A Poem by Chester and Proceedings of the Knowing Club, 1819
[From: The Daily Journal, October 29, 1882]
Saddle the Hippogriff, my Muse, we’ll prance
The above is Chester’s poem on the subject.
PROCEEDINGS KNOWING CLUB, NEWBERN, 1819.
It is the object of the members of our Club, so far as we are able, to entertain and instruct each other, and it is our practice for this end, and it is our practice for this end, after we have transacted our necessary business with all proper solemnity, to throw off the gravity which is due to the more important concerns of our venerable body, and indulge ourselves in unreserved and social conversation. On the last evening of our meeting we had passed through the regular routine of business much earlier than usual, and were all joining our contributions for the general gaiety, except our President, who seemed absorbed in the most gloomy meditation. At length he arose with a melancholy air and drawing a musty volume from his pocket and opening to a particular page, “I have here” said he, “an interesting relic of olden time which has filled my mind with the most serious reflections. It is a description of an amiable people who seem now to be entirely lost to us, and who I fear have become extinct from adherence to some fatal customs, from whose influence they might doubtless have been rescued, by timely admonition. In the midst of your gaiety my thoughts have been mournfully tracing the downfall of successful nations—and the utter extinction of one generation after another, till I could not resist the distressing anticipations that even our intelligent fraternity would one day be no more. But gentlemen, here is the fragment—peruse it for yourselves.”
Upon deliberation we have thought it worthy of renewed publication, and as any alterations might destroy its originality, we prefer sending it as it is in the quaint style of the age in which it seems to have been written. The date of the book is lost, indeed several of the first pages are gone, but the extract is complete. If any of our readers should happen to possess a copy of this curious work entire, he would receive the thanks of the Club for the loan of it. The heading of the pages is printed in red letters and runs thus: “A Journal of a Voyage of Discoverie.” We proceed to give the extract:
“On the fourteenthe daye of the monthe being Sundaye, the man who was stationed at the tome of the maste did espye launde, and being that we were muche wearied wythe long voyaging, we did right gladly make to wards it. As soon as we did touché untoe the launde, the natives did come downe untoe us, and did entreate us in verie friendlie sorte. And here we could not but muche admire the strange ways and customes of this curious people of the whiche no man before had ever seen the lyke. The natives, as they did tell us were at the ferst of a reddish complection or caste, but nowe from sundrie couses it seemed that they were of all colours, beginnynge from pure whyte, until jettie blacke. But we did observe that whyte was colour more highly prized, and that the whyte people did carrie themselves flauntinglie over the blacks. The dresse of the women was brave and riche, and was woven from the webbes of a curious spider the whiche they did keep and cherishe tenderlie, and the clotheying of the men was in lyke guise made of the fyne haire of a little animale the which y’clept a sheep. The women did weare theyre covering in one garmente, the whiche did reache downe lowe even untoe the feete; and it being mayde long and flowyng did righte well become them, and soe they did jaunt it along the righte trippinglie. But the garments of the men did seeme to be mayde in diverse pieces, and on the upper parte of the bodie did fitte tightelie, whiles belowe they did loome more loose and easie. And the more commodious were those sayme, because, as we did certaynlie learn from themselves they did sewe them alsoe at tymes for nettes wherewythe they did take theyre fishes. At theyre meales they did behave themselves verie seemlie, helping themselves on certayne lyttle pieces of a smoothe substance wythe instruments cunnynglie wrought out of iron. And soe they did cutte theyre meates and wythe dexteritie did cate, wonderful to looke upon. But we did notyce that some as they did satisfye theyre hunger, the women did retyre from the roome, and that the men did begin to drynke out of small vessel, red liquor lyke in colour unto bloode. And this liquor, as in the sequal it did turne out did have marvelous qualities, for soone did it cause them to synge merrielie, and to act in verie boisterous moode. As this strange and naughtie beaveour did exceedinglie weorie us, we were faine to go and talke untoe the women; but when we did aske such purpose, presentlie they tolde us they did not admitte the men into theyre companie at this time. Howbeit being we were strangers, they did suffer us to come in amongst them. And here did we see a custome more strange to beholde than any other whiche before we had notyced amongst this people. It seemed they did courteouslie inform us, that it was deemed a dystrace untoe them to drynke of that liquor which did mayke the men soe merrie; and so it was that they did abandon theyre companie. Abeit as they did wishe in lyke manner to cheere theyre spirits, they did invente another waye by the which they might soe doe, and at the sayme free themselves from this sayme disgrace of the which they were affrayed. But untoe us who had never seene the lyke, it did seeme an usage incontinentlie filthie for a companie of soe goodlie an appearance. They did have upon the table a certayne lyttle box, the whiche was filled wythe duste of a yellowishe caste, and when we smelled thereunto, it did cause us vehementlie to sneeze. And into this did they dip smalle round sticks, and soe did rubbe it upon theyre teeth; and in this sorte would they continue till theyre heads did become giddie, for they sayde duste did have suche intoxicating qualities. And alsoe did we learne that some tymes it did kill them, but still so fonde were they of it, that they coulde not be estranged from the use thereof. But after that we had seene the practyce we were faine not to looke upon them wythe contente, abeit before they did seeme unto us righte faire and comelie. And diverse of other marvallous thynges did we see, the which it would muche tyre us to relate, and the which our gentle readers would hardlie believe. And much tyme did we spende among this people, who did entreate us righte hospitable, and when we did leave them to proceede on our voyage, it was wythe muche sorrowe.”
See our fathers had too their fun at the expense of our mothers.
We find in Chester’s poem reference to the election, which had then just occurred. William Gaston was elected to represent Craven county in the Senate of the General Assembly, Richard Dobbs Spaight and Abner Neale were returned for the commons, and John Stanly to represent the town of Newbern. No opposition to Gaston and Stanly. Thus it will be seen that our fathers were as ably represented in the Legislature 60 years ago, or in 1819, as we shall be, with all the improvement that time has wrought in civilization in 1882. Who will dispute it? D.