The Groundhog Poet, Frederick Wadleigh West

Frederick Wadleigh West, the Groundhog Poet

With Groundhog Day upon us once again it seems appropriate to offer a few words about Frederick Wadleigh West, the Groundhog Poet.

West was born on February 2, 1867 in Darien, Connecticut. His father, Walker, was a railroad switchman and something of a drifter. Young Frederick grew up under the strong influence of his mother, Maria. He was her only child. She was his only mother.

 Possessing a quick and able mind West did well in his schooling. He attended Yale, graduating there with honors in 1889.

 But West’s entire lifetime was overshadowed by a near-tragic accident that occurred when he was four. He was gathering coal along railroad tracks when his father accidentally closed a switch on young Frederick’s left foot, then watched in horror as an oncoming train passed within inches of his helpless child. The event shaped West’s life into a nightmare and his foot into something resembling a piece of pie.

 Thus scarred, West became a quiet and withdrawn child who found solace in the woodlots bordering Darien, and in writing poetry. These walks and the fact of his birth date helped peak his curiosity about he lowly groundhog (Marmot Monax), a creature he frequently encountered. A lifetime of devotion to Marmota Monax followed, culminating in West’s most ambitious poetic work, The Groundhog Sequence. Written in 1891, it appears below.

 West died in 1906, in Darien.

 The Groundhog Sequence

 By Frederick Wadleigh West

On the Morning

 Of’t maligned

as rodent crass

we look

to you

as winters pass,

anticipating

shiny snout

from dark burrow

to pop out.

 

The sun is up,

the day has beckoned.

 

It is

February Second!

 

 Salute to Marmota Monax

 Intrepid

little furry beast

we owe you

these few lines

at least.

 

Disgorged

from tunnel

‘neath the drift

to look about

for shadow’s shift,

 

O you,

coarsely pelted

lout,

may tell us

winter’s tired out,

 

or if the sky

be overcast,

that chill and snow

are sure to last.

 

 In the Home of Marmota

 A walk one day

in forest glen

takes me

near familiar den.

 

Furry Hades,

dwelling there

in dank

and smelly, hairy lair,

 

stirs to note

my footfall near,

a sign of man

a toll to fear.

 

O

would he

only know my mind,

 

that I to him

am naught but kind.

 

But mine

are two

of many boots,

 

among which

there are those

that shoots.

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This entry was posted in humor, Karl Garson, Nature, Published, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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