Poetry: Huck Finn Praises Emmeline Grangerford’s Tribute to Stephen Dowling Bots

Mark Twain is given official credit for this poem, but it was really composed by Emmeline Grangerford, whose family Huckleberry Finn met on his Adventures down the Mississippi River.

Below, Huck quotes Emmeline’s tribute to Stephen Dowling Bots, who came to a watery end. He also records what happened to Emmeline, whose compulsive rhyming finally led to her sadful demise.
This young girl kept a scrap-book when she was alive, and used to paste obituaries and accidents and cases of patient suffering in it out of the Presbyterian Observer, and write poetry after them out of her own head. It was very good poetry. This is what she wrote about a boy by the name of Stephen Dowling Bots that fell down a well and was drownded:

 
Ode to Stephen Dowling Bots, Dec’d.
 
And did young Stephen sicken,
      And did young Stephen die?
And did the sad hearts thicken,
      And did the mourners cry?
*
No; such was not the fate of
      Young Stephen Dowling Bots;
Though sad hearts round him thickened,
      ‘Twas not from sickness’ shots.
*
No whooping-cough did rack his frame,
      Nor measles drear, with spots;
Not these impaired the sacred name
      Of Stephen Dowling Bots.
*
Despised love struck not with woe
      That head of curly knots,
Nor stomach troubles laid him low,
      Young Stephen Dowling Bots.
*
O no. Then list with tearful eye,
      Whilst I his fate do tell.
His soul did from this cold world fly,
      By falling down a well.
*
They got him out and emptied him;
      Alas it was too late;
His spirit was gone for to sport aloft
      In the realms of the good and great.

 
If Emmeline Grangerford could make poetry like that before she was fourteen, there ain’t no telling what she could a done by-and-by. Buck said she could rattle off poetry like nothing. She didn’t ever have to stop to think. He said she would slap down a line, and if she couldn’t find anything to rhyme with it she would just scratch it out and slap down another one, and go ahead. She warn’t particular, she could write about anything you choose to give her to write about, just so it was sadful. Every time a man died, or a woman died, or a child died, she would be on hand with her “tribute” before he was cold. She called them tributes. The neighbors said it was the doctor first, then Emmeline, then the undertaker- the undertaker never got in ahead of Emmeline but once, and then she hung fire on a rhyme the dead person’s name, which was Whistler. She warn’t ever the same, after that; she never complained, but she kind of pined away and did not live long.

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Note: The stamp is German. Here’s a link to a Russian stamp honoring Mark Twain, if a buyer hasn’t already snapped it up.