Few carrier’s addresses have been as amusing, long, or erratically indented as the Bellows Falls Gazette’s “New Year’s Vagaries” of December 31, 1842. To a base made up of a tendency toward bad poetry, tack various reminders of those in financial need, baste a familiar poem, glue a little regional pride, staple a satiric reference to an insurrection in another state, sprinkle some patriotism—and you have a page-eating poem that readers probably forgot the next day.

No matter. All the traditions had been upheld: the old year been seen out and the new year seen in, and contemporary events acknowledged. And contemporary events are thick in the poem. Thomas Wilson Dorr had fled Rhode Island after the Dorr Rebellion failed to change the state’s constitution. “ESPYonage” is a reference to James Pollard Espy, whose scientific focus on storms earned him the nickname “the Storm King.” The “thousand coins” that Andrew Jackson should scorn is the repayment by the U. S. government of a $1000 fine Jackson paid in 1815 as a penalty for waging the Battle of New Orleans after the War of 1812 had ended. “Hard times” were being experienced by many people during the financial depression of 1839-1843; the “street yarn” that women should spin less of refers to someone gadding about the streets. If Miller was producing something wonderful and new, it was because 1843 was the year that William Miller had foretold would see the end of the world.

And the familiar poem? “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” which was by 1843 already a standard feature of periodicals in late December and early January. Though not always given this wording. The author of “Vagaries” makes a few changes: the “new fallen snow” of the original is “hard crusted” here; the leaves flying before the hurricane are no longer dry.

“Salma Gundi” probably was the editor. In 1843, a salmagundi was a cold salad made up of a variety of ingredients. The word already had had a career in satire: from 1807-1808, it was the name of a satirical magazine written by Washington Irving and James Kirke Paulding. The poem’s theme of economic hardship is appropriate for an issue being published during a financial depression, but it also was in keeping with the nineteenth-century editor’s typical refrain: that subscribers needed to pay their bills.

Formatted as it is in uneven sections, “Vagaries” seems built to break into chunks fit to fill what empty space was left on the page in a reprinting editor’s paper. And it was. Minus—among other things—its section on Dorr, the poem was reprinted the next day as “New Year’s Address” in the World of Music, also published in Bellows Falls, Vermont. Why? Probably because both publications were edited or published by John Weeks Moore, who may have been “Salma Gundi.”

“New Year’s Vagaries,” by “Salma Gundi.” (from Bellows Falls Gazette [Bellows Falls, Vermont] 31 December 1842; p. 1.)

To the Readers of the Bellows Falls Gazette, the Printer’s Devil, begs leave to say, that in conformity to the usages of Time a VETO has been put upon 1842. Reason—

The year was getting old,

The weather getting cold—

Therefore old Time & me

Have VETOED it, per se,

And we take the liberty

To introduce, 1843.

Custom decrees, Newspaper wights

Who e’er attempt poetic flights,

On Mount Parnassus to appear,

Rigged in their best poetic geer, [sic]

To hail the advent of the year—

To take a sort of bird’s-eye view

Of that to which we’ve bid adieu.

The close of the old year, the dawn of the new

Bring the Holiday pastimes and GIFTS, not a few:

How merrily CHRISTMAS and New Years’ day pass!

How the children all watch for good SAINT NICHOLAS!

’Twas the night before Christmas, when, all thro’ the house,

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced thro’ their heads;

And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled our brains for a long winters [sic] nap—

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter:

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the hard crusted snow,

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When what to my wandering [sic] eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be ST. NICK.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came

And he whistled and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer! now, Vixen!

On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blixen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away, dash away, dash away, all!”

As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle mount to the sky,

So up to the house top the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of toys—and St. Nicholas too,

And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little oof.

As I drew in my head and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot!

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a pedlar just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of his pipe he held tight in his teeth

And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath.

He had a broad face, and a round little belly.

That shook when he laugh’d like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump; a right jolly old elf;

And I laughed when I saw him in spite of myself.

A wink of his eye, and twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings—then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh to his team gave a whistle

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle;

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

But a truce to such stories—we ’ll bridle the muse,

Change the scene, and thus cater for those who love news.

In days like these, newspaper matter,

If popular, must make teeth chatter,

Make hair, like shingle nails, stand stiff

Or it’s scarcely worth a tobacco whiff!

Floods, fires and earthquakes must abound;

Wretches be murdered, hang’d or drowned!

Now, if the horror-hunting tribe,

For our GAZETTE will all subscribe,

We’ll furnish them with quantum suff,

Of real horrifying stuff!

We’ll tell of war—paint scenes of battles,

Where swords shall shine—where cannon rattles,

Make paper snow-storms, raise sheet-iron thunder

Until the theatres shall all knock under—

Our guns shall roar than thunder louder,

Till people smell, or seem to smell the powder!

