The Old Pennsylvania Farmer

Bayard Taylor home – Cedarcroft, in Chester County,  Pennsylvania

The Old Pennsylvania Farmer.

BY BAYARD TAYLOR.

I don’t half live, penned up in-doors; a stove’s not like the sun,
When I can’t see how things go on, I fear they’re badly done;
I might have farmed till now, I think — one’s family is so queer —
As if a man can’t oversee who’s in his eightieth year.

Father, I mind, was was eighty-five before he gave up his,
But he wasn’t dim of sight and crippled with the rheumatiz.
I followed in his old, steady way, so he was satisfied,
But Reuben likes new-fangled things and ways I can’t abide.

I’m glad I built this southern porch, my chair seems easier here;
I haven’t seen as fine a spring this vie and twenty year!
And how the time goes round so quick — a week I would have sworn,
Since they were husking on the flat, and now they’re hoeing corn.

When I was young, time had for me a lazy ox’s pace,
But now it’s like a blooded horse, that means to win the race,
And yet I can’t fill out my days, I tire myself with naught;
I’d rather use my legs and hands than plague my head with thought.

If father lived, I’d like to know what he would say to these
New notions of the young men, who farm with chemistries;
There’s different stock and other grass, there’s patent plow and cart —
Five hundred dollars for a bull! It would have broke his heart.

They think I have an easy time, no need to worry now,
Sit in the porch all day and watch them mow, and sow and plow;
Sleep in the summer in the shade, in winter in the sun,
I’d rather do the thing myself, and know just how it’s done.

Well — I suppose I’m old, and yet, ’tis not so long ago
When Reuben spread the swath to dry, and Jesse learned to mow,
And William raked, and Israel hoed, and Joseph pitched with me;
But such a man as I was then, my boys will never be!

I don’t mind William’s hankering for lectures and for books;
He never had a farming knack — you’d see it in his looks;
But handsome is that handsome does, and he is well to do;
‘Twould ease my mind if I could say the same of Jesse too!

There’s one black sheep in every flock, so there must be in mine,
But I was wrong the second time his bond to undersign;
It’s less than what his shares will be — but there’s the interest!
In two years more I might have had two thousand to invest.

There’s no use thinking of it now, and yet it makes me sore;
The way I’ve saved and saved, I ought to count a little more.
I never lost a foot of land, and that’s a comfort sure,
And if they do not call me rich, they cannot call me poor.

Well, well, then thousand times I’ve thought the things I’m thinking now;
I’ve thought them in the harvest-field and in the clover mow.
And sometimes I get tired of them, and wish I’d something new —
But this is all I’ve seen and known, so what’s a man to do?

‘Tis like my time is nearly out, of that I’m not afraid —
I’ve never cheated any man, and all my debts are paid.
They call it rest that we shall have, but work would do no harm;
There can’t be rivers there and fields, without some kind of farm!

Morning Oregonian (Portland, Oregon) Jul 5, 1871

A longer version of the poem can be found in the following book:

Title: Home Ballads
Author: Bayard Taylor
Publisher: Houghton, Mifflin and company, 1882
[Original copyright – 1875]
Pages 55-61

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One Response to “The Old Pennsylvania Farmer”

  1. Sam Sackett Says:

    Bayard Taylor plays a small but significant part in my historical novel of the California gold rush, SWEET BETSY FROM PIKE. — Sam Sackett

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