Like almost every American educated after 1827, Emily Dickinson (b. 1830) knew the works of Samuel Griswold Goodrich, especially the books featuring “Peter Parley,” the imaginary old man with a gouty foot who taught history and geography to a generation (or two). Peter, in fact, makes a brief appearance in one of Dickinson’s earliest works, published in the Springfield Daily Republican (February 20, 1852).

“Thus passes the glory of the world,” the poem’s first line reminds us: a line oddly jaunty in its present company; and wonderfully in keeping with her “Hurrah for Peter Parley!” Famous as Peter and his creator were in nineteenth-century America, they had—alas!—fallen from favor by the middle of the twentieth. (“How doth the little busy bee / Improve each shining hour” also vanished from the repertoire of American children; it’s more famous now, probably, in the parody—“How doth the little crocodile / Improve each shining scale”—which Charles Dodgson included in Alice’s Adventures Underground.)

This text is from The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Variorum Edition, ed. R. W. Franklin. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Belknap Press, 1998. Vol 1; pp. 51-53. Used without permission. Some changes were made in this text. My thanks to Charlotte Ostrander for telling me about this reader.
“Sic Transit Gloria Mundi,” by Emily Dickinson (1852)

Sic transic gloria mundi

“How doth the busy bee”

Dum vivamus vivamus

I stay mine enemy!—

Oh veni vidi vici!

Oh caput cap-a-pie!

And oh “memento mori”

When I am far from thee

Hurrah for Peter Parley

Hurrah for Daniel Boone

Three cheers sir, for the gentleman

Who first observed the moon—

Peter put up the sunshine!

Pattie arrange the stars

Tell Luna, tea is waiting

And call your brother Mars—

Put down the apple Adam

And come away with me

So shal’t thou have a pippin

From off my Father’s tree!

I climb the “Hill of Science”

I “view the Landscape o’er”

Such transcendental prospect

I ne’er beheld before!—

Unto the Legislature

My country bids me go,

I’ll take my india rubbers

In case the wind should blow.

During my education

It was announced to me

That gravitation stumbling

Fell from an apple tree—

The Earth upon its axis

Was once supposed to turn

By way of a gymnastic

In honor to the sun—

It was the brave Columbus

A sailing o’er the tide

Who notified the nations

Of where I would reside

Mortality is fatal

Gentility is fine

Rascality, heroic

Insolvency, sublime

Our Fathers being weary

Laid down on Bunker Hill

And though full many a morn’g

Yet they are sleeping still

The trumpet sir, shall wake them

In streams I see them rise

Each with a solemn musket

A marching to the skies!

A coward will remain, Sir,

Until the fight is done;

But an immortal hero

Will take his hat and run.

Good bye Sir, I am going

My country calleth me

Allow me Sir, at parting

To wipe my weeping e’e

In token of our friendship

Accept this “Bonnie Doon”

And when the hand that pluck’d it

Hath passed beyond the moon

The memory of my ashes

Will consolation be

Then farewell Tuscarora

And farewell Sir, to thee.

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