Paying for “Birds of America”

Our last post was about John James Audubon self-publishing Birds of America. It cost him more than $115,000.00. Today that would be more than two million dollars. Some of you may have wondered where he got the money.  After all, he was a draft-dodging, illegal immigrant from France. Apparently the poet Steven Vincent Benet wondered too, so he wrote this poem:

Some men live for warlike deeds,
Some for women’s words.
John James Audubon
Lived to look at birds.

Pretty birds and funny birds,
All our native fowl
From the little cedar waxwing
To the Great Horned Owl.

Let the wind blow hot or cold,
Let it rain or snow,
Everywhere the birds went
Audubon would go.

Scrambling through a wilderness,
Floating down a stream,
All around America
In a feathered dream.

Thirty years of traveling,
Pockets often bare,
(Lucy Bakewell Audubon
Patched them up with care).

Followed grebe and meadowlark,
Saw them sing and splash.
(Lucy Bakewell Audubon
Somehow raised the cash).

Drew them all the way they lived
In their habitats.
(Lucy Bakewell Audubon
Sometimes wondered “Cats?”)

Colored them and printed them
In a giant book,
“Birds of North America” –
All the world said, “Look!”

Gave him medals and degrees,
Called him noble names,
Lucy Bakewell Audubon
Kissed her queer John James.

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One Response to “Paying for “Birds of America””

  1. Bosque Bill Says:

    Very cool. Thanks.

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