Article #127 - Whistling




For the Pocopson Literary Association

                        June 23 1852


            The Whistling Individual

            I do not remember of any period of my life in which I could not whistle. The first

prognostication of my future was that I should die whistling, and as if to verify that prediction,

I whistle on all occasions.

            I divide my whistling however into two classes: the first of which I term Heart-whistling -- the second Mouth-whistling or blowing. If I sit down to read poetry I blow till I get interested.

When my heart takes up the tune, brings on a reverie, and keeps time to my meditations. If

a friend of mine dies, I blow a serious air till it awakes an answering cord [sic] in my heart -- the cord vibrates, and loosens a flood of tears. Thus I mourn him. If I write as I do now, I blow

till an idea seems to secrete upon my pen in the form of a drop --When a full blast starting forth

from my heart’s chamber spreads it out upon the page before me! So I conclude from these

observations that blowing always precedes heart-whistling, and is the great prime mover in every case.

            I am a Dentist by profession, and occupy rooms in the Second story of a tall building.

Between myself, the bellows attached to my furnace, and an Aeolian harp* in one of my

Southern windows, there is a deal of blowing done in those chambers. There is Considerable heart-music in an Aeolian instrument. When the spring air begins to curl upward from the Southern Seas, and whispers upon its silken strings I soon muse to the warblings of blue birds. And am wandering over violet-tinted meadows.

            There is a storm outside just now, and the strings are piping wildly. The winds that beat the ocean into foam, and that come freighted with the noise of waves even to where I sit -- Are winds which make heart music A non-wester would whistle shrilly. Scornfully. A zephyr from the West would sigh & a Cold East wind would howl, but the Sea breeze strikes madly across this window lyre, and wreaks upon its silken cords, one of Nature’s sublimest anthems. I know why it is that as I sit the melody of “home” should wind into my brain from the Chaos of aeolian notes. I blow it for a few moments, whilst I pick up a book, when my heart becoming interested repeats the words verbatim et literatim.

            “There is no place like home”

Alas! that we should be ignorant of its beauties younger in life! -- it never becomes heart music

until the reality is lost.

            Some people I fancy are always blowing. The little man who sweeps my chambers is forever blowing a polka: -- he may do it to keep the dust out of his lungs, or from settling on his moustache, but I am quite sure that any beauties this polka may pos[s]ess are wholly lost upon his heart. I have no sympathy with these individuals; they may blow till they are blind, but I would not be one of them for all the gold required to plug the tooth of a Cyclops.

            There is a world of heart-music about a grave-yard in the Springtime: -- Music that is very far removed from the theory of notes [??] time, pitch &c. Music that I compare to a chain with one link fastened to the sky, the other beneath the ground. This chain is of a material, which the contact with Earth and furze does not corrode. It is as bright under these mounds, as yonder

where it glistens high in the Ether.

            There is a grave-yard in our village. I go down there sometimes to have a whistle. I slip quietly under the slim shadows of some Lombardy poplars, and cast a glance over the

gate-way to see if the Sexton is in there companioned with those synonyms of himself -- the shovel, and rope. Not seeing him I enter whistling “Nelly was a Lady” -- I know not why it is that this simple Negro melody should affect me, but the words

            “Death Came Knocking at the door”

find an echo in my heart. It may be that the more than Wordsworth simplicity is the cause, or perhaps here is an undefined rememberance [sic] of Death knocking at some other door, or perchance my mother’s name was Nelly, but I know not what or how it is, and am only certain that of a drowsy Summer afternoon, when my heart aches, and when I feel that tears would be a relief, I invariably stroll towards the grave-yard, seat myself upon a certain foot-stone and whistle “Nelly” till I weep.

            I whistle a good-deal after dinner -- it helps digestion. A regular Blower would smoke. On some occasions I see these Blowers after they have ate enormously, puffing Castillos with their feet higher than their brains (a position by the by is very often indicative of their real situations in life) and grunting with an after-dinner satisfaction like some other animals I wot of. But where is the heart-music in a cigar -- the burning crackle of the crisp Spanish leaf is with me but synonymous of an offensive breath, and a sick stomach. There is heart-music in a sunset. When the gorgeous rifts of clouds that bar the sky, about the day-god are brightened to rifts of gold, as if that wondrous stone, the ancient alchemysts sought for, had touched, and changed them.

            I whistle at such an hour of going to

            “Sacraments with the ?? Wash bowl on my Knee”

Not that I have any notion of going, but merely because a golden Sunset awakens a Whistling

fancy of a golden land. Were it not better that all such fancies were as innocently visionary

as mine?

            The storm outside has died into a murmur; My lyre is sighing only now and then, but

I know that the waves are dashing wildly yet. So great hearts stirred by tempests fret and chafe long after it has passed, while the shallow breasts of Blowers are agitated only as the gust sinks and swells. The lull has come so gently on! The music has died so gradually away, that sleep closing the outward portals of my fancy has lighted up that inner land of dreams


To be read by George P Hayes


*The traditional aeolian harp is essentially a wooden box including a sounding board, with strings stretched lengthwise across two bridges. It is placed in a slightly opened window where the wind can blow across the strings to produce sounds. The strings can be made of different materials (or thicknesses) and all be tuned to the same pitch, or identical strings can be tuned to different pitches. The sound is random, depending on the strength of the wind passing over the strings, and can range from a barely audible hum to a loud scream. If the strings are tuned to different notes, sometimes only one tone is heard and sometimes chords.