Poet’s Corner: ‘A Tale’

Commentary by Tark Mackintosh

‘A Tale’ One of the earliest surviving poems by Gulliver S. Gulliver, writing as a child under the pen name (name of the plum in French) of New York Sun, possibly a play on sun/son.

river… / …tears Upset by the breakup of his parents’ marriage, the young GSG succumbed to the competing affections of his parents, accepting daily gifts of toys and lavish clothing from his father and enormous shipments of candy from his mother. Yet the tears must flow, and in flowing form a river. The reader thinks about how many tears that would take.

slow / …flow It is to be a rhyming poem.

Smith / …Jones Elijah Smith, personal accountant for GSG’s father, and Nehemiah Jones, GSG’s mother’s lawyer and lover, would kill each other in a duel in 1915, leaving the matter of their quarrel (price of pickling salts in 1910) eternally in question.

wife… / …passed Elijah’s wife was distraught when he was cut down my Nehemiah’s bullet, but Elijah did not notice. He had passed into the place where dead duelers go, presumably to practice their aim.

river grim The land of dead duelers is bounded by a salten river. Do not drink, friend Nehemiah!

moral… / The things… GSG would repeat the tragic duel of Smith and Jones years later at Hacienda Láatsi, deep in Mexico, unheedful of the moral scratched out by his own pen. His own fate was not, however, to be ferried into the land of dead duelers, but to claim victory in the contest and the hand of the fair damsel.