My Old Kentucky Homesite

Homesite Puzzler #1: My Old Kentucky Poem

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 01/07/2010

Sitting in the emotional chill of this cold, snowy Kentucky night, I was moved to write an epic about my spiritual journey from New Yawk to Lexington. But I’m no poet. So I’ve stolen lines from others, and cobbled them into the following (very) free verse.

My challenge to readers is: For each numbered line, can you identify its author and the work from which it’s taken?  I will post and update results at the bottom of this page, giving credit to those who have gotten correct answers. Partial points will be rewarded for identifying only an author but not a work, or vice versa.

[Note: To give everyone a chance, please limit yourself to no more than three identifications per comment – although you may post multiple comments.]

Lines Lifted on Thinking of New Yawk during a Snowy Kentucky Evening

1. The great big city’s a wondrous toy.
2. I too walk’d the streets of Manhattan island, and bathed in the waters around it,
3. Turning and turning in the widening gyre
4. when the world is puddle-wonderful;
5. Flung roses, roses, riotously with the throng
6. Who talked continuously seventy hours from park to pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge,
7. Through caverns measureless to man;
8. And sang to a small guitar,
9. To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells,
10. the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick.

11. Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
12. I’d like to teach the world to sing.

13. But that’s all shove be’ind me – long ago an’ fur away.
14. The head must bow and the back will have to bend.
15. This is the forest primeval:
16. You can hear dear Mother Nature murmuring low
17. Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
18. Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies,
19. Never know nothing, and never know much.
20. The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
21. Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything,
22. For they’d none of ’em be missed – they’d none of ’em be missed!

23. But I have promises to keep.
24. No man is an island, entire of itself,
25. Who never to himself hath said,
26. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light;
27. Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
28. And don’t look back – something might be gaining on you.”

[Correct Answers: 1. Srsny; 2. Srsny 3. Yunshui; 4. Linwood (author), Srsny (work); 5. Kirk M; 6. Srsny; 7. Yunshui; 8. Linwood; 9. Srsny; 10. Kirk M; 11. Srsny; 12. Evie; 13. Kirk M; 14. Kirk M; 15. Srsny; 16. Srsny; 17. Srsny; 18. Linwood; 19. Kirk M; 20. Linwood; 21. Linwood; 22. Yunshui; 23. Linwood (author only); 24. Evie (author), Yunshui (work) Godless Randall (special mention); 25. Srsny; 26. Evie; 27. Kirk M 28. Kirk & Srsny (and a special mention for each)]

44 Responses to “Homesite Puzzler #1: My Old Kentucky Poem”

  1. Evie said

    My guesses:

    24. John Donne, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”
    26. Dylan Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”
    12. Coca-Cola, Inc. 8)

  2. Evie:
    Good work. Full credit for 26.

    I’m going to give you full credit for 12, although you’ve listed none of the four “authors.” I’d be shocked if anybody could come up with even one of their names — without Googling, that is. Before being reworked as a jingle, the song was known as “Mom, True Love and Apple Pie.” When Coca-Cola used it, the tune was called “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.”

    Partial credit for 24. The popular Donne poem is usually referred to as “For Whom the Bell Tolls” or, more commonly, “No Man Is an Island,” but neither of those titles is Donne’s. Actually, the “poem” is only a fragment of a longer prose piece. I’m looking for the title of that.

  3. Linwood said

    20. Grey’s churchyard elegy?
    8. The owl and the pussycat – Edward Lear
    4. e.e. cummings
    18 Lennon & McCartney – LSD
    21 Bill Shakeshaft – 7 ages of man

  4. Linwood said

    23 Frost – .. and miles to go before I sleep – title? gone blank …. woods on a snowy night?

  5. Linwood:
    Great solving. Leave it to a Brit to know her literary heritage.

    Full points for 8.
    Full points for 18, even though you lazily abbreviated “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”
    Full points for 20, although it does have a formal title: “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.”
    Full points for 21, because you referred to the speech by its classroom name. I’ll assume you know what play it’s from.