A new year comes—enwreathed in snows—

And hark! how loud old Boreas blows:

Faith, ’tis a pelting storm;

How lucky then, in these dull scenes,

Who boast good stock of pork and beans,

And blazing fire to keep ’em warm!

At this chill time, while stormy winter reigns,

And driven snow lies scattered on the plains,

While bitter tempests howl with furious dread,

And search each crevice of the poor man’s shed,

At this bleak time, the poor are doomed to know,

The cutting pangs of misery and woe;

Bereft of means to earn their food each day,

They pine unknown, their humble woes away.

Ye sons of fortune, blest with happy lot

Go view the misery of the poor man’s cot;

See how distress bows down the Father’s head,

While hungry infants call aloud for bread!

Go view such scenes and teach your hearts to feel

The force, the claim of poverty’s appeal.

Another year is gone! old Father Time,

Proclaimed its exit, at the midnight chime—

Sic transit gloria mundi—and thus man

Must pass away—his life is but a span:

He struts upon the stage, then to that bourne

Hastens, from which no travellers return.

The NEW YEAR now comes in:—how many woes

Unthought of yet, shall be before its close!

How many joys shall fate’s keen scythe destroy,

How much of pleasure greet, of pain annoy:

How many suffer in this happy land,

How many need gifts from a liberal hand!

And yet how few will charity divine

Relieve, by pouring out the “oil and wine:”

Who, who will heed the wants, the piercing cries

Of misery! Who “wipe their weeping eyes.”

The year that’s recently gone by,

Had something to attract the fry

Who human misery delight in

And scenes of terror, blood and fighting!

Rhode Island has passed through ONE WAR,

Rais’d up one hero in the valiant DORR!

“The hero Dorr, he made a war,

A regular Revolution—

He put an end, you may depend,

To Kingly Constitution.

Says he, Arise! Confound your eyes,

My voice is still for war, gods,

Your muskets bring to battle King,

We’re the biggest chaps by all odds.

My mamma always said that I

Was born for fame and glory.

That sword shall wave in triumph high,

Shall be renowned in story.”

All hail, great Dorr! thy war has nobly ended,

Long in the Granite State, you’ll live and be befriended;

Your cause has triumphed gloriously—it could not fail,

Because the heroes of that war all took leg bail!

People may laugh, (but this is a digression,)

Valor is nothing sure, without discretion:

This truth we know—“Who fights and runs away,

Perhaps may live to fight another day!”

Some rare disclosures have of late been made,

Respecting storms and clouds that yield rain water;

A system of ESPYonage is laid

Which few place faith in as they surely oughter.

One stubborn fact has come to light, at least,

To prove the science is no scheme of jewing;—

When you discover that the wind is yeast,

’Tis pretty certain that “a storm is brewing.”

JACKSON! whose name to future times shall go,

Known by much ill, in passion’s fiery hour

Conceived and wrought; whence many mischiefs came

That mar thy fame

And worked thy country woe;

Unkind abuses of the civic power,—

For which thy kitchen cabinet, oh shame!

Perchance are most to blame.—

Yet mixed with good of no mean quality

That on thy escutcheon shall emblazoned be,—

The patriot fire, that won thy country’s praise,

And a whole life spent in the public cause;

From boyhood’s generous days

To the old age that long has seemed to pause

On the dim shore of the eternal sea!

Count that thy noblest and thy proudest hour,

Worthy the Roman name,

Or more, thy country’s fame,

When ’mid the clang of war, and the hot haste,

And victory’s rapturous taste,

And thy firm hand fixed on resistless power,—

The conqueror’s sword fell,—and the downward steel

Bowed to the civil wreath!

On high THE LAW, that guides the common weal,

The soldier stood beneath!

Supreme o’er crimson conquest’s clarion breath

A voice serene and still,—


And now reposing in thy Hermitage,

Amid such contemplations we would trust,

As best befit thy venerable age,

Crumbling to dust;

I pray thee General, do not mar it all!

Take my advice,—

I deprecate thy fall!

Nor honor nice,

Nor thought of justice, nor a true respect

For thine old age, or sense of cold neglect,

Inspires or senators or pot-house fellows,

Whose zeal grows fiery o’er it, as they drink;

Their care for thee is little, I suspect,

’Tis of themselves they think,

And how they best may fix their party collars;

I pray thee, scorn the dollars!

A thousand coins make a poor show in story

Compared with deathless glory.

There’s nothing charms me more than to behold

Declining years with honest comforts strewed;

Service demands the people’s gratitude,

And shame it were to see thy hearthstone cold!

I’m sure in my opinion, humbly given,

And not requested even,

It were a handsome thing, if Congress would

Assume a generous mood,—

Handsome for them, for thee and us, the nation,—

Forget thy faults,

Open our vaults,

Think of thy years, thy service and thy station,

And give thee out a liberal donation;

But not a remission;

Be this the fixed condition!

Still let the fine

The brightest leaf in all thy chaplet shine;

Let our sons’ sons respect thy proud submission,

The ancient honor of the citizen,

The sword, high thought,, obedient to the pen!

