The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities


It’s Squirrel Week!

We’re so excited about the Washington Post’s “Squirrel Week,” that we dug up a great interview from our archives – on squirrels as pets in early America. In it, historian Sarah Hand Meacham reads from a poem she found in the Virginia Gazette, written in 1768, where a young lady mourns the passing of her pet squirrel.

Poem from the Virginia Gazette, December 15th, 1768, p. 4.

Poem from the Virginia Gazette, December 15th, 1768, p. 4.

Here’s the full text:

A young Lady’s COMPLAINT on the DEATH of her SQUIRREL

Since others shed the briny tear,
And heave for birds the sigh sincere;
Since some for lapdogs grieve and wail,
And tell their tender moving tale;
Let me, in melancholy strain,
Of Death’s stern cruelty complain;

Relentless tyrant! Who could kill
A thing so pretty as my PHIL,
A thing so sprightly and so queer,
The pet I lov’d so very dear,
To rob me of the pretty elf,
I wish that he had dy’d himself

Where now, enraptur’d, shall I see,
My PHILLY skip from tree to tree!
Caper and gambol in the air
Suspended from the earth as far
As where the topmost shoot makes out,

There frisk, and dance, and turn about!
Then chatter at me (saucy thing)
And be so haughty as a King!
And though I sooth’d, and might entreat,
He’d pluck his acorns, sit and eat,
E’er he would to my arms retreat.

Then did I stroke him, scratch his head,
And in my bosom made his bed;
For my affection was and still
As all engrossed by charming PHILL;

For him I mourn, for him I cry,
For him alone I daily sigh;
For him I’ve lost each night’s repose,
Nothing enjoying but my woes.

Oh could my squirrel but survive,
Ecstatick pleasure me ‘twould give;
But he is gone ! ne’er to return!
And useless ‘tis to sigh and mourn.
I’ll therefore seek another pet,
A husband I may surely get;

But know, ye swaine, I ne’er shall choose
Amongst the sops or empty beaus,
Because he’d surely make me fret,
And prove a very worthless pet.

Poor PHILL!!!

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