An Oration by: The Town Pump
(as if the pump were speaking)
Noon by the North clock! Noon by the East!!! High noon too by these hot sunbeams which fall scarcely aslope upon my head as almost make the water bubble in the trough below my nose. Truly, we public characters have a tough time of it! And among all the town officers chosen at March Meeting, where is he that sustains for a single year the burden of such manifold duties as are imposed in perpetuity upon the Town Pump?
The title of “Town Treasurer” is rightly mine as guardian of the best treasure the town has. The Overseers of the Poor ought to make me their chairman, since I provide bountifully for the pauper, without expense for him who pays taxes. I am at the head of the fire department and am one of the physicians to the Board of Health. As a keeper of the peace, all water drinkers will confess me equal to the constable. I perform some of the duties of the Town Clerk by promulgating public notices when pasted on my front. To speak within bounds I am the chief person of the municipality, and exhibit moreover an admirable pattern to my brother officers by the cool, steady, upright, downright, and impartial discharge of my business, and by the constancy with which I stand to my post. Summer or winter, nobody sees me in vain, for all day long I am seen at the busiest comer just above the Market, stretching out my arms to rich and poor alike, and at night I hold a lantern over my head, both to show where I am and to keep the people out of the gutters.
At this sultry noontide I am cup bearer to the parched populace for whose benefit an iron goblet is chained to my waist. Like a dram seller on the Mall at muster day I cry aloud to all and sundry in my plainest accents at the very top of my voice, “here it is, gentlemen, here is the good beverage! ” “Walk up gentlemen, walk up!” Here is the unadulterated ale of father Adam better than cognac, Holland gin, Jamaica rum, strong beer or wine, of any price, and here it is by the hogshead or by the single glass and not a cent to pay. Walk up gentlemen and help yourselves! It were a pity if all this outcry should draw no customers.
Here they come! A hot day, gentlemen! Quaff and away again so as to keep yourselves in a nice cool sweat. You, my friend will need another cupful to wash the dust out of your throat if it be as thick there as it is on your cowhide shoes. I see that you have trudges half a score of miles today; and like a wise man, have passed by the taverns and stopped only at the running brooks and well cribs. Otherwise betwixt heat without, and fire within, you would have been burnt to a cinder or melted down to nothing at all in the fashion of a jellyfish. Drink and make room for that other fellow who seeks my aid to quench the fiery fever of last nights potations which he drained from no cup of mine.
Welcome most rubicund sir! You and I have been great strangers hitherto, nor to confess the truth, will my nose be anxious for a closer intimacy till the fumes of your breath be a little less potent. Mercy on you, man! The water absolutely hissed down your red hot gullet and is converted quite to steam in the in the miniature fiery furnace which you mistake for a stomach. Fill again and tell me, on the word of an honest toper did you ever in cellar, tavern, or any kind of dram shop, spend the price of your children’s food, for living half so delicious?
Now for the first time in ten years you know the flavor of cold water. Good-bye, and whenever you are thirst remember that I keep constant supply at the old stand. Who next? Oh my little friends, you are let loose from school and come hither to scrub your blooming face, and drown the memory of schoolboy troubles in a draft from the town pump. Take it, pure as the
your young life. Take it, and may your heart & tongue never be scorched with a fiercer thirst than now. who treads so gently over the paving stones that I suspect he is afraid of breaking them. What! He limps past without so much as thanking me, as if my hospitable offers were meant only for people who have no wine cellars. Well, well sir – no harm done I hope. Go draw the cork and tip the decanter, but when your great toe shall set you aroaring it will be no affair of mine. If gentlemen love the tittilation (sic) of the gout, it is all one to the town pump.
Thirsty dog with his red tongue lolling out, does not scorn my hospitality but stands on his hind legs and eagerly laps out of the trough. See how lightly he capers away again!
Are you all satisfied? Then wipe your mouths my good friends and my spout shall have a moment’s leisure.
Written by Wilbur Norris Sparrow
(brother of Don Sparrow of Eastham)
July 6, 1871
(Never mind some of the punctuation and spelling. This man had very little education, but certainly had learned a lot about expressing himself.)