soon to bed;
Your evening meal did not digest
Which robbed you of your peaceful rest.
Three dollars, please, is what you owe
And if you'll pay me I will go."
I took that jinx down from the wall
And tossed it out into the hall.
And secretly I vowed that hence
I'd use a little common sense
And take no longer as a guide
Such foolish maxims, cut and dried.

Verdigris Valley Verse
Albert Stroud
(Coffeyville, Kansas: The Journal Press. 1917)
Pages 88-89

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April 19, 2003 / John & Susan Howell / Wichita, Kansas / howell@kotn.org

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