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Add: Punch, Brothers, Punch (Mark Twain)

Amos 05 Feb 09 - 01:41 PM
Uncle_DaveO 05 Feb 09 - 02:38 PM
dick greenhaus 05 Feb 09 - 03:13 PM
jeffp 05 Feb 09 - 03:14 PM
Jim Dixon 22 Feb 09 - 08:45 PM
robomatic 22 Feb 09 - 09:13 PM
robomatic 22 Feb 09 - 09:16 PM
Joe_F 22 Feb 09 - 09:57 PM
akenaton 23 Feb 09 - 02:23 AM
GUEST 20 Apr 10 - 11:12 AM
GUEST,Bernie 05 Apr 11 - 03:45 AM
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Subject: Add: PUNCH, BROTHERS, PUNCH (Mark Twain)
From: Amos
Date: 05 Feb 09 - 01:41 PM

We have talked often about the infuriating tenacity of mindless earwigs, such as "It's a Small World" or, much earlier, "Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer" or "The Song That Never Ends" or "Little Bunny Foofoo".

I am pleased to report that this is not a new phenomenon. Here is Mark Twain's sad tale about the uncontrollable infection caused by a jingle:

Will the reader please to cast his eye over the following lines, and see if he can discover anything harmful in them?
    Conductor, when you receive a fare,
    Punch in the presence of the passenjare!
    A blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare,
    A buff trip slip for a six-cent fare,
    A pink trip slip for a three-cent fare,
    Punch in the presence of the passenjare!

    CHORUS

    Punch, brothers! punch with care!
    Punch in the presence of the passenjare!
I came across these jingling rhymes in a newspaper, a little while ago, and read them a couple of times. They took instant and entire possession of me. All through breakfast they went waltzing through my brain; and when, at last, I rolled up my napkin, I could not tell whether I had eaten anything or not. I had carefully laid out my day's work the day before—thrilling tragedy in the novel which I am writing. I went to my den to begin my deed of blood. I took up my pen, but all I could get it to say was, "Punch in the presence of the passenjare." I fought hard for an hour, but it was useless. My head kept humming, "A blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare, a buff trip slip for a six-cent fare," and so on and so on, without peace or respite. The day's work was ruined—I could see that plainly enough. I gave up and drifted down-town, and presently discovered that my feet were keeping time to that relentless jingle. When I could stand it no longer I altered my step. But it did no good; those rhymes accommodated themselves to the new step and went on harassing me just as before. I returned home, and suffered all the afternoon; suffered all through an unconscious and unrefreshing dinner; suffered, and cried, and jingled all through the evening; went to bed and rolled, tossed, and jingled right along, the same as ever; got up at midnight frantic, and tried to read; but there was nothing visible upon the whirling page except "Punch! punch in the presence of the passenjare." By sunrise I was out of my mind, and everybody marveled and was distressed at the idiotic burden of my ravings—"Punch! oh, punch! punch in the presence of the passenjare!"

Two days later, on Saturday morning, I arose, a tottering wreck, and went forth to fulfil an engagement with a valued friend, the Rev. Mr. ———, to walk to the Talcott Tower, ten miles distant. He stared at me, but asked no questions. We started. Mr. ——— talked, talked, talked as is his wont. I said nothing; I heard nothing. At the end of a mile, Mr. ——— said—

"Mark, are you sick? I never saw a man look so haggard and worn and absent-minded. Say something, do!"

Drearily, without enthusiasm, I said: "Punch brothers, punch with care! Punch in the presence of the passenjare!"

