Home  »  library  »  poem  »  Jim Bludso, of the Prairie Belle

C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Jim Bludso, of the Prairie Belle

By John Hay (1838–1905)

WALL, no! I can’t tell whar he lives,

Becase he don’t live, you see;

Leastways, he’s got out of the habit

Of livin’ like you and me.

What have you been for the last three year

That you haven’t heard folks tell

How Jimmy Bludso passed in his checks

The night of the Prairie Belle?

He weren’t no saint,—them engineers

Is all pretty much alike:

One wife in Natchez-under-the-Hill,

And another one here in Pike;

A keerless man in his talk was Jim,

And an awkward hand in a row,

But he never funked, and he never lied,—

I reckon he never knowed how.

And this was all the religion he had:

To treat his engine well;

Never be passed on the river;

To mind the pilot’s bell;

And if ever the Prairie Belle took fire,—

A thousand times he swore

He’d hold her nozzle agin the bank

Till the last soul got ashore.

All boats has their day on the Mississip,

And her day come at last,—

The Movastar was a better boat,

But the Belle she wouldn’t be passed.

And so she come tearin’ along, that night—

The oldest craft on the line—

With a nigger squat on her safety-valve,

And her furnace crammed, rosin and pine.

The fire bust out as she clared the bar,

And burnt a hole in the night,

And quick as a flash she turned, and made

For the willer-bank on the right.

There was runnin’ and cursin’, but Jim yelled out,

Over all the infernal roar,

“I’ll hold her nozzle agin the bank

Till the last galoot’s ashore.”

Through the hot black breath of the burnin’ boat

Jim Bludso’s voice was heard,

And they all had trust in his cussedness,

And knowed he would keep his word.

And sure’s you’re born, they all got off

Afore the smoke-stacks fell,—

And Bludso’s ghost went up alone

In the smoke of the Prairie Belle.

He weren’t no saint—but at judgment

I’d run my chance with Jim,

’Longside of some pious gentlemen

That wouldn’t shook hands with him.

He seen his duty, a dead-sure thing,—

And went for it thar and then;

And Christ ain’t agoing to be too hard

On a man that died for men.