H.L. Mencken (1880–1956). The American Language. 1921.
Appendix 1. Specimens of the American Vulgate
4. Vers Américain
[THE FOLLOWING “Élégie Américaine,” by John V. A. Weaver, of Chicago, marks the first appearance of the American vulgate, I believe, in serious verse. It has been attempted often enough by comic poets, though seldom with the accuracy shown by Mr. Lardner’s prose. But it was Mr. Weaver who first directed attention to the obvious fact that the American proletarian is not comic to himself but quite serious, and that he carries on his most lofty and sentimental thoughts in the same tongue he uses in discussing baseball.]
I wished I’d took the ring, not the Victrola.You get so tired of records, hearin’ an’ hearin’ ’em,And when a person don’t have much to spendThey feel they shouldn’t ought to be so wasteful.And then these warm nights makes it slow inside,And sittin’s lovely down there by the lakeWhere him and me would always use ta go.He thought the Vic’d make it easierWithout him; and it did at first. I’d playSome jazz-band music and I’d almost feelHis arms around me, dancin’; after thatI’d turn out all the lights, and set there quietWhiles Alma Gluck was singin’ “Home, Sweet Home”,And almost know his hand was strokin’ my hand.“If I was you, I’d take the Vic,” he says,“It’s somethin’ you can use; you can’t a ring.Wisht I had ways ta make a record for you,So’s I could be right with you, even thoughUncle Sam had me”… Now I’m glad he didn’t;It would be lots too much like seein’ ghostsNow that I’m sure he never won’t come back.…Oh, God! I don’t see how I ever stand it!He was so big and strong! He was a darb!The swellest dresser, with them nifty shirtsThat fold down, and them lovely nobby shoes,And always all his clothes would be one color,Like green socks with green ties, and a green hat,And everything.… We never had no wordsOr hardly none.…And now to think that mouthI useta kiss is bitin’ into dirt,And through them curls I useta smooth a bulletHas went.…I wisht it would of killed me, too.…Oh, well… about the Vic.… I guess I’ll sell itAnd get a small ring anyways. (I won’tGet but half as good a one as ifHe spent it all on that when he first ast me.)It don’t seem right to play jazz tunes no moreWith him gone. And it ain’t a likely chanstI’d find nobody ever else againWould suit me, or I’d suit. And so a littleQuarter of a carat, maybe, but a real oneThat could sparkle, sometimes, and rememberThe home I should of had.…And still, you know,The Vic was his idear, and so…I wonder.…