My friend eyed me blankly, looked perplexed, they said:

"I do not think I get your drift, Mark. Then does not seem to be any relevancy in what you have said, certainly nothing sad; and yet—maybe it was the way you said the words—I never heard anything that sounded so pathetic. What is—"

But I heard no more. I was already far away with my pitiless, heartbreaking "blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare, buff trip slip for a six-cent fare, pink trip slip for a three-cent fare; punch in the presence of the passenjare." I do not know what occurred during the other nine miles. However, all of a sudden Mr. ——— laid his hand on my shoulder and shouted:

"Oh, wake up! wake up! wake up! Don't sleep all day! Here we are at the Tower, man! I have talked myself deaf and dumb and blind, and never got a response. Just look at this magnificent autumn landscape! Look at it! look at it! Feast your eye on it! You have traveled; you have seen boaster landscapes elsewhere. Come, now, deliver an honest opinion. What do you say to this?"

I sighed wearily; and murmured:

"A buff trip slip for a six-cent fare, a pink trip slip for a three-cent fare, punch in the presence of the passenjare."

Rev. Mr. ——— stood there, very grave, full of concern, apparently, and looked long at me; then he said:

"Mark, there is something about this that I cannot understand. Those are about the same words you said before; there does not seem to be anything in them, and yet they nearly break my heart when you say them. Punch in the—how is it they go?"

I began at the beginning and repeated all the lines. My friend's face lighted with interest. He said—

"Why, what a captivating jingle it is! It is almost music. It flows along so nicely. I have nearly caught the rhymes myself. Say them over just once more, and then I'll have them, sure."

I said them over. Then Mr. ——— said them. He made one little mistake, which I corrected. The next time and the next he got them right. Now a great burden seemed to tumble from my shoulders. That torturing jingle departed out of my brain, and a grateful sense of rest and peace descended upon me. I was light-hearted enough to sing; and I did sing for half an hour, straight along, as we went jogging homeward. Then my freed tongue found blessed speech again, and the pent talk of many a weary hour began to gush and flow. It flowed on and on, joyously, jubilantly, until the fountain was empty and dry. As I wrung my friend's hand at parting, I said:

"Haven't we had a royal good time! But now I remember, you haven't said a word for two hours. Come, come, out with something!"

The Rev. Mr. ——— turned a lack-luster eye upon me, drew a deep sigh, and said, without animation, without apparent consciousness:

"Punch, brothers, punch with care! Punch in the presence of the passenjare!"

A pang shot through me as I said to myself, "Poor fellow, poor fellow! he has got it, now."

I did not see Mr. ——— for two or three days after that. Then, on Tuesday evening, he staggered into my presence and sank dejectedly into a seat. He was pale, worn; he was a wreck. He lifted his faded eyes to my face and said:

"Ah, Mark, it was a ruinous investment that I made in those heartless rhymes. They have ridden me like a nightmare, day and night, hour after hour, to this very moment. Since I saw you I have suffered the torments of the lost. Saturday evening I had a sudden call, by telegraph, and took the night train for Boston. The occasion was the death of a valued old friend who had requested that I should preach his funeral sermon. I took my seat in the cars and set myself to framing the discourse. But I never got beyond the opening paragraph; for then the train started and the car-wheels began their 'clack, clack-clack-clack-clack! clack-clack! —clack-clack-clack!' and right away those odious rhymes fitted themselves to that accompaniment. For an hour I sat there and set a syllable of those rhymes to every separate and distinct clack the car-wheels made. Why, I was as fagged out, then, as if I had been chopping wood all day. My skull was splitting with headache. It seemed to me that I must go mad if I sat there any longer; so I undressed and went to bed. I stretched myself out in my berth, and—well, you know what the result was. The thing went right along, just the same. 'Clack-clack clack, a blue trip slip, clack-clack-clack, for an eight cent fare; clack-clack-clack, a buff trip slip, clack clack-clack, for a six-cent fare, and so on, and so on, and so on punch in the presence of the passenjare!' Sleep? Not a single wink! I was almost a lunatic when I got to Boston. Don't ask me about the funeral. I did the best I could, but every solemn individual sentence was meshed and tangled and woven in and out with 'Punch, brothers, punch with care, punch in the presence of the passenjare.' And the most distressing thing was that my delivery dropped into the undulating rhythm of those pulsing rhymes, and I could actually catch absent-minded people nodding time to the swing of it with their stupid heads. And, Mark, you may believe it or not, but before I got through the entire assemblage were placidly bobbing their heads in solemn unison, mourners, undertaker, and all. The moment I had finished, I fled to the anteroom in a state bordering on frenzy. Of course it would be my luck to find a sorrowing and aged maiden aunt of the deceased there, who had arrived from Springfield too late to get into the church. She began to sob, and said:

