Listen to the land; As others see us
Listen to the land a profile of a nation in terms of its living language. By sharing aloud the writings of our country past and present. We can come to a fuller appreciation of those things which are meaningful to us as Americans and perhaps of the nature of our role in the contemporary world. This week's program as others see us is a sketch in words by foreign visitors to our shores. What they saw here what they thought about it good and bad. The people they met and the impression they left. Listen to the land is produced by station w h y y Philadelphia under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center. In cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters.
Now here is your host and director Richard S. Burdick reading an excerpt from Stephen Leacock says a neighbor looks at America. The Americans are a queer people. They can't rest. They have more time more leisure shorter hours more holidays and more vacations than any other people in the world. But they can't rest. They rush up and down across the continent as tourists. They move about in great herds to conventions. They invade the wilderness they flood the mountains they keep the hotels full but they can't rest. They never stop moving. They were rushed up and down the Shriners Masons old graduates bankers. They are a new thing each day always rushing to a reunion or something and so they go on rushing till the undertaker gathers them into a last convention. The Americans are a queer people. They can't read. They have more schools and better schools and spend more money on schools and colleges in all of Europe but they can't
read they print more books in one year than the French print in 10 but they can't read they cover their country with 100000 tons of Sunday newspapers every week. But they don't read them. But too busy. They use them for fires and to make more paper with tons of circulars pour through the mails down the houses and down the garbage chute. The last American who sat down to read died in about the days of Henry Clay the Americans are a queer people. They can't play. Americans rush to work as soon as they get up. Every business in America is turning into an open all day and night business. They eat all night dance all night build buildings all night make a noise all night. They can't play. They try to but they can't they turn football into a fight. Baseball into a lawsuit and yachting in the machinery they can't play but little children can't play. They use mechanical toys instead. The grown up people can't play. They use a mechanical gymnasium and a clockwork course. They
can't swim but use a float. They can't run they use a car and the cat laugh. They hire a comedian and watch him live. The Americans are a queer people. They don't give a darn. Oh the world criticizes them and they don't give a darn. All the world rights squibs like this about them and they don't give a darn. Foreigners come here and write them up. They don't give a darn. Lecturers lecture at them. They don't care. They are told they have no art no literature no soul and they never budge moralists cry over them. Criminologists to suck them writers shoot epigrams at them prophets foretell the end of them and they never move. 17 brilliant books analyze them every month. They don't read them. The Europeans threaten to unite against them. They don't mind equitorial Africa is dead saw around them. They don't even know what the
Chinese look on them is full of Oriental cunning. The English accuse them of British stupidity. The Scots call them close fisted the French think their morals are loose when the Russians accuse them of communism. But that's alright. The Americans don't give a darn. You don't need to. Never did need to. And that is their salvation. And that was a prose profile of you and me. As seen by a wise and Woody neighbor to the north Stephen Leacock. Did you recognise yourself perhaps or the person next door. Stephen Leacock is an excellent person with whom to begin this week's look at ourselves because he was not only a frequent visitor from across the Canadian border but he was also a most welcome one college professor humorist economist historian political scientist lecturer and all around good fellow Stephen Leacock left a void within our national borders that is only partially filled by his perceptive incisive and good
humored writings. If you want to spend some time with profit in the company of a delightful companion I suggest you go to your library at the first opportunity and bring home a volume or two or three of the writings of Stephen Leacock. But now let's once again hold the mirror up to ourselves and take a look at the reflection we cast as observed by another visitor to our shores. This time from father away visitors from foreign lands are usually keenly interested in the foodstuffs and native dishes of the country in which they're visiting. And America is wide open for gastronomical appraisal. A very brief but incisive commentary in this vein and one that's always been a favorite of mine is contained in a book called Travels in the United States. Eighteen hundred six to 18 11 by a Scotsman named John Mellish militia's narrative gives a very fair and balanced record of his sojourn in America despite the fact that his good Scotch conditioning to the dollar
sometimes rebelled at American lavishness an instance in point. Is this anecdotal excerpt recounting a typical display of backwoods hospitality. As I proposed to ride to New Philadelphia 36 miles from kush Octon and the road was altogether new to me and often cross the river. I was anxious to be gone as soon as possible and urged the landlady to make all the haste she could. She said she would have the breakfast ready in a minute but the first indication I saw of dispatch was a preparation to twist the necks of two chickens. I told her to stop and she gave me a look of astonishment. Have you any eggs. Said I. Yes plenty replied she still keeping in a stooping posture with a chicken in her hind. Well said I just boil an egg and at me have it with a little bread and tea and that will save you and I a great deal of trouble. You seem quite embarrassed and such you could never sit on a
breakfast to me like that. I assured her I would take nothing else but Jai fry some ham for you along with the eggs. No said I not a bit. Well when you take a little stewed pork no preserve me what will you take then unlit good bread then tea and an egg. Well you are the most extraordinary man I ever saw. But I cut down a table that way. I saw that I was only to lose time by contesting the matter further. So I allowed her to follow her own plan as to the cooking assuring her that I would take mine as to eating. She detained me about half an hour and at last placed upon the table a profusion of high AM eggs fritters bread butter and some excellent tea. All the time I was at breakfast she kept pressing me to eat but I kept my own counsel untouched. None of the dishes except the bread tea and
an egg she affected great surprise. And when I paid her early ordinary fee a quarter of a dollar. She said it was hardly worth anything. Now I mention the circumstance to show the hospitality of the landlady and the good living enjoyed by the backwoods people. We turn next to a bright voiced English lady by the name of Nancy Boyd a widely travelled writer who uses her peripatetic observation to compare us with Europeans in general and in particular this is an extended but always brilliant piece entitled flatteringly to the point. I like Americans I like Americans. You may say what you will they are the nicest people in the world. They sleep with their windows open their bathtubs are never dry. They're not grown up yet. They still believe in Santa Claus and they are terribly in earnest. But they laugh at everything they know that one role does not make a
breakfast nor one vermouth a cocktail. I like Americans they smoke with their meals. The Italians are nice but they are not so nice as the Americans. They have been told that they live in a warm climate and they refuse to heat their houses. They are forever sobbing Puccini. They no longer have lions about to prey on Christian flesh but they have more than a sufficient ply of a certain smaller kind of aura. And if you walk in the street alone somebody pinches you. I like Americans they give the match's free the Austrians are nice but they are not so nice as the Americans they eat sausages between the acts at the opera but they make a go out in the snow to smoke. They are gentle and friendly. They will walk 10 blocks out of the way to show you your way. But they serve you paper napkins at the table and the sleeves of their tailored blouses are gathered at the shoulder and they don't know how to do their hair. I like Americans. They dance so well. The
Hungarians are nice but they are not so nice as the Americans. They make beautiful shoes which are guaranteed to squeak for a year. Their native tongue is like a typewriter in the next room and every word beginning with the shift key their wines are too sweet. I like Americans. They are the only men in the world. The sight of whom in their shirt sleeves is not rumpled embryonic and Eigen izing they wear belts instead of suspenders. The French are nice but they're not so nice as the Americans. They were the most charming frocks in the world and the most awkward under clothes their shoes are too short. Their ankles are too thick. They are always forgetting where they put their razors. They have no street corner shoe shining palaces where a man can be a king for five minutes every day nor any Sunday supplement their mail boxes are cleverly hidden slits in the wall of a cigar store.
They put all their cream into cheese. Your morning cup of chicory is full of boiled strings. If you want butter with your lunch and they expect you to order radishes and they insist on serving the vegetables as if they were food. I like Americans. They make a lot of foolish laws. But at least their cigarettes are not ruled by the government. The material of which