Titus Family


In Other Words

In Other Words

The poem below appeared in the New York Times on Memorial Day, 1946. It was written by a Pvt. Donald J. Titus. I haven’t yet been able to track him down. The preamble to the poems was as follows: "These tributes to the American soldier of World War II were written by American soldiers on the field of battle. They appeared originally in The Stars and Stripes, Mediterranean. Regardless of the quality of the poems, they offer both a moving tribute to those fallen and a message to the living         

Title Page

by Pvt. Donald J. Titus

   He was a schoolmaster far from his books
   But he was in himself a kind of classroom;
   He had the dignity of learned things;
   There clung to him the fresh linen perfume
   Of a new book... And his speech was
   Purpled with strange pictorial words
   That made his hearers eager children...
   His eyes were hungry like a bird's __
   He seemed always some beyond this time
   And standing distant from this place;
   His mind had a pursuant body __
   Something of a young boy was in his face...
   He was a composition of his pupils,
   He was a blackboard of a rare-like courage __
   Death came to him as the next assignment;
   The shell burst simply turned another page.

The following appeared in the New York Times on Oct. 20, 1947:

"John Henry Titus, who for many years claimed authorship of the original version of the poem 'The Face on the Bar Room Floor,' died last night in Bellevue Hospital. His age was 94, according to his wife, who said the venerable poet's death resulted directly from shock and injuries suffered in a recent Florida hurricane. Mrs. Titus declared her husband, who was descended from an old New York family, had been living in Florida for the last three years after having passed many previous winters there. He entered Bellevue Hospital last Thursday. Mr. Titus never established clear title to authorship of the famous poem. Most of the glory has gone to Hugh Antoine D'Arcy, an actor of the Eighties and Nineties, who had told a convincing story of its origin before his death in 1925 at the age of 82.

   Unbiased observers have held that both claimants appeared to be in the right to some extent -- that both had written different sets of verses on the same theme in widely different styles. Mr. Titus' version was published in the Ashtabula (Ohio) Sentinel in 1872, while the poet was working as a tanner in Jefferson, O. The D'Arcy version appeared in the New York Dispatch in 1887. The Titus claim first was made public here in 1929 when the aged writer was a defendant in a rent case in the Municipal Court. After he had recited one or two verses, a collection was taken up in court that brought in $37.24. In the spring of 1934, Mr. Titus began a legal action against Frank Harding, a song publisher, for including the D'Arcy poem in an anthology with the title "The Face on the Barroom Floor." That title had been credited to Mr. Titus. Mr. D'Arcy's title had been "The Face Upon the Floor."(The two versions of parts of the poem follow in the obit.).

   Mr. Titus was born in Ohio, but interviewers never learned just where. His father, he maintained, had been secretary to William Dean Howells when Mr. Howells ran the Ashtabula Sentinel. While working in a tannery by day, Mr. Titus wrote poetry at night. He was said to have written 1800 poems, the first one, "The Awkward Boy," having been composed when he was 12 years old. This was published in the McGuffey Readers. In his later years in this city Mr. Titus, who wore his white hair to his shoulders, would recite his ancient verses to anyone who visited his home.His gaunt frame usually was wrapped in a tattered purple bath-robe. It was said his best listener was Mrs. Titus, who never appeared to tire of his poetry."

Most printed editions of the poem are attributed to Hugh Antoine D'Arcy, as is the version below.

The Face On The Bar-Room Floor

Twas a balmy summer evening and a goodly crowd was there,
Which well nigh filled Joe's bar-room, on the corner of the square;
And as songs and witty stories came thru the open door,
A vagabond crept slowly in and posed upon the floor.

"Where did it come from?" some one said. The wind has blown it in."
"What does it want?" another cried. "Some whisky, rum or gin?"
"Here, Toby sic' him, if your stomach's equal to the work
I wouldn't touch him with a fork, he's filthy as a Turk."

This badinage the poor wretch took with stoical good grace;
In fact he smiles, as tho he thought he's struck the proper place,
"Come boys, I know there's kindly hearts among so good a crowd-
To be in such good company would make a deacon proud.

"Give me a drink-that's what I want- I'm out of funds, you know,
When I had cash to treat the gang, this hand was never slow,
What? You laugh as tho you thought this pocket never held a sou,
I once was fixt as well my boys, as any one of you.

"There, thanks; that's braced me up nicely; God bless you one and all;
Next time I pass this good saloon, I'll make another call.
Give you a song? No, I can't do that, my singing days are past;
My voice is cracked, my throat's worn out, and my longs are going fast.

"Say!! Give me another whiskey, and I'll tell you what I'll do-
I'll tell you a funny story, and a fact; I promise, too.
That I ever was a decent man, not one of you would think;
But I was, some four or five years back, Say, give me another drink.

"Fill her up Joe' I wan to put some life into my frame-
Such little drinks, to a bum like me, are miserably tame;
Five fingers-there, that's the scheme- and corking whisky too.
Well, her's luck, boys; and landlord, my best regards to you.

"You've treated me pretty kindly, and I'd like to tell you how
I came to be the dirty sot you see before you now.
As I told you, once I was a man, with muscle, frame and health.
And but a blunder, ought to have made considerable wealth.