"'Oh, oh, he is gone, he is gone, and I didn't see him before he died!'

"'Yes!' I said, 'he is gone, he is gone, he is gone—oh, will this suffering never cease!'

"'You loved him, then! Oh, you too loved him!'

"'Loved him! Loved who?'

"'Why, my poor George! my poor nephew!'

"'Oh—him! Yes—oh, yes, yes. Certainly—certainly. Punch—punch—oh, this misery will kill me!'

"'Bless you! bless you, sir, for these sweet words! I, too, suffer in this dear loss. Were you present during his last moments?'

"'Yes. I—whose last moments?'

"'His. The dear departed's.'

"'Yes! Oh, yes—yes—yes! I suppose so, I think so, I don't know! Oh, certainly—I was there I was there!'

"'Oh, what a privilege! what a precious privilege! And his last words- -oh, tell me, tell me his last words! What did he say?'

"'He said—he said—oh, my head, my head, my head! He said—he said—he never said anything but Punch, punch, punch in the presence of the passenjare! Oh, leave me, madam! In the name of all that is generous, leave me to my madness, my misery, my despair!—a buff trip slip for a six-cent fare, a pink trip slip for a three-cent fare—endu—rance can no fur—ther go!—PUNCH in the presence of the passenjare!"

My friend's hopeless eyes rested upon mine a pregnant minute, and then he said impressively:

"Mark, you do not say anything. You do not offer me any hope. But, ah me, it is just as well—it is just as well. You could not do me any good. The time has long gone by when words could comfort me. Something tells me that my tongue is doomed to wag forever to the jigger of that remorseless jingle. There—there it is coming on me again: a blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare, a buff trip slip for a—"

Thus murmuring faint and fainter, my friend sank into a peaceful trance and forgot his sufferings in a blessed respite.

How did I finally save him from an asylum? I took him to a neighboring university and made him discharge the burden of his persecuting rhymes into the eager ears of the poor, unthinking students. How is it with them, now? The result is too sad to tell. Why did I write this article? It was for a worthy, even a noble, purpose. It was to warn you, reader, if you should came across those merciless rhymes, to avoid them—avoid them as you would a pestilence.

Mark Twain


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Subject: RE: Punch, Brothers, Punch With Care
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 05 Feb 09 - 02:38 PM

Amos, I read that piece many, many, many years ago, and I thought I remembered it, but evidently a lot of it has slipped me over the years. I had thought that it ended, "And now, Dear Reader, YOU have it!"

Even so, and either way, it epitomizes the earworm.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Punch, Brothers, Punch With Care
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 05 Feb 09 - 03:13 PM

tension apprehension and dissention have begun


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Subject: RE: Punch, Brothers, Punch With Care
From: jeffp
Date: 05 Feb 09 - 03:14 PM

When I was a kid, we had a set of Talking Book records (7-inch with a small hole like an LP, played at 16 2/3 rpm) of Mark Twain stories. Punch, Brothers, Punch was one of my favorites, along with Jim Baker's Bluejay Yarn. The reader was excellent, with a melodious voice and a great way of drawing you in. I would love to find that set on CD.


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Subject: Add: HORSE-CAR POETRY (Isaac H. Bromley)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 22 Feb 09 - 08:45 PM

This appeared two months after Twain's essay (which was titled "A Literary Nightmare" when it first appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. XXVII, No. CCXX, February, 1876, page 167ff.) The style is so similar to Twain's, I would have taken "Winkelried Wolfgang Brown" to be another Clemens pseudonym, but this blog says it was Isaac H. Bromley, who is mentioned in the story.

