The following is a little piece I put together for my 1739 almanac. I took some passages from Francois Rabelais, added a good deal of my own observation or invention, and recalculated for America. I jested a bit here with the manner of speaking I heard in different places, and other things. I was not yet 26 years of age when I composed this, and ’twas written to be read by low and high alike. If you find its humor not to your liking, pray forgive my youthful self.
A TRUE PROGNOSTICATION FOR 1739.
Having considered the infinite abuses arising from the false prognostications published among you, made under the shadow of a pot of drink, or so, I have here calculated one of the most sure and unerring that ever was seen in black and white, as hereafter you’ll find. For doubtless it is a heinous, foul, and crying sin, to deceive the poor gaping world, greedy of the knowledge of futurity, as we Americans all are.
Take notice by the by, that having been at a great deal of pains in the calculation, if you don’t believe every syllable, jot, and tittle of it, you do me a great deal of wrong; for which either here or elsewhere, you may chance to be clawed off with a vengeance. A good cowskin, crabtree, or bull’s pizzle [i.e. whip, stick, or (ahem) rawhide] may be plentifully bestowed on your outward man. You may snuff up your noses as much as you please, ’tis all one for that.
Well however, come, snite [wipe] your noses my little children; and you old doting Father Greybeards, pull out your best eyes, on with your barnacles [spectacles], and carefully observe every scruple of what I’m going to tell you.
Of the Golden Number.
The Golden Number, non est inventus [legal phrase, “not found’]. I cannot find it this year by any calculation I have made. I must content myself with a number of copper. No matter, go on.
Of the Eclipses this Year.
There are so many invisible eclipses this year, that I fear, not unjustly, our pockets will suffer inanition, be full empty, and our feeling at a loss. During the first visible eclipse Saturn is retrograde; for which reason the crabs will go sidelong, and the ropemakers backward. The belly will wag before, and the arse shall sit down first. Mercury will have his share in these affairs, and so confound the speech of people, that when a Pennsylvanian would say PANTHER, he shall say PAINTER. When a New Yorker thinks to say THIS he shall say DISS and the people in New England and Cape May will not be able to say COW for their lives, but will be forced to say KEOW by a certain involuntary twist in the root of their tongues. No Connecticut Man nor Marylander will be able to open his mouth this year, but SIR shall be the first or last syllable he pronounces, and sometimes both. Brutes shall speak in may places, and there will be above seven and twenty irregular verbs made this year, if grammar don’t interpose. Who can help these misfortunes!
Of the Diseases this Year.
This year the stone-blind shall see but very little; the deaf shall hear but poorly; and the dumb shan’t speak very plain. And it’s much, if my Dame Bridget talks at all this year. Whole flocks, herds and droves of sheep, swine and oxen, cocks and hens, ducks and drakes, geese and ganders shall go to pot; but the mortality will not be altogether so great among cats, dogs, and horses. As for old age, ’twill be incurable this year, because of the years past. And towards the fall some people will be seized with an unaccountable inclination to roast and eat their own ears. Should this be called madness, doctors? I think not. — But the worst disease of all will be a certain most horrid, dreadful, malignant, catching, perverse and odious malady, almost epidemical, insomuch that many shall run mad upon it; I quake for very fear when I think on it; for I assure you very few will escape this disease; which is called by the learned Albumazar, LACKO’MONY.
Of the Fruits of the Earth.
I find that this will be a plentiful year of all manner of good things, to those who have enough; but the orange trees in Greenland will go near to fare the worse for the cold. As for oats, they’ll be a great help to horses. I dare say there won’t be much more bacon than swine. Mercury somewhat threatens our parsley beds, yet parsley will be to be had for money. Hemp will grow faster than the children of this age, and some will find there’s but too much on it. As for corn, fruit, cider, and turnips, there never was such plenty as will be now; if poor folks may have their wish.
Of the Condition of some Countries.
I foresee an universal drought this Year through all the northern colonies. Hence there will be dry rice in Carolina, dry tobacco in Virginia and Maryland, dry bread in Pennsylvania and New York; and, in New England, dry fish and dry doctrine. Dry throats there will be everywhere; but then how pleasant it will be to drink cool cider! Though some will tell you nothing is more contrary to thirst. I believe it; and indeed, Contraria contrariis curantur [opposites cure opposites].