1891 doggerel poem: “The Sigh of the Siwash”

Today we advance the cause of recognizing a Pacific Northwest poetic genre: half-Chinook doggerel!

megan jasper
Megan Jasper, the inventor of “grunge” (image credit: The Guardian)

I have very little to say about this. It’s just another PNW gem of sorta crummy poetry. I’m old enough and punk rock enough to say that its absurdity reminds me of “grunge”.


sigh of the siwash


A siwash to the seashore came,
And sobbed and sighed as he were wood;
Snohomish Skookum was his name,
A tenas man of Lummi blood.

I asked him why he wept and sighed,
(I am a man of Tyee line,)
The cultus siwash boy replied
That it was no affair of mine.

The wet sea scourged the beaten shore,
Withouten cease, withouten ruth;
And still meseemed it more and more,
The siwash boy had told the truth.

Wind-driven from the east, the rain
Befell, and I was hyas wet;
I left him lonely with his pain —
It’s likely he may be there yet.

Not Lummi low, nor Tyee I,
Not sea nor storm the song I sing;
Not wave-lashed shore, nor leaden sky —
I do no such mesahchee thing.

What would I like to sing, forsooth?
Why this — a siwash told the truth.

— from the Fairhaven (WA) Herald of August 9, 1891, page 1, column 1

Bonus fact (non-linguistic):

I was introduced to Megan Jasper by a mutual friend at a really memorable underground music festival in 1991, “the year punk broke”. Fun memories!

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?