The Poetry of Elsie Strawn Armstrong
"SKETCHES OF MY LIFE"
Pages 117-

Transcribed and Donated by Leslie Howard Strawn


In 1850, when the hoops began to age fairly, three or four young ladies asked me to tell them some rhyme about the hoops. I told them it was nothing to me, let those wear hoops who chose; but they kept quizzing me about the hoops until finally I told them as follows:

I am close approaching seventy,

Which is man’s appointed time,

And thirty years ago

I supposed I passed my prime.

I have lived to see the fashion

Come round, and three times more,

But I never saw the odium

Of the frightful hoops before.

And from the best account

That I can get or learn,

It’s about two hundred years

Since the last hoops were worn.

And I’ve always heard them spoke on

With deep contempt and scorn,

And I little thought that I should live

To ever see them worn.

But they’ll be of short duration,

They’re so inconvenient, mean and ugly,

For our ladies wish to dress themselves

Complete and neat and snugly.

And to see them try to sit

In an arm chair or a cradle,

And trying to take the dinner up

With the fork or ladle.

The hoops, O, The hoops!

They are so much in the way,

At everything they try to do,

And that, from day to day.

And then to see the infant

Upon the hoops lying,

Groaning and moaning,

And then most piteous crying.

At the torture it is suffering

Upon its mother’s knee,

O, Inhuman, cruel mother!

You are ahead of me.

Now lay aside the hoops,

And despise them all the while,

And make your lap a resting place

For your tender child.

I think it was some scalawag,

The fag of creation,

Destitute of principle,

Good sense or reputation.

That again got up the wreck

Of troubles long ago,

That Judge Addison and others

Routed and scouted so.

And now it’s on our sidewalks

Just as it was before,

The old and young are all shoved off,

As in the days of yore.

Not the least respect is shown

To the younger or the aged,

No wonder our authorities

Become so much enraged.

They will soon arraign you up

To answer for your crime,

As they had to do in Europe

In the days of olden time.

Now, ladies, I advise you,

To lay aside the hoops

No matter what they’re made of

Wood, brass, bone or ropes,

How can you bear such burdens,

Just to make a bulk and show,

Submit to such mead drudgery,

How can you stoop so low?

They said that would do pretty well for the hoops; now give the bustle a touch. One who had requested it came to call on me in company with her beau. So I directed my discourse to him and said thus:

Did you ever see a lady

With a hump upon her back,

To imitate the camel,

With moss stuffed in a sack?

And if she went to church

She would think there were some lack,

If she went without a bag of moss

Tied upon her back.

Some take a sack of cotton,

And some a sack of bran,

But moss they do prefer,

And they have it if they can.

If they’d tie it on the outside

And show their graceful shapes;

But, they tie it under,

And resemble much the ape.

Now ladies, use discretion,

And dress you snug and warm,

Then you need to fear the wind,

Nor the cold winter storm.

And if you should step out

And chance to meet a friend,

With confidence and pleasure

Your hand you could extend.

But if you are deformed,

Among the hoops and moss,

No wonder if your friend

Would look at you glum and cross.

And you’d be so much embarrassed

And so sadly you would feel,

Almost as ‘shamed and guilty

As if you’d just been known to steal.

Another word of caution, --

On the towpath do not go,

For there both night and day

The wind doth constant blow.

The gentleman sanctioned it, and the lady blushingly said it was good.

We have an aged citizen,

Above three score and ten,

More that a score of years ago

I saw him here then.

He was lately telling me

About his hope and fear,

When he was on the sidewalk

And saw the hoops appear.

He said his arm was for a gate

It was so he could get through,

Then he felt that he was safe,

And ‘twas the best that he could do!

But if no gate was near,

Then he clung upon the fence,

For that did seem to him as though

It would be some defense.

He said, “A fast hold upon the fence

Is the best way I have found,

For if they knock my feet from under me

They cannot get me down.

But O, the knocks and thumps,

They give me as they pass!

The rakes, the scrapes and bruises,

With their wood and bone and brass.”

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