    Partial points for 4. The poet didn’t give his poems titles, but those of us who want to discuss them often call them by their first lines. Come back with the first line for full credit. IF someone else doesn’t beat you to the punch first.
    Partial points for 23. You’ve almost got the title, or at least a part of it, but that strict constructionist, Alex Trebek, would never accept what you wrote.

  6. yunshui said

    Nice to have you back on the intertubes, Larry! The Donne quote is from one of his Mediations – I will confess I had to go to my bookshelf to get the exact number, though (it’s XVII, fact-fans!).

    Can’t believe noone’s got 3 yet – Yeats’ Second Coming, one of my all-time favourite poems.

    And for the full 3 points: 22 is Gilbert and Sullivan, “As some day it may happen”, Ko-ko’s song from the Mikado.


  7. Yunshui:
    Ah, another Brit literatus. Or perhaps I should say lit Briteratus. I laughed at your typo for “Meditations.” Perhaps Donne was playing umpire in a contest between prose and poetry. Anyway, partial credit for completing 24.

    Full points for 3.
    Full points for 22.

  8. Linwood said

    27 .. cry and you cry alone – but where’s it from?!? A hallmark card? The Clown Handbook?
    I think you should give credit for adding lines, preceeding or following.

  9. Linwood said

    27 – weep!

  10. Linwood:
    See, here’s where you suffer from not being an American: in the area of Knowing Your Famous Bad Poetry. Yeah, you folks across the pond have “If” and “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” and the “Land of Counterpane.” But we Yanks run circles around you at celebrating piss-poor verse — as you would know if you’d take the time to look at any collection of The Best-Loved Doggerel of the American People. We’ve got John Greenleaf Whittier and James Whitcomb Riley and Edwin Arlington Robinson. We’ve got Robert W. Service and Rod McKuen, f’cryinoutloud! We’ve got “The Face Upon the Barroom Floor” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and the unbearable fog oozing in on little — not little enough! — cat feet.

    Line 27 was written by a poet who also penned:

    It is easy enough to be pleasant,
    When life flows by like a song,
    But the man worth while is one who will smile,
    When everything goes dead wrong.

  11. yunshui said

    Ooh, I just spotted that no-one’s got 7 yet either – that would be a drug-addled Sam Coleridge musing on Kubla Khan. I remember that one from from school.

    I think that’s all I can manage without flicking through my Norton Anthologies.

  12. Yunshui:
    Unless you’ve got a really different version of the Norton Anthologies from mine, I’d be surprised if they contained all the lines found in my poem. But you’re correct on 7.

  13. srsny said

    Okay, I’ll knock off some easy ones (to me, at least):

    1. No other Rogers and Hart fans out there? Maybe it’s because I’m a New Yawker: We’ll Have Manhattan (Is there an alternate title?)

    11. My favorite poetic quote from my years as a depressed teenager “Heard melodies are sweet but those unheard/are sweeter. Therefore, ye gentle pipes, play on.” Keats, making it somehow romantic to be someone who lives in her head instead of in the real world.

    15. I’ve always felt I should read Evangeline. But every time I try, I Canto get past the introduction, and all I can think of is – that’s why this guy’s name is Longfellow.

    I’ll hold off for a while on the New Yawkers who wrote 2 and 6, and the part-time New Yawker who wrote 9. And I’ll only post number 25 – from another very long poem, which you and I coincidentally talked about recently – if absolutely no one else can get it. (I hope it is okay that I gave those hints. If not, feel free to cut out these comments.)

  14. srsny said

    Oh, I forgot to mention number 11’s title: Ode on a Grecian Urn

  15. srsny said

    Oh- I just noticed the Cole Porter – number 16 – It’s Delovely (De Lovely?)

    Your line comes from one of my favorite Porter phrases to sing, because of a combination of amusing melodic jumps and skips, intricate syncopations, and some of the most fun set of internal rhymes:
    You can tell at a glance what a swell time it is for romance. You can hear dear mother nature mumuring low: Let yourself go.

    Now I’ll shut up for awhile.

