‘Elegy and Ivory’

15 09 2010

Today marks the 125th anniversary of the death of P.T. Barnum’s famous circus elephant, Jumbo. Born in 1861 in the French Sudan, Jumbo spent much of his early life in France and London, before being sold to P.T. Barnam in 1882. He grew to an enormous 13.1ft, his daily diet consisting of 200 pounds of hay, 1 barrel of potatoes, 2 bushels of oats, 15 loaves of bread and a slew of onions. People flocked from far and wide to see him until his untimely death on 15 September 1885, when he wandered onto railway tracks in St Thomas, Ontario, and was struck by an oncoming train.

To this day, Jumbo’s ashes are stored in a 14-ounce Peter Pan Crunchy Peanut Butter jar in the Tufts University archives. Various taxidermied limbs and are still on display in institutions across America. But on this, the 1 ¼ th centenary of his passing, may I offer my own little tribute to the great beast, in the form of a heartfelt poem:

‘Elegy and Ivory’
(A lament on the 125th anniversary of Jumbo’s tragic demise)
15 September 2010

Barnum’s elephantine friend,
Did meet his elephantine end,
When Jumbo (for whatever motive)
Stepped before a locomotive.

Poor Barnum was left broken-hearted;
Scarce could cope now they were parted,
So treasured Jumbo’s ample hide,
In peanut butter, mummified.

How short his life, how brief, how brusque,
“This world is red in trunk and tusk!”
So let us, with one voice, affirm,
This honorific pachyderm.


For further reading on Jumbo, visit the Tufts Magazine Online.

You learn something new every day…




One response

15 09 2010

i learned something new today
thanks to you
had fun too with the heartfelt poem
what did i learn?
i learned that you may be jumbo
still in the end you have no say
if your remains will remain
in a peanut butter jar
sweet dreams

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