"I was a painter-not one that daubed on bricks and wood,
But an artist, and, for my age, was rated pretty good.
I worked hard at my canvas, and was bidding fair to rise,
For gradually I saw the star of fame before my eyes.

I made a picture, perhaps you've seen, 'tis called the "Chase of Fame."
It brought me fifteen hundred pounds, and added to my name.
And then I met a woman-now comes the funny part-
With eyes that petrified my brain and sunk into my heart.

"Why don't you laugh? "tis funny that the vagabond you see,
Could ever love a woman, and expect her love for me;
But 'twas so, and for a month or two her smiles were freely given,
And when her loving lips touched mine it carried me to heaven.

"Boys , did you ever see a woman, for whom your soul you'd give,
With a form like the Milo Venus too beautiful to live;
With eyes that would beat the Koor-i-noor, and a wealth of chestnut hair?
If so 'twas she, for the there never was another half so fair.

"I was working on a portrait, one afternoon in May,
Of a fair haired boy, a friend of mine, who lived across the way,
And madeline admired it, and much to my surprise,
Said that she'd like to know the man that had such dreamy eyes.

"It didn't take long to know him, and before the month had flown
My friend had stole my darling, and I was left alone;
And ere a year of misery had past above my head,
The jewel I had treasured so had tarnished, and was dead.

"That's why I took to drink, boys. Why I never saw you smile,
I thought you'd be amused, and laughing all the while.
Why, what's the matter, friend? There's a tear drop in your eye,
Come, laugh, like me; 'tis only babes and women that should cry.

"Say, boys, if you give me just another whisky, I'll be glad,
And I'll draw right here a picture of the face that drove me mad.
Give me that piece of chalk with which you mark the baseball score-
You shall see the lovely Madeline upon the bar room floor."

Another drink, and with chalk in hand, the vagabond began
To sketch a face that might buy the soul of any man.
Then as he placed another lock upon the shapely head,
With fearful shriek, he leaped and fell, across the picture, dead.

Grandma's Disease

Author Unknown

There's been a change in Grandma, we've noticed her of late.
She's always reading history or jotting down some date.
She's tracking back the family, we'll all have pedigrees.
Oh, Grandma's got a hobby....she's climbing Family Trees.

Poor Grandpa does the cooking, and now, or so he states,
"That worst of all," he has to "wash the cups and plates."
Grandma can't be bothered, she's busy as a bee,
compiling ge-ne-al-ogy....for the Family Tree.

She has no time to babysit, the curtains are a fright.
No buttons left on Grandpa's shirt, the flower bed's a sight.
She's given up her club work and the soaps on the TV,
the only thing she does now-a-days is climb the Family Tree.

She goes down to the courthouse and studies ancient lore,
We know more about our forebears than we ever knew before.
The books are old and dusty, they make poor Grandma sneeze.
A minor irritation when you're climbing Family Trees.

The mail is all for Grandma, it comes from near and far,
Last week she got the proof she needs to join the D.A.R.!
A monumental project everyone agrees,
All from climbing up those wreched Family Trees.

Now some folks came from Scotland, some from Galway Bay,
Some were French as pastry, some German all the way.
Some went West to stake their claims, some stayed by the sea.
Grandma hopes to find them all, as she climbs the Family Tree.

She wanders through the graveyard in search of date and name.
The rich, the poor, the in-between, all sleeping there the same.
She pauses now and then to rest, fanned by a gentle breeze,
That blows above the Fathers, of all our Family Trees.

There are pioneers and patriots, mixed in our kith and kin,
Who blazed the paths of wilderness and fought through thick and thin.
But none more staunch than Grandma, who eyes light up with glee,
Each time she finds a missing branch for the Family Tree.

Their skills were wide and varied, from carpenter to cook,
And one, alas, the records show, was hopelessly....a crook.
Blacksmith, weaver, farmer, judge - some tutored for a fee.
Once lost in time, now all recorded on the Family Tree.

To some it's just a hobby, to Grandma it's much more,
She learns the joys and heartaches of those that went before.
They loved, they lost, they laughed, they wept....and now, for you and me,
They live again in spirit, around the Family Tree.

At last she's nearly finished and we are each exposed,
Life will be the same again, (this we all supposed).
Grandma will cook and sew, serve cookies with our tea.
We'll all be fat, just as before, the wretched Family Tree.

Sad to relate, the preacher called, and visit'd for a spell.
We talked about the Gospel, and other things as well.
The heathen folk, the poor and then......t'was fate, it had to be,
Somehow the conversation turned to Grandma's Family Tree.

He never knew his Grandpa, his mother's name was....Clark?
He and Grandma talked and talked...outside it grew quite dark.
We'd hoped our fears were groundless, but, just like some disease,
Grandma's become an addict....she's hooked on Family Trees.

Our souls are filled with sorrow, our hearts sad with dismay.
Our ears could scarce believe the words we heard our Grandma say,
"It sure is a lucky thing, that you have come today to me,
I know exactly how it's done...I'll climb your Family Tree."