  16. Srsny:
    Thou swell! Of course, from our years of playing Trivia together (I won’t mention how long ago that began!), I’m not surprised.

    Full points for 1. Although you misspelled Rodgers (you must have Richard mixed up with Roy), he wasn’t the lyricist; Hart was. The song is actually called, simply, “Manhattan,” but no penalty for supplying too much information.
    Full points for 11. And, yes, you do march to the beat of a different drummer.
    Full points for 15. I don’t think that anybody has ever actually read “Evangeline.” Wasn’t it written just to show schoolchildren what dactyls are?
    Full points for 16. Porter’s title is “It’s De-Lovely.” But it’s de-thought that counts, isn’t it?

    Hints are fine. But I’m not sure that your hint to number 9 will help anyone except those of us who grew up in the Bronx (although there’s a Manhattan connection, too — on 84th street). As for 25, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

    By the way: If by this evening nobody identifies the four you’ve hinted at, feel free to leave your answers. I don’t want this puzzle hanging around unsolved until April.

  17. 24 Thomas Merton?

  18. Godless:
    If you were trying to be funny, you succeeded; your answer made me chuckle.
    If you were being serious, your answer is just a seven storey mountain of wrong.

  19. If you want a serious answer, Devotions #17. Glad I made ya chuckle, though.

  20. srsny said

    Okay –
    2 is Walt Whitman – One of his NY poems from Leaves of Grass – I’m guessing Crossing Brooklyn Ferry because it’s the only one I can remember by title, but it could be one of the other ones.

    The title of number 3 is In Just Spring – I think – if it had a title, that is.

    6 is definitely Howl by Allen Ginsberg

    9 is Poe- I’m not sure he wrote The Bells on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, but he definitely wrote Annabel Lee there (“in our Kingdom by the sea” – yeah right!)

    25: Sir Walter Scott, Canto 6, the Lay of the Last Minstrel

    Breathes there a man with soul so dead
    Who never to himself hath said,
    “This is mine own, my native land”


    The poem that changed the heart of Philip Nolan in The Man Without a Country, by Edward Everett Hale, had such a great impression on me as a child that I memorized it. I will spare your readers the rest of the Canto.

    Also – I don’t suppose number 17 comes from the first page of Bleak House, although it sounds like it could.

  21. srsny said

    I should mention that tintinnabulation was a dead giveaway – only Poe, and maybe Lorenz Hart or Cole Porter – could figure out a way to incorporate a word like that.

    Oh, and one more thing – regarding your response to Linwood – do you really think “If” is a better poem than “Casey at the Bat?”

  22. Godless:
    Well, yeah, it’s usually called Meditation XVII (as Yunshui answered), but it’s part of a long-winded religious work called Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions. You’ve earned a special mention.
    Question for you: Are there any religious works that aren’t long-winded?

    Full points for 2. Good guess.
    Good idea on the title of number 4 (not 3). I’ll give you credit, even though the poem’s first line is only “in Just-” (small i, capital J. LaFong. And, of course, a hyphen).
    Full points for 6.
    Full points for 9. I don’t know where Poe wrote “The Bells,” but I’m pretty sure that Phil Ochs sang it in the Village.
    Full points for 25.

    You’re right in not supposing about 17. But I gave you a big hint in my last comment to you.

    I already mentioned “If” as an example of nauseating poetry. “Casey at the Bat,” on the other hand, is a masterpiece. Did Disney ever make a cartoon from “If”?

  23. srsny said

    I KNEW you said April for a reason – but I didn’t bother to think about it. That was the cruellest clue!

    Of course, when I think about Eliot and fog, it’s not The Wasteland that comes to mind, but that yellow fog that coats all of the windows in Pruefrock while all that Michelangelo talk is going on inside.

  24. srsny said

    Oh and by the way – I also like Phil Ochs’ version of The Highwayman. I wish I knew how to put in a link to that.

  25. Srsny:
    Well, you’re welcome. Did Alex ever give anybody a clue on “Jeopardy”?
    Full points for 17, but with an invisible asterisk.

