The Boot of General Jonathan Moulton

By Cindy Vitko

Grade 11 -- Dover High School -- 1973

[NOTE: The Third Annual New Hampshire Student Poetry Contest (Grades 10-12) conducted in the fall of 1973 and co-sponsored by the N.H. Association of Teachers of English and the Poetry Society of New Hampshire, produced some fine poems. Students competed in three categories -- ballad with a New Hampshire theme, free verse and traditional rhyme. The first prize-winning entry in the ballad category was Cindy Vitko, Grade 11, Dover High School.]

The Boot of General Jonathan Moulton

Jonathan Moulton, rascal and knave,
Was ornery, mean and foolishly brave.
'Twas thought that the Devil he'd certainly cheat,
If ever the two rogues should happen to meet.

One night, sitting before the fireside,
His lack of wealth Moulton loudly decried.
He offered his soul for a bootful of gold,
And at once appeared a stranger, black and bold.

"This is business," said the stranger, "So let's us start.
For a bootful of gold with your soul you will part?"
"A boot every year," the gen'ral did add.
"Well, then," said the stranger, "The deal's not bad."

He whipped out a paper and pulled out his pen.
"Sign it," he urged; "You'll be the richest of men."
But Moulton was wary. "What does one call you,
And will you to your part of the deal be true?"

"Just call me Satan," the stranger replied;
"And as for my word, you'll be satisfied."
He shook his dark wig and gold fell to the floor.
"If you will sign, there is sure to be more."

Moulton grabbed the pen and scratched out his name,
But he was planning to cheat Satan at his game.
To the Devil he said, "My boots are quite old.
I'll buy a new pair to hold all the gold."

"Tomorrow I'll hang one on the fireplace crane,
To be filled with the gold that I will soon gain."
Moulton shopped for new boots the very next day;
He bought huge hipboots to hold all his pay.

The general became wealthy, but still he would cheat.
He'd swindle friends and neighbors, whomever he'd meet.
The Devil arrived at Moulton's one day
For his annual visit to deliver the pay.

He poured in the boot, but it stayed unfilled.
The Devil's hot anger could not be stilled,
For Moulton had ripped out the large boot's sole
So that the gold dropped to the cellar through the hole.

That night the Moulton house burned completely down.
The general escaped with only his nightgown.
The gold passed to the earth's entrails in the fire,
But Jonathan Moulton's soul remained in Satan's hire.

The Lane Memorial Library recently received the following letter from Cynthia L. Vitko, and we would like to share it with our readers:
April 10, 2000

Mr. John M. Holman
Lane Memorial Library
2 Academy Avenue
Hampton, NH 03842

Dear Mr. Holman:

I confess that your letter was a great surprise to me. Of course you have my permission to use my poem about General Moulton on the library's website.

When a student at Dover High School, I was very lucky to have Ms. Marie Donahue of Berwick, Maine as a teacher for two different English classes. She loved literature and poetry, and communicated her passion to us students. Ms. Donahue was my favorite high school teacher. For one of her classes, not only did she require that we memorize poetry (I still recall parts of Coleridge's "Ancient Mariner"), but also that we write a poem for submission to the New Hampshire Student Poetry Contest.

I don't remember how I chose General Jonathan Moulton as the subject of my poem, although I do know that the ballad had to pertain to New Hampshire and that the general's dramatic story seemed perfect for that poetic form.

Thank you for including a copy of my poem.


Cynthia L. Vitko

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