DARIUS GREEN AND HIS FLYING MACHINE
In his youth, Fred Morton (b. 1882) memorized this poem by John T. Trowbridge (1827-
1916). He could still recite it in the 1950s and 1960s, much to the delight of his family.
“If ever you knew a Yankee lad,
Wise or otherwise, good or bad,
Who seeing the birds fly, wouldn't jump
flapping arms from stake or stump.
Or spreading the tail of his coat for a sail,
take a soaring leap from post or rail,
and wonder why he couldn't fly
flap and flutter and wish and try.
If ever you knew a country dunce
who wouldn't try that as often as once.
All I can say is that's a sign
never would do for a hero of mine.
An aspiring genius, was Darius Green.
The son of a farmer, age fourteen.
His body was long, lank and lean.
Just right for flying, as will be seen.
He had two eyes as bright as a bean
and a speckled nose that grew between.
A little awry, for I must mention
that he had riveted his attention
his wonderful invention.
And he twisted his tongue as he twisted the strings,
and he worked his face as he worked with wings.
And with every turn of gimlet and screw,
twisting and screwing his mouth around too,
'til his nose seemed bent to catch the scent,
some corner, of new baked pies.
And his wrinkled cheeks and squinting eyes
grew puckered into a queer grimace
that made him look very droll in the face,
and also very wise.
And wise he must have been,
to do more Than ever a genius had done before.
Excepting Daedalus of yore, and his son Icarus.
Who wore upon their backs those wings of wax
had read about in the old Almanacs.
Darius was clearly of the opinion
that the air was also man's dominion.
And that with paddle or fin or pinion
we soon or late shall navigate
the azure, as now we sail the sea.
The thing looks simple enough to me.
And if you doubt it,
see how Darius reasoned about it.
"The birds can fly, an why can't I?
Must we give in? says he with a grin,
that the Blue bird and Feeby
Are smarter than we be?"
"Just fold our hands and see the Swalla,
and the Black bird and the Cat bird beat us holla?
Or tell me that chatterin' sassy little wren knows more 'en men?
Just show me that. Or prove that the bat
has got more brains than's in my hat,
I'll back down. An not till then."
"He argued further. Nor, I can't see,
what's the use of the wings to the bumble bee,
to git a livin' with, mor'en to me?
my business importanter than hissen
"That Icarus was a silly, him and his daddy Deadalus.
They mighta knowed that wings made of wax
wouldn't stand sun heat or hard whacks.
I'll make mine of luther or sumfin or
"But I ain't never goin' to show my hand
to mummies who never could understand
the first idea that big and grand.
They'd a laughed and made fun
creation itself, afore it was done."
So he kept his secret from all the rest,
Safely buttoned within his vest.
And in the loft above the shed,
He locks himself with needle and thread,
and hammers and buckles and screws,
all such things as geniuses use.
Two dead bats for patterns, curious fellows,
a charcol pot and a pair of bellows,
a carriage cover for tail and wings,
a piece of harness and straps and strings,
and a big strong box in which he locks
and other things.
His grinning brothers, Reuben and Burke,
and Nathan and Jathan and Solomon lurk,
around the corner to see him work.
Sitting cross legged like a Turk.
And boring the holes with a comical quirk
his wise old head and a knowing smile.
But vainly they mounted each others backs
and peeked through knot holes and pried through cracks,
With wood from the pile, and straw from the stack
stopped up the knot holes and caulked up the cracks.
And a bucket of water that one would think
he had brought up into the loft to drink,
stood always nigh, for Darius was sly.
At chink or crevice a blinking eye,
he let a dipper of water fly.
"Take that! And if ever ye git a peep
I guess ye'll catch a weasel asleep!
And he sings as he locks his big strong box.
The weasels head is small and trim.
And he is little and long and slim.
And quick of motions, and nimble of limb.
An if ye'll be advised by me,
wide awake, when ye are catching 'im.
"'Twas the fourth of July and the weather was dry.
Not a cloud was in all the sky,
excepting a few fleeces here and there, half mist, half air,
like foam on the ocean went floating by.
And 'twas the loveliest morning that ever was seen
a nice little trip in a flying machine.
