Saturday, January 17, 2009

"Let Me Live Elsewhere in Winter..."

How could I resist a book entitled Poetical Geography of North Carolina?

The poet, Needham Bryan Cobb, explained the purpose of his 1887 volume:

The following rhymes on the counties, rivers, creeks, sounds, bays, and mountains of North Carolina were prepared by the author to aid his own pupils in memorizing the geography of their native State. They were written out on the blackboard, a few lines at a time, and the whole school required to repeat them in concert.

By the time Mr. Cobb had woven several hundred Tarheel geographic features into verse, his rhymes were really becoming forced:

To sum up in brief what we've studied before,
We have Creeks three hundred and ninety-four;
Five and nine Rivers that flow north and west,
And fifty-nine others that flow south and east;
Ninety-six Counties, twelve Bays and some more,
And ten and one Sounds on the Atlantic shore.

In addition to instructive doggerel, Cobb included several other compositions in his book. He wrote “A Home in the Mountains” while vacationing at the White Sulphur Springs in Waynesville, July 1884.

He couldn’t resist a catalog of waterways at the beginning of the poem:

I love to live in the mountains,
This beautiful “Land of the Sky,"
Where streamlets from hundreds of fountains
Go singing and scampering by.

I love the beautiful Pigeon
And Jonathan, Soco, and Scott,
Tuckasiege and Lufty and Richland,
That tumble from Pisgah and Plott.

After going on to extoll the scenic virtues of the region, he concluded with an appraisal of the seasonal charms of the mountains. However, the eastern North Carolina native had not yet acquired an appreciation of our winter weather:

I love to live here in Summer;
The air is so bracing and light,
The breezes so cool and refreshing,
The waters so sparkling and bright.

I love to be here in Autumn,
When forests are changing their hue
From green to orange and yellow,
Red, violet, russet, and blue.

Oh! then is the time of rare beauty,
These mountains, sun-painted and grand,
Seem wreaths and rosettes of God's making,
Dropped down on the beautiful land.

I love to live here in Summer,
I love to live here in Fall;
But let me live elsewhere in Winter
If you 'd have me live here at all.

When turnpikes are turned to morasses
Of reddest and deepest of mud,
And horses and oxen and asses
Sink down with a splash and a thud,

When the mercury sinks below zero,
And icicles hang from your nose;
When fires are fruitless to warm you,
Though clad in your warmest of clothes : —

Then give me a home in the Lowlands,
The warm-hearted Land of the Sun,
Where people don't freeze by their firesides
When Summer and Autumn are gone.

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