TO WILLIAM (WHOM WE HAVE MISSED).
Punch, December 31, 1902
Bright are the days which the Fates hold in store for us,
Buffalo Bill, you are with us at last.
Magical name! What a joy it once bore for us!
How it recalls all the tales of the past,
Some that we read of in prose or in verse,
Others, perhaps, which we heard from our nurse.
Tales of the days when to rob and assassinate
Filled the poor Indian with exquisite glee,
Formed an amusement which ne’er ceased to fascinate,
Set up his health like a week by the sea.
Nothing could hinder his playful proclivities,
Till you looked in on the genial festivities.
Then, as a pigeon attempts to fly from a hawk,
Hastily winging its way through the blue,
So did the reveller, dropping his tomahawk,
Flee at the sight, Colonel Cody, of you.
Glancing behind with uneasiness palpable,
Feeling his, too, was a head that was scalpable.
And, at the speed at which lovers, who pant, elope,
You, with a look both determined and grim,
Covered the ground like an ostrich or antelope,
Thoroughly bent upon collaring him.
That was the duty you owed the community,
Not to allow him to raid with impunity.
Once I considered these tales of your quality
Nought but a beautiful, wonderful myth,
Scorned to believe that you were, in reality,
Merely a mortal like Brown, Jones, and Smith.
Briefly, I classed you with Orson’s friend Valentine,
Robinson Crusoe, and heroes of Ballantyne.
Now that the years have brought hairs that are silvery,
Ills that are painful, and views that are fresh,
Only in one thing unchanged, I am still very
Anxious to look upon you in the flesh.
Last time I saw you not (owing to gout) at all.
Squills would not hear of my venturing out at all.
William, I’m loth to examine futurity,
Speak as a prophet regarding your show,
Say if the pageant is doomed to obscurity,
Or, on the contrary, if it will “go,”
Whether ’twill charm or displease, when we view it, us.
Accurate forecasts are very fortuitous.
Still, when your ochred and plume-covered savages
Make preparations for raising the hair,
And when your Cowboys are stemming their ravages,
I, it may please you to know, shall be there.
One, if no more, of the thousands who pen you in
Looks on your feats with a pleasure that’s genuine.
Unsigned verse as printed; credited to P. G. Wodehouse in the Index to Vol. 123 of Punch.
‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody took his ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West’ extravaganza — 180 horses, 18 buffalo, 10 elk, 5 Texan steers, 4 donkeys, 2 deer, and performers including Annie Oakley and 97 American Indians — to England first in 1887. The show toured Europe and returned to London on December 26, 1902, when it opened a fourteen-week run complete with a visit from King Edward VII. P.G. timed this submission to coincide with the show’s opening.
‘Orson’s friend Valentine’ refers to a 14th century French legend about twin brothers who are abandoned in the woods in infancy. Orson is taken by bears and grows to be a wild man of the woods; Valentine is brought up as a knight at court. P.G. either rearranged the names to suit his rhyme scheme, or he didn’t remember that Orson was the wild man of the woods — P.G.’s Buffalo Bill — not Valentine.