Dec. 29, 2005

The Wraggle Taggle Gipsies

by Anonymous

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Poem: "The Wraggle Taggle Gipsies" by Anonymous from Marriage Poems. © Alfred A. knopf. Reprinted with permission.

The Wraggle Taggle Gipsies

There were three gipsies a-come to my door,
And downstairs ran this a-lady, O!
One sang high and another sang low
And the other sang bonny, bonny Biscay, O!

Then she pull'd off her silk finish'd gown
And put on hose of leather, O!
The ragged, ragged rags about our door
She's gone with the wraggle taggle gipsies, O!

It was late last night, when my lord came home,
Enquiring for his a-lady, O!
The servants said, on every hand:
She's gone with the wraggle taggle gipsies, O!

O, saddle to me my milk-white steed,
Go and fetch me my pony, O!
That I may ride and seek my bride,
Who is gone with the wraggle taggle gipsies, O!

O he rode high and he rode low,
He rode through woods and copses too,
Until he came to an open field,
And there he espied his a-lady, O!

What makes you leave your house and land?
What makes you leave your money, O?
What makes you leave your new wedded lord,
To go with the wraggle taggle gipsies, O?

What care I for my house and my land?
What care I for my money, O?
What care I for my new-wedded lord?
I'm off with the wraggle taggle gipsies, O!

Last night you slept on a goose-feather bed,
With the sheet turned down so bravely, O!
And tonight you'll sleep in a cold open field,
Along with the wraggle taggle gipsies, O!

Literary and Historical Notes:

Today is the anniversary of the massacre at Wounded Knee which took place on this day in 1890.

Twenty-two years before that, the tribes in what became South Dakota had signed a treaty with the United States of America which guaranteed them, "absolute and undisturbed use of the Great Sioux Reservation (that part of South Dakota west of the Missouri River)... No persons... shall ever be permitted to pass over, settle upon, or reside in territory described in this article, or without consent of the Indians pass through the same."

The treaty gave the Indians control over the Black Hills which they considered a sacred place. But when gold was discovered in the Black Hills that treaty was broken. In December of 1875, the Federal Indian Bureau ordered all Indians to report to their agencies by January 31, 1876. Many could not comply with such an order in winter. Some never received it. Only one band came in. All the others were classified as "hostile" and therefore subject to attack.

That summer, General Custer led an attacking force on Little Big Horn but his entire company of soldiers was surrounded and decimated by the Indian warriors. The federal government responded by sending in more troops, taking the Black Hills by force.

One band of Indians chose to flee the arrival of new troops. For four days and nights they marched through the cold trying to reach a rendezvous point with another tribe. But they were surprised by federal soldiers and ordered into the army camp at Wounded Knee. The next morning, federal soldiers went through the camp to confiscate weapons. A scuffle broke out between a soldier and an Indian warrior and a rifle was discharged. Suddenly, the federal soldiers opened fire on all the Indians in the camp. The gunfire was so haphazard that more than twenty-five federal soldiers were killed in the crossfire. About 90 Indian warriors and 200 women and children were killed.

It was on this day in 1916 that James Joyce published his first novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. It started out as a long autobiographical novel called Stephen Hero. He estimated that the book would have fifty chapters and be about 1,000 pages long. He had written about 900 pages of Stephen Hero before he decided that it was too conventional, too Victorian. In a fit of disgust he destroyed most of the manuscript. Only a short fragment was ever found. He started over again and in the new version of the novel he concentrated less on the events of the main character's life and more on his developing consciousness. When he finally published it the book established his reputation as a writer.

It's the birthday of novelist William Gaddis, born in New York (1922). He wrote The Recognitions (1955), J.R. (1975), and A Frolic of His Own (1994). But even though he's been called one of the most important writers of the 20th century his books have never sold very well. He once received a royalty check for four dollars and thirty-five cents.

He died in 1998. His last novel Agape Agape was published after his death in 2002.

William Gaddis said, "There have never in history been so many opportunities to do so many things that aren't worth doing."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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