From Scribner's Monthly, Vol. XI, No. 6, April, 1876, page 911ff:

The Horse-Car Poetry.

ITS TRUE HISTORY


I purpose to write the true and authentic account of the origin, growth, and development of that department of English literature which is known and recognized as "Horse-Car Poetry," wherever that product of American civilization, the daily newspaper with a "humorous" column, exists, or the mother tongue lies bleeding under the club of a "local editor." I shall trace it from the hour of its birth, in car No. 101 of the Fourth Avenue line, in the dusk of a summer evening of 1875, to its simultaneous appearance in the February numbers of the "Atlantic" and "Harper's" of the present year. I am the more anxious to make this contribution to history now, for the reason that I am in possession of all the facts as gathered from the most trustworthy sources, and I know that it is a subject in which the world is interested, and upon which it has a rapturous longing to learn the uttermost, the frozen truth. Moreover, great misapprehension exists in the public mind upon the whole subject. There is much doubt concerning the original lines, deplorable ignorance concerning the circumstances which gave them birth, and profound mystery as to the author or authors. All this doubt I shall dispel, all this ignorance enlighten, all this mystery unravel. It seems plain that this should be done now. For, if the origin of this school of poetry is even now wrapped in uncertainty and the names of its founders unknown, how insoluble will be the mystery, and how long and profound the discussions, and arguments, and disputes, and citations of authorities, and comparisons of hand-writing, and all that, when posterity gets hold of it, as it is sure to, and investigates it, as it must! Had the author of the "Junius" letters known what trouble he was making for unborn generations, I make no doubt he would have unbosomed himself before he died. No such leper of contention should be left by the authors—the inventors, I may say—of the horse-car poetry. Understand me. I have no selfish motive in making public the following facts. It is only in the interest of truth, the truth of history, and from a desire that justice may be done the founders of this fresh and unique department of literature, as well as to save trouble for posterity, that I have pursued the investigation and established the truth of the statements I am about to make. It is proper that I should state at the outset that I have consulted with all the authors whose names are given, and, though they were without exception averse to publicity and reluctant to expose themselves to the shafts of the critic and the reviewer, and the storm of detraction, from which even the Lake school of poets did not escape, they finally consented, upon grounds of humanity, that the whole story should be told.

In the cars of the Fourth Avenue line,—a line which charges six and eight cents fare, as will be presently seen, and, in consequence, is patronized by the wealthy and the proud,—there is a notice which runs thus:
    "The conductor, when he receives a fare, will immediately punch in the presence of the passenger,
      A blue trip slip for an 8 cent fare,
      A buff trip slip for a 6 cent fare,
      A pink trip slip for a 3 cent fare."
Examine these three lines carefully, and you will observe that it is almost ready-made poetry. It looks like poetry, for each line begins with a capital letter, and that in many cases is the only distinguishing mark of a poem. Then, too, it scans well: it rhymes, it trips, it runs with a skippity-skip, and you can sing it; a man who has music in his soul can't help singing it. I am satisfied that thousands of regular riders on the Fourth Avenue line hummed it to themselves before it ever leaped into print as regulation verse. Mr. Bromley of "The Tribune," and Mr. Brooks of "The Times," were riding down town one night last summer like purse-proud aristocrats in car No. 101 of the Fourth Avenue line, having the whole car to themselves. Brooks was dozing. Bromley's attention was riveted to the notice, which always had a strange fascination for him. At length he started up with:

"It's poetry, by George! Brooks, it's poetry."

Brooks, somewhat startled by the abruptness of the outburst, hastily inquired:

"What's poetry? What are you talking about?"

