1893?: “The Learned Siwash” doggerel

A prolific genre was enriched by a talented painter.


“Sitka, 1898” by De W. C. Lockwood (image credit: Invaluable)

The genre is Chinook doggerel poetry.

The artist is De Witt Clinton Lockwood (1851-1912), a New York-to-California transplant who must’ve spent some time in the Pacific Northwest.

Here’s his metrical meditation on a Chinook Jargon loanword into PNW English:

learned 1

learned 2

(A tragedy.)

‘Twas a rare summer day and the beautiful bay
Of Tacoma was calm as a mirrored glass,
When out from the shore, a kanim, which bore
A siwash and klootchman, was seen to pass.

The klootchman paddled — her lord looked addled —
For lines of perplexity wrinkled his brow;
Not an object in sight to the left or the right
Caught the glance of this wise one who sat in the bow.

“I’m aware,” he began — how glib the terms ran —
“That the book-name of white-fish is oxyrhynchus;
That a cod is a gadus; likewise it will aid us
To know that a salmon is called oncorhynchus.

“But what bothers me more than the wolf at my door,
The grippe, or the fate of our own Reservation,
Is an Indian word, of which ne’er have I heard
What the white men regard as its pluralization.

‘Tis klootchman,” he muttered, and immediately uttered
The name so alluring again and again;
Then he cried in despair, as he shook his thick hair,
Does the word double-up as klootchmans or klootchmen?

If you know how it goes, fair daughter of Lo’s,
In the name of Tacoma and old Chief Seattle
Relieve my suspense — the torture’s immense — 
Out with it, fond matron; I conjure thee — prattle.”

She spake not a word, and the only sound heard
Was that of the oar as she paddled away;
Then fear filled her soul, while her eyes ‘gan to roll,
And quick as a flash she sprang into the bay !


For days the lone man would steadily scan
The water in hopes she would come back to him;
But she’s still sinking slowly, and this wise man and lowly
All henceforth must paddle his own kanim.

— page 24 of The Californian Illustrated Magazine “publisher’s supplement”, vol. III(?), 1893

Each of those pluralizations of klootchman is found in PNW English as written at the time. The word means ‘woman’ in Jargon, specifically ‘Native woman’ in English.

Kanim = ‘canoe’.

Siwash = ‘Native person’, specifically ‘Native man’ in English.

Feel free to add your Comments, below, about the quality of the verse!

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