Thought cunning Darius, now I'll not go
along with the other fellows to see the show.
I'll say "I've got such a cough!"
An when the other folks had all gone off,
I'll have full swing to try the thing,
practice a little on the wing.
"What! Ain't goin' to the celebration?" says Burke.
"Sure guess ye better go!". But Darius says "No".
Botheration. "I, I've got such a tooth ache.
My, my, Seems as though I should fly.
Shouldn't wonder if ye'd see me though, long about ,
I git rid of this jumpin', thumpin' pain in my head".
For, all the time to himself he said, "I'll tell you what.
I'll fly a few times round the lot,
to see how it seems. An soon's I've got
the hang of the thing, as likely as not,
I'll astonish the nation, an' all creation
flyin' over the celebration."
"Over their heads I'll sail like an eagle.
I'll balance myself on my wings like a seagull.
I'll light on the chimney. I'll dance on the steeple.
I'll flap up to the windows, an scare all the people.
I'll light on the liberty pole and crow.
And I'll say to the gasping fools below,
"What world's this 'eer, that I've come near?
For I'll make em think I'm a chap from the moon.
And I'll try a race with their ol' balloon."
His brothers had gone but a little way
when Nathan to Jathan chanced to say,
"What on earths he up to, Hey?
Oh, I don't know. There's sompin' or other though to pay,
he'd never stayed home today."
Says Burke, "His tooth ache's all in his eye.
He'd never miss a fourth of July
if he hadn't some old machine to try."
Then Solomon, the little one, spoke.
"Let's hurry back, an hide in the barn
pay him for tellin' us that yarn."
Agreed! And through the orchard they all crept back,
yonder that fence and back of the stack,
and through a hole in the wall they did crawl,
in their Sunday garments all.
And what a wonderful sight was that
when each in his cobweb coat and hat
came up through the floor, like an ancient rat.
And there they hid. And Reuben slid
the fastenings back, and the door undid.
"Keep in the dark!" says he,
squint, And see what there is to see."
As knights of old put on their mail,
from head to foot an iron suit,
iron jacket and iron boot
iron britches, and on the head
No hat, but an iron pot instead,
Under the chin, the bail
(I think they called the thing a swale).
Thus accorted they took the field
Sallying forth to overwhelm
dragons and Pagans that plagued the Realm.
So our modern knight prepared to take his flight
Put on his wings and strapped them tight.
Buckled them fast to shoulder and hip.
Ten feet they measured from tip to tip.
And a helmet had he. But that, he wore
not on his head, like those of yore.
But more like the helm of a ship.
"Burk, stop laughin'. Solomon, keep still.
He's riggin' a spring board up in the sill.
I see his head. He sticks it out, an pokes it about,
lookin' to see if the coast is clear, an' anybody near.
Guess he don't know who's hid in
Stepping carefully he travels the length
of the spring board, and teeters a little,
to try its strength.
Now he raises his wings, like a monstrous bat,
Peeps over his shoulder, this way and that,
looking to see if there's anybody passing by.
But there's none but a calf and a goslin' nigh.
They turn up at him a wondering eye. to see,
The dragon! He's going to fly!
What a jump! Flop, flop, and plump!!
To the ground, fluttering and floundering, all in a lump.
As a demon is hurled by an angels spear
head over heels to his proper sphere.
Heels over head, and head over heels,
dizzily down the abyss he wheels.
So fell Darius, upon his crown.
In the midst of the barnyard he came down.
Broken braces and broken wings,
shooting stars and various things.
Barnyard litter of straw and chaff,
And much that wasn't so sweet by half.
Away with a bellow flew the calf.
And what was that? Did the gosling laugh?
Tis a merry roar from the old barn door,
As he hears the voice of Jathan crying,
"Say, Darius, how do you like
Slowly, ruefully, where he lay,
Darius just turned a look that way.
As he wiped his sorrowful nose with his cuff.
"Well, I like flyin' well enough," He said.
"But there ain't such an awful sight
fun in it when ye come to light."
Shall we notice the MORAL here?
This is the moral: Stick to your sphere.
But, if you insist, as you have a right,
on spreading your wings for a loftier flight,
the moral is, take care how you light!”