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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Tax on Old Bachelors

By Seba Smith (1792–1868)

[From Life and Writings of Major Jack Downing, of Downingville, State of Maine. 1833.]

I DREAMED a dream in the midst of my slumbers,

And, as fast as I dreamed, it was coined into numbers;

My thoughts ran along in such beautiful metre,

I’m sure I ne’er saw any poetry sweeter.

It seemed that a law had been recently made,

That a tax on old bachelors’ pates should be laid;

And in order to make them all willing to marry,

The tax was as large as a man could well carry.

The Bachelors grumbled, and said ’twas no use,

’Twas cruel injustice and horrid abuse,

And declared that, to save their own heart’s blood from spilling,

Of such a vile tax they would ne’er pay a shilling.

But the Rulers determined their scheme to pursue,

So they set all the bachelors up at vendue.

A crier was sent thro’ the town to and fro,

To rattle his bell, and his trumpet to blow,

And to bawl out at all he might meet in the way,

“Ho! forty old bachelors sold here to-day.”

And presently all the old maids in the town,

Each one in her very best bonnet and gown,

From thirty to sixty, fair, plain, red and pale,

Of every description, all flocked to the sale.

The auctioneer then in his labors began,

And called out aloud, as he held up a man,

“How much for a bachelor? who wants to buy?”

In a twink every maiden responded—“I—I.”

In short, at a hugely extravagant price,

The bachelors all were sold off in a trice;

And forty old maidens, some younger, some older,

Each lugged an old bachelor home on her shoulder.