Bromley, as if fearful of losing his discovery, pointed to the card, and, without taking his eyes off it, read it with the omission of but a single word, thus:
    "The conductor, when he receives a fare.
    Will punch in the presence of the passinjare,
    A blue trip slip," etc.
Brooks mumbled it over in a sleepy way, and said: "That's so," and then tried to look away from it and forget it. He couldn't. He was caught by the strange fascination. Both the gentlemen read it and re-read it, and kept reading and repeating it till they reached Printing House Square, and they both inform me that it haunted them the whole night long.

Still, it must be confessed, there was something unsatisfactory, a sense of incompleteness about it as it stood. The next night when they entered the car, they were overpowered by the same fascination. They hummed it and jingled it, and kept it going. It kept time with the rattle of the car, it made perfect accord with the hoof-beats of the horses, it was a regular Quadrupedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum sort of thing. At length, Brooks was inspired and burst forth with the additional line that made the song complete. So then it ran:
    "The conductor, when he receives a fare,
    Will punch in the presence of the passinjare,
    A blue trip slip for an 8 cent fare,
    A buff trip slip for a 6 cent fare,
    A pink trip slip for a 3 cent fare,
    All in the presence of the passinjare."
Both then felt that the poem was complete and ready to be set to music, perhaps fitted into an opera. It was very shortly introduced as a hymn in the editorial rooms of "The Tribune," and Mr. Wyckoff, the scientific editor, assisted by Mr. Moses P. Handy, then of "The Tribune" staff, now editor of "The Richmond Enquirer," added to them the following chorus, which it will be observed has the characteristic merits of the original verse, and of this school of metrical composition:
    "Punch, boys, punch! punch with care!
    Punch in the presence of the passinjare,
    A blue trip slip for an 8 cent fare,
    A buff trip slip for a 6 cent fare,
    A pink mp slip for a 3 cent fare,
    All in the presence of the passinjare."
Then the hymn and chorus were sung together, and the work pronounced perfect by good judges of both poetry and music. The score is appended to this article:

It was not intended to give the poem to the public; but one night it was taken down in shorthand from the lips of the choir, and the next day printed on an inside page of "The Tribune." It was then the trouble began. Boston broke out with parodies; Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington took up the strain, and in a somewhat rapid and confusing manner rang the changes. It ran west to Chicago, St. Louis, Omaha, and Keokuk. It dropped down to New Orleans, swung back by the cities of the Gulf and principal ports of entry, hovered over Key West, and was only hindered from crossing to Havana by the feebleness of the Spanish tongue in reproducing the idioms, and by the suspicion with which all American products are received on the island. It crossed the plains, licking up outlying settlements like a prairie fire in its progress, and filling Denver, Cheyenne, and Laramie with music on its way. Then it swooped down upon the Pacific coast from the Sierras like a song of the sun-lands, and made the heart of the "hoodlum" leap with gladness. It was the one touch of horse-car poetry that made the whole world kin. The continent was one vast eruption of verse. There were addresses, and sonnets, and odes, hexameter, spondee, and dactyl, humorous, descriptive, sentimental, and didactic,—everything that jingled, and some things that visibly and painfully limped into this torrent of verse, were hurled, folios upon folios, relating to the one-horse car, the two-horse car, the conductorless car, the car-driver, the car-conductor, the worn car-horse, and the noble mule. The stockholders and directors, the "car-starters" and "spotters," the motive power, and the rolling stock, were all embalmed in verse and immortalized in song.
    They sang the car-horse and his load;
    Sang without any instructor;
    Each heart recalled a different road.
    But all sang the horse-car conductor.
But the introduction of this rare and beautiful style has done more than merely transform the workday world into an aviary, and set the continent a-singing. It has promoted peace. Rival journalists have ceased to malign each other for a moment to join in the chorus and pay a passing contribution to the swelling volume. Space that would otherwise have been given to objurgatory prose has been sanctified with the halo of poetry, and devoted to the muse of the horse-car. Political contention ceased, and the able editor, finding that he had pinions and could mount, went flapping upward above the noise of factions and the strife of parties, and sang sweetly in the blue empyrean of the buff trip slip, and the pink trip slip, and of the glad day coming when trip slips of all colors and denominations should be openly and unreservedly punched in the presence of the passinjare. Physicians have hummed it to their patients; it has hung on the lips of clergy men, even in the midst of funeral discourses and marriage ceremonies; lawyers have felt it trip into their large and learned discourse to Court or jury; mothers have sung it as a lullaby, and there are round-eyed, wondering infants—fortunate babes—in the cradles of to-day who are to be the horse-car conductors and passinjares of the next generation, who will step out by and by into active life so rooted and grounded in the knowledge of the duty of the conductor, with reference to the trip slips, that, in the words of another, "no climate can claim, no country can appropriate, them."

