San Francisco (in imitation of Hiawatha)

Much has been written about the city of San Francisco. But every once in a while, a work takes on epic proportions.

A Scottish native, James Linen worked as a book binder in New York City before moving to California. Once settled, he began writing about the Golden state with a flare not entirely foreign. Consider this parody of the American epic “Hiawatha”:

"The Old Mission Church ("Mission Dolores"), San Francisco," from Two Years in California by Mary Cone, 1876.“The Old Mission Church (“Mission Dolores”), San Francisco,” from Two Years in California by Mary Cone, 1876.

A next oak-wooded Contra Costa,
Built on hills, stands San Francisco;
Built on tall piles Oregonian,
Deeply sunk in mud terraqueous,
Where the crabs, fat and stupendous,
Once in all their glory revelled;
And where other tribes testaceous
Felt secure in Neptune’s kingdom;
Where sea-sharks, with jaws terrific,
Fled from land-sharks of the Orient;
Not far from the great Pacific,
Snug within the Gate called Golden,
By the Hill called Telegraph,
Near the Mission of Dolores,
Close by the Valley of St. Ann’s,
San Francisco rears its mansions,
Rears its palaces and churches;
Built of timber, bricks, and mortar,
Built on hills and built in valleys,
Built in Beelzebubbian splendor,
Stands the city San Francisco.

“San Francisco (imitation of Hiawatha)” was published in The Poetical Prose and Writings of James Linen in 1865.

— Contributed by Alicia K. Gonzales

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