Tag Archives: hanging

Odd poem: Hemingway’s last poem, untitled

If my valentine you won’t be,
I’ll hang myself on your Christmas tree.

This is the 88th and last poem of the ‘Complete Poems’ of Ernest Hemingway (edited with introduction and notes by Nicholas Gerogiannis). Given that Hemingway ended his life by suicide, this might seem a worrying final poem; but he wrote it five years before his death, and it was truly light-hearted.

He was living with his fourth wife, Mary Welsh Hemingway, at “Finca Vigía” (“Lookout Farm”), a 15-acre property he bought and lived in for 22 years. She writes that he became so fond of the Christmas tree that he wouldn’t allow it to be removed for months after Christmas. This was his 1956 Valentine for her.

Hemingway’s poems are unremarkable at best (despite Eliot having apparently told him that he had promise as a poet). They are not what he won the Nobel Prize for in 1954. But if you like reading biographies, reading his poems is an interesting way of finding out about his thoughts and activities.

Photo: “Ernest Miller Hemingway” by tonynetone is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Odd poem: by a young pirate, before his hanging

In youthful blooming years was I,
When I that practice took
Of perpetrating piracy
For filthy gain did look.
To wickedness we all were bent,
Our lusts for to fulfil;
To rob at sea was our intent,
And perpetrate all ill.

I pray the Lord preserve you all
And keep you from this end;
O let Fitz-Gerald’s great downfall
Unto your welfare tend.
I to the Lord my soul bequeath,
Accept whereof I pray;
My body to the earth beneath:
Dear friend, adieu for aye.

Written by the 21-year-old John Fitz-Gerald of Limerick, Ireland, apparently on the night before his execution. It is quoted in The Pirates of the New England Coast, 1630-1730 (Rio Grande Press, 1923), which in turn is proudly excerpted by the Online Review of Rhode Island History, as well as by David Cordingly’s extensive history and analysis of the Golden Age of piracy, Under the Black Flag.

On 11th June 1723, Captain Peter Solgard, commander of His Majesty’s Ship Greyhound, a man-o-war, engaged two pirate sloops off Long Island, New York, capturing one of them, Ranger, and taking 37 of its 48 crew alive. He brought them in to Newport, Rhode Island, and they went on trial the following month. Those who could show that they had been forced to join the pirates and had not taken part in violence were released, but the pirate captain and 25 others–including our young poet, of course–were “hanged by the neck until dead” on 19th July 1723, between twelve and one o’clock in the afternoon.