Still be “the Roman.”—

Regard thyself and us, and suffer no man

To pluck this glory from thy silvered brow,

Let party malice fret her hour, and rage,

But there, on sober history’s solid page,

Still let this stand, that best allies thy name

In honest virtue with thy country’s fame!

Patrons, I ask your grace, in terms untaught

With which to tell my simple tale, I’ve come,

Toiling through winter’s chilling blast, I’ve sought

The peaceful door where joy has found a home:

I’ve walked my weary round, in summer’s glow,

In Autumn’s storm, in surly Winter’s snow:

As Heaven hath blessed you, give, if you are willing—

The Printer’s Devil won’t refuse A SHILLING!

AMERICA, blest land of liberty,

Land of the YANKEE—may you e’er be free!

Home of the brave, asylum of the good

Where real liberty is understood—

Where industry and wealth walk hand in hand:

America, thou art a happy land!

Blest with good rulers, may you prosper long—

May democratic Whigs unite to make you strong:

Yours is an envied station, happy state,

Most free of nations, of the greatest great.

Statesmen and Patriots—who were staunch of old,

Who never wished to purchase fame with gold,

Ye who once caus’d the invading foe to feel

That freedom here was guarded well with steel

Ye who undaunted stood in other days,

On Bunker’s heights—who witness’d Charlestown’s blaze,

Ye who for Liberty have fought and bled,

Whose ashes now are those of heroes, dead,

Speak from your narrow tenements of clay

Unto fair freedom’s sons—point out their way—

Guide them in every office, every station,

That they our country may preserve, in peace,

PROTECT OUR INDUSTRY, and our joys increase.

Heaven bless our rulers—prosper small and great,

From Locofoco horrors, God defend the State!

Look ye abroad, our country now is filled

With happy freemen who their farms have till’d—

As towns increase, behold the woods recede

And in their stead see fertile mounts and meads;

The gloom of lonely forests quickly yields

To “pomp of towns and garniture of fields.”

HARD TIMES, hard times—is now the cry:

Well, people can’t afford to live so high—

Take off your coats, and work like honest men,

Earn all you eat and drink, and wear; and then

Times will be better,—money plentier far

And people more contented as they are:

Ladies must learn to knit, to sew and darn,

Spin much more native flax, and less street yarn,

Dandies must learn to dress in frocks and gaiters,

To grow less whiskers and far more potatoes,

People instead of living at their ease

Must earn, before they eat, their bread and cheese.

REFORM, is now the word, in every thing

New lights spring up like stars—each day will bring

Some new discovery in Science or in Arts

Till people fly like birds, dispensing with go-carts.

Phrenology, and Mesmerism, yea, and Miller, too,

Are constantly producing something wonderful and new—

How well it is the sun and moon

Are placed so very high,

That no presuming ass can reach

To pluck them from the sky!

If ’twere not so, I do believe

That some reforming ass

Would soon attempt to take them down

To light the world with GAS!

Patrons and friends, ’tis time our tale was ended;

The less a person says, the sooner mended.

Health to VERMONT! To every son and daughter—

(These Temperance Times,) we drink it in Cold Water,

No native son, though distant, e’er forgets,


What though ’tis said by ignoramus praters

Our soil produces ice and poor potatoes,

When foes approach our country to environ

They’ll find we raise great crops of men and iron!

’Tis late, my lamp burns dim, the fire is out,

I am rheumatic—but have not the gout

Thank Heaven. But ’tis a fact, who writes,

Must also, like his neighbors, “sleep o’nights.”

I’m off—Give to the poor! warm clothing, food,

Prevent the winter-cough, the frame-chilled brood

Of throes which make it weariness to live:

Give to the poor—give humbly, freely give,

For, lo! cold winter, drenched in icy rains,

Days short and fickle nip the laborer’s gaines,

Cold glooms the air, cold incubates the earth,

Cold brings increase of suffering and of death.

Lucky the woodman who shall find employ,

In times like these, labor alone is joy—

The busy and the bounteous, at this time,

Are mind and body warm, throughout our clime.

To every friend the News boy’s wish I bear.

That every good may crown the coming year;

That toiling Industry its meed may gain,

And cautious enterprise not watch in vain.

That tottering age may feel not life’s decay,

That Youth may pass unharmed its thorny way.

Patrons and friends, our simple tale is ended;

May you with happiness be long attended—

Your life be joyous, never plagued with fears,

Live on through many happy, happy years.

For me, I seek again my weekly round,

Cheered by the smiles and favor I have found.

December 31, 1842.

Copyright 1999-2024, Pat Pflieger
To “Nineteenth-Century American Children & What They Read
Some of the children | Some of their books | Some of their magazines
To “Voices from 19th-Century America
Some works for adults, 1800-1872
To Titles at this site | Authors at this site | Subjects at this site | Works by date | Map of the site

Talk to me.