And then for the Centennial year how fit it is! Not epilepsy itself—which it somewhat resembles—could be fitter, or more fit. It has united the people; it has promoted harmony; it has brought peace. Specimens of it should be gathered from all quarters of the continent and exhibited under glass, or in a cage or something, at the Centennial. It strikes me it would be something of a surprise to the crowned heads, if any should come over; and if they should not, it will be their own loss. And then, one hundred years from now, when the nation celebrates its Bi-Centennial, when the horse-car poetry shall have been long established, and its place in literature recognized wherever the language is spoken, who knows but the battered remains of car No. 101 of the Fourth Avenue line will be exhibited as a historic relic, of which the Emerson of that day shall write:
    " 'Twas here the horse-car company stuck
    The immortal verse heard round the world."
WINKELRIED WOLFGANG BROWN.

Text not available


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Subject: RE: Add: Punch, Brothers, Punch (Mark Twain)
From: robomatic
Date: 22 Feb 09 - 09:13 PM

When I was a kid I read several books where the hero was a kid named Homer Price. The most memorable story was how he was left in charge of a small baked goods shop and due to his fascination with the automated donut making machine, he turned it on but he didn't know how to turn it off hence, like Lucy, he had to pile up finished donuts in magnificent proportions. but I seem to recall an episode where a stranger comes to town reciting the above poem, and Homer hears it but can't stop repeating it until he teaches it to another unfortunate, whereupon he is released from the spell. I don't believe I knew it was attributable to the Great Twain.


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Subject: RE: Add: Punch, Brothers, Punch (Mark Twain)
From: robomatic
Date: 22 Feb 09 - 09:16 PM

"tension apprehension and dissention have begun "

from The Demolished Man by, methinks, Alfred Bester?


GOON Reference: The Lurgi


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Subject: RE: Add: Punch, Brothers, Punch (Mark Twain)
From: Joe_F
Date: 22 Feb 09 - 09:57 PM

Right. ("Dissension", tho.) One of the characters deliberately kept it running thru his brain so he could not be spied on by telepathic policemen.


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Subject: RE: Add: Punch, Brothers, Punch (Mark Twain)
From: akenaton
Date: 23 Feb 09 - 02:23 AM

punch bros


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Subject: RE: Add: Punch, Brothers, Punch (Mark Twain)RECORD
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Apr 10 - 11:12 AM

Jeff P, I think this may be the recording you are looking for. http://www.audiobookco.com/CU2-580-Twain.html though of course I cannot be sure, but the era of recording is right.


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Subject: RE: Add: Punch, Brothers, Punch (Mark Twain)
From: GUEST,Bernie
Date: 05 Apr 11 - 03:45 AM

Speaking of recordings... As a kid (mid 60's), I had a recording of a rather surreal production that, in the course of the events, had a recitation of "Punch brothers...". Naturally, that part stuck with me. But the rest of the production eludes me, as does the name of it and who did it. It was a very chaotic thing, and I don't think I understood any of it at the time. I'd love to find out what it was.

If anyone has an inkling...

Thanks!


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