While scanning through some recently-internetted archives of the San Francisco Chronicle I came across a charming poem by Walt Mason, a Kansas newspaper witticist whose métier was paragraph-formatted rhyming doggerel. He was extremely successful, with his poems syndicated in hundreds of newspapers and then collected in volumes.
“Thoreau” this one’s called:
The books that Henry Thoreau wrote are little read, these later days; men care not how a hermit poet disported in the woodland ways. The struggle after stock and bond is so intense we little heed the nature lover by his pond, with hair and whiskers gone to seed. Yet never should his fame grow stale, while big assessments stick like wax; he is the man who went to jail before he’d pay a county tax. I think of Thoreau in his cell, that hero sheriffs could not swerve, and feel the heart within me swell with admiration for his nerve. They tax us more each passing year, and waste the coin on useless trash, and we are all such slaves of fear, we meekly pay our hard-earned cash. In public prints we make a wail, for sympathy we make a bid; but no one dares to go to jail, as Henry David Thoreau did. We may forget that great man’s books, forget his toil with ax and rake, we may forget the sylvan nooks in which he roamed by Walden lake; but never let us be so lax as to forget this splendid tale: Before he’d pay a robber tax, the hero-martyr went to jail.