1862: “A Civilized Song of the Solomons” doggerel verse

There once existed a distinctly Pacific Northwest literary genre that was emblematic of its place and time.

(Image credit: “Victoria’s Secret“)

In other words, our Chinook Jargon-loving doggerel poetry (as I always call it) was a populist, racist, sexist, and sometimes very clever, in-joke. We may feel ambivalent about its merits, but it’s a genuine part of the history of CJ. 

The following little discovery is one of the earliest specimens preserved to us.

I’m sure several of its references will reward the enterprising UVic History student! 😁

I’m able to tell you one main idea straight off, which is that today’s poem rehearses the perennial early-frontier theme of the, let’s say “lonesome”, male gold-rush newcomer who might hang around Fort Street in Biktoli. (See here.)

See how these verses strike you. I can add a note or two afterwards, as needed.

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[That’s a poem, not a song — DDR]

Sound the voice of exultation,
     Let it everywhere be known,
That the Indians round Victoria
     Almost civilized have grown.

That the squaws in radiant colours,
     Dress’d in ample crinoline,
And with graceful tread of turkeys,
     And with proud and stately mien,

Down the streets like gay gondolas
     Gliding o’er Venetian stream;
Every day and in all seasons,
     May thus constantly be seen;

To the wealthy Caribooites,
     To the efforts of John J.
Is this startling change imputed,
     Is this flight from night to day.

Only three years since, in blankets,
     Slovenly they rolled along,
Like old-fashioned Dutch-built vessels
     Lurching, surging, in a storm.

Only three years since — so dusky,
     And bedaubed with blood-red paint,
And exhaling fishy odors
     Strong enough to make one faint.

Sinking under loads of berries,
     (Buried now in modern shams),
Loudly crying “klosh olilly,” 
     Fiercely shouting k-k-clams, [1]

Now they trip the gay cotillion,
     With an elephantine prance,
In the Market Company building,
     Glide they through the the mazy dance.

Without forms of introduction,
     They will not allow their forms
To be clasped in waltzing graces
     Or in polkas[‘] flighty charms.

Nor without a Caribooite
     On himself the task doth take,
To present a brother miner
     Will a foot the klootchman shake.

What a sad and sober moral,
     Are we thus compelled to draw,
From the missionary teachings —
     From the Christian’s moral law.
Years and years of good men’s efforts
     Seem thus exercised in vain,
Fiddle and the toe fantastic
     Is the way we’re to reclaim
All the Indian tribes around us,
     From their wild and savage life,
And we’ll teach them all the fashions,
     All the views that are rife.
And to Donald F. and Cary,
     And to noble Cochrane J.
And to those who have an interest
     In the Market Company,
Will we sing the loudest paeans
     Will we chaunt the greatest praise,
For their calm and Christian efforts
     Teaching squaws the Christian’s ways.

— from the Victoria (BC) Daily Evening Press of March 10, 1862, page 3, column 2


“Loudly crying “klosh olilly,” / Fiercely shouting k-k-clams” [1] is a reference to the then-frequent sight of Native women entrepreneurs marketing, in Chinook, the ɬúsh úlali ‘good/fresh berries’ and t’ɬáms ‘clams’ that they have harvested to Settler residents of a coastal town. 

kata maika tomtom?
What do you think?