    I’m not crazy about the Ochs “Highwayman,” nor the Noyes either, for that matter. But here’s the link.

  26. Kirk M said

    Well let’s give it a try.

    #5 “Flung roses, roses, riotously with the throng” From CYNARA (Original title: “Non sum qualis eram bona sub Regno) by Ernest Christopher Dowson.

    #10 “the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick” One from King James (Bible that is); Daniel 3:5:

    “That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up:” I knew that having a minister for a father would come in handy.

    #13 “But that’s all shove be’ind me – long ago an’ fur away” From “Mandalay” by Rudyard Kipling

    “But that’s all shove be’ind me — long ago and fur away,
    An’ there ain’t no buses runnin’ from the Bank to Mandalay;”

    This took some time so here’s to hopin’ no one else got these while I was writing. ;)

  27. Kirk M said

    Oops On #5 the original title was “Non sum qualis eram bonae sub Regno Cynarae”. I forgot the last word and unfortunately I can’t make those bass-akward “ae” letters.

  28. Kirk:
    Well, you certainly made a grand entrance for your first comment here. Welcome.

    Full credit for 5, 10, and 13. And I wish I could figure out some way to give you extra credit for that Pogo panel on your home page.

    Walt Kelly wrote some of the best nonsense rhymes ever. Here’s one recited by the worm, in his Poetry Contest against Albert Alligator:
    The meanin’ of the Mornin’
    ‘Midst the moanin’ of the moon,
    Bespeaks a specious speck of speech
    That quarters past the Noon.

  29. Kirk M said

    Larry – I agree, Walt Kelly in his Pogo guise came out with some absolute classics like Deck the halls with Boston Charlie and my favorite:

    “Ma bonny lice soda devotion!
    Ma booney life saver DC!
    McBoniface rover commotion
    Oh, brickbat mahoney toomey!”

  30. Kirk:
    Great Kelly poem. I don’t remember seeing that one — although I probably read it in one of the early collections, back when I was an early collection myself.

  31. Kirk M said

    I think I’m up for another 3 here. Let’s see…

    #14 “The head must bow and the back will have to bend.” From the original lryics of “My Old Kentucky Home” (1st line, 2nd chorus) by Stephen C. Foster. Snuck that one in didn’t you?:

    The head must bow and the back will have to bend,
    Wherever the people may go;
    A few more days, and the trouble all will end,
    In the field where the sugar-canes grow;

    #19 “Never know nothing, and never know much.” From “Bohemia” by the immortal Dorothy Parker:

    “Authors and actors and artists and such
    Never know nothing, and never know much.
    Sculptors and singers and those of their kidney
    Tell their affairs from Seattle to Sydney.
    Playwrights and poets and such horses’ necks
    Start off from anywhere, end up at sex.
    Diarists, critics, and similar roe
    Never say nothing, and never say no.
    People Who Do Things exceed my endurance;
    God, for a man that solicits insurance!

    #27 “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; From “Solitude” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox:

    “Laugh, and the world laughs with you:
    Weep, and you weep alone;
    For the sad old earth
    Must borrow its mirth,
    It has trouble enough of its own.”

    Please forgive if my html tags turn out to be a bit off. I just took a nice hot shower and my eyeballs haven’t stopped wobbling yet.

  32. Kirk M said

    You know, I only go through the bother of adding html tags to my comments because your comment section lays the results out in such a nice fashion. I’m not showing off…really I’m not.

  33. Kirk:
    Full points for 14, 19, and 27. I’m particularly glad that someone finally discovered — and appreciated — my metajoke in 14.
    I’m guessing that the wobble in your eyes was not caused by your shower, but rather by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

    Always feel free to add any html tags you please. You can even include links when appropriate — although the WordPress censor will report you to me if you leave more than two per comment.

    Now, only number 28 is unidentified. I’m afraid I threw you all a fastball with that one. Still, I like to avoid unfinished jobs, which angry up the blood, so I hope someone can name the author and the work.

  34. Kirk M said

    I believe I’ll give my brain a break on this one and pacify it with cool thoughts. I need all the cool thoughts I can get these days.

  35. Kirk:
    Well, it’s probably more important to keep a cool head than to get all hot and bothered. Here in Lexington, with the snow and the below-freezing temperatures, keeping a cool head is not difficult. But a Vermonter (ex-Vermonter?) like you ought to know that.

  36. srsny said

    You are the sly one – sneaking in that Satchel Paige reference that Larry appears not to have gotten.

    I have to admit I had to revert to wikipedia in order to get the author AND the work. here is the wiki answer – including Kirk’s reference.

    “Rules for Staying Young”
    Paige’s rules originally appeared in the June 13, 1953 issue of Collier’s. The version below is taken from his autobiography Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever (as told to David Lipman, 1962):

    “Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood.”
    “If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.”
    “Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.”
    “Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society—the social ramble ain’t restful.”
    “Avoid running at all times.”
    “And don’t look back—something might be gaining on you.”

  37. Kirk M said

    Srsny – Oh crap, now Larry’s going to yell at me for giving it away. You get the credit though, no doubt. ;-)

  38. Kirk M said

    Larry – I’m currently living in Vermont about 8 miles from the border of Canada. Fourth generation of my family to live here, even have an old 215 year old homestead down in Waits River, VT (just about everyone has seen Waits River, VT by the way). However, none of men in each generation were born in Vermont ironically enough.

  39. Srsny & Kirk:
    I guess I’d better start carrying on in society. My social ramble is so limited that, apparently, I’ve fallen asleep completely. At the very least, I’m gonna jangle around gently to get the juices flowing — in my brain.

    Full credit for both of you for number 28. I’m also adding two special mentions: the first to Kirk for pitching one right past me, and the second to Srsny for catching the curve perfectly.

  40. Kirk:
    I know I’ll regret asking this, since I’m probably missing the obvious again, but:
    Why has just about everyone seen Waits River, VT?

    Hey, that sounds like a riddle. Perhaps the answer is: To get to the other side.

  41. Kirk M said

    Larry (and anyone else who might be interested) – Head to Google Images and type in “waits river, vt” and check the results, especially the photos/paintings that show a view of looking down from a rise at a dirt road that crosses a little wooden bridge with a classic New Englad style white wood built Church centred at the end of it. Now ask yourself where you might have seen this scene before (calendars, magazines, whatever).

    Take a right at the end of the dirt road and 1 mile down the road on the left is the old homestead.

    See? No regrets.

  42. Kirk:
    I guess “no regrets” must be a hint of some kind, but I don’t get it. The scene looks to me like something TV artist Jon Gnagy used to try to get me to “Learn to Draw.” Sadly, my picture always came out looking like a sketch of a Jackson Pollack painting, even on those occasions when I didn’t throw my pencils at the paper. I think the reason my work wasn’t recognizable might have been that I could never find my “lighter gray chalk;” all my chalk was white.

    However, I did grow a beard like Gnagy’s when I got old enough to do so. And now it’s light gray. Which only goes to prove that what goes around comes around. Including my head.

  43. Kirk M said

    Larry – Nah, no hints. Just a reference to your previous comment–“I know I’ll regret asking this,”. Did you regret it?

    Of course I had to immediately head to the Jon Gnagy 60th Anniversary site and watch the ten available videos of the old episodes. I then tried my hand at it as well but eventually resorted to the Jackson Pollock method out of pure frustration (glad you mentioned it, I love to sling paint around). In fact it was going quite well until my wife walked in and saw what I was doing to the carpeting. Seems I had forgotten to lay down a canvas.

    By the way, did you ever find any “lighter gray chalk” at all? I got a pack of it here that I could send you if you ever decide to take another stab at it–or is that a bad choice of words? (What about lighter gray paper instead?)

  44. Kirk:
    As the poet wrote:
    “Shoot if you must this lighter gray head, but spare your country’s drawers,” he said.

    I’ll just hike mine up — and pass on the chalk, thanks.

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