Few humans are aware that opossums have a long history of literary output. Perhaps their having opposable thumbs, allowing them to hold to a pen in much the same way as humans, has been a major factor in their creative development.
Unfortunately, because opossums live in the woods, their writings are constantly subject to the whims of nature, and as a result few of their literary contributions are extant. Most older works survive only in fragments, such as the ancient epic poem Beopossum, of which none but the opening lines remain:Another ancient work, still recited orally by opossum bards and scops, survives in written form in only two lines:Hwśt! We Gardena in geardagum,
possumcyninga, Ģrym gefrunon,
hu ūa śĢelingas ellen fremedon.There remain, too, a few fragmentary examples of wisdom poetry, the most notable of which is the surviving stanza of Counsel to íPossums:íPossum! íPossum! Burning bright
In the forests of the night...We present below a few of the existing works that have survived in their entirity. Should any of our readers have unearthed other works, in whole or in part, we should be greatly indebted to their forwarding those to us.Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,
Old Timeís bones are a-aching;
And this same ípossum that grins today,
Tomorrow wonít be faking.
íPossumsUndoubtedly some of the above verses may seem familiar to many readers. This is quite understandable given that humans have through the ages tended to plagiarize from their marsupial fellows. The fragments bear an amazing resemblance to the anonymous Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, William Blakeís The Tyger, and Robert Herrickís Counsel to Virgins. Likewise, the complete poems reveal borrowing by Joyce Kilmer in Trees, Lord Byron in She Walks in Beauty, and William Shakespeare in his Sonnet XXIX as well as in ďO Mistress Mineď from Twelfth Night. Have they no shame!
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree
With ípossums clinging to each limb
Like tiny, pink-tailed cherubim.
A ípossum thinks of God all day,
And lifts her gaze as though to pray;
A ípossum may in Summer scare
A nest of robins from her lair;
And winterís snow she does disdain,
Although she will acquaint with rain.
Poems are made by fools like usíem,
But only God can make a ípossum.
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all thatís but of dark and bright
Meet in her fur and beady eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray less free,
Had half impaired the ípossumís grace
Which swings in every raven tree.
Glint softly lightens oíer her face,
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how chaste their dwelling-place.
And on that nose or oíer that brow
So soft, so calm, so eloquent,
The grins that win, the feints that throw,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A ípossumís heart is innocent.
When in disgrace with fortune and menís eyes
A ípossum doth beweep his outcast state,
And troubles deaf heaven with his bootless cries,
And looks upon himself as desolate,
Wishing himself like one more praised by man,
Featured like cat, or like dog with love possessed,
Desiring this petís coat, or that oneís scan,
With what heís gifted most, contented least;
Yet in those thoughts himself almost despising,
Haply he climbs his tree and then his state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heavenís gate;
For ípossum love remembered, such wealth begets
That then he scorns to change his state with pets.
Opossum mine! where are you roaming?
O! stay and hear; your critterís coming.
That can swing both high and low.
Trip no further, critter fleeting;
Journeys end in ípossums meeting,
Each marsupialís son doth know.
Whatís above? ítis not an apple;
Boughs aloft will be our chapel;
Whatís to come is still unsure:
Futureís face is old and dimply;
So come wed me pure and simply,
Thatís this ípossumís only cure.
The Mighty íPossum (Recently discovered by Dennis Morgan)
The mighty ípossum
Its pelt neíer sold
Copyright © 1998-2007 by John Craton.