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Rollo in Emblemland

Rollo in Emblemland

By John Kendrick Bangs and Charles Raymond Macauley

New edition, 2010. Illustrations by Charles Raymond Macauley. Cathair na Mart: Evertype. ISBN 978-1-904808-58-9 (paperback), price: €11.95, £10.95, $14.95.

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John Kendrick Bangs (1862–1922) was born in Yonkers, New York, and is known for his work as an author, editor, and satirist. He worked for Life, a number of Harper’s periodicals, and Puck, perhaps the foremost American humour magazine of its day.

Inspired by the fantasy of Lewis Carroll’s Alice, Bangs wrote Rollo in Emblemland together with Charles Raymond Macauley in 1902. The story tells of a young boy named Rollo who visits a strange country peopled with symbols and icons—emblems of culture like John Bull, Uncle Sam, the Owl, the Stork, Puck, Mr Punch, Father Time, Cupid, and others. Macauley’s line drawings are charming and some of the verse in the book is reminiscent of Carroll’s.


“Well, the first poem was about ‘The Jilted Oyster’,” said the Sphinx. “It’s very pathetic and may make you cry just a little bit, but it’s strong—stronger than a great many things that have become famous. Sit perfectly still, now, so as not to disturb my metre, and I’ll recite it to you.”

Rollo crossed his hands in his lap and Mr Punch bowed his head, while the Sphinx recited the poem of “The Jilted Oyster”:—


“The Oyster was a gallant bold
Who loved a Soft Shell Crab.
He called upon her, so I’m told,
Dressed up in pink and drab—
Up to her residence he rolled
In a brand-new hansom cab.

He told her that he deemed her sweet—
A perfect little prize.
He made remarks about her feet,
And also praised her eyes,
And other things I sha’n’t repeat,
But all of them likewise.

He offered her his heart and hand
Down on his bended knee,
And other things so great and grand
They would have conquered me—
A handsome house upon the land,
A home beneath the sea.

He told her that he’d stores of gold
And chests of precious stone—
His cellar was completely coaled
From mines that he did own,
But “Oh,” he cried, “my life is mould
Because I live alone.

“If you will come and be my bride,”
He cried in accents brief,
“In silks and satins you may ride,
Of princesses the chief.
Great happiness will us betide
And squelch my ghoulish grief.”

But she, this haughty crab so fair,
The Oyster would not wed.
She rose out of her rocking-chair
And, tossing high her head,
She sent him from her in despair
Back to his oyster-bed:

Because he was so very meek,
Was lacking so in force,
She couldn’t stand him for a week
Without tabasco sauce,
And that made marriage, so to speak,
Impossible, of course.

Poor wight! In gloom he took his way
Back through the salty tide
Made deeper by the tearful spray
That bubbled from his side,
And later on, the gossips say,
Committed suicide

By striding out upon the sand—
So bitter was his cup—
Nigh to a busy oyster-stand
Where people came to sup,
And there upon the wintry strand
Was straightway gobbled up.”


HTML Michael Everson, Evertype, 73 Woodgrove, Portlaoise, R32 ENP6, Ireland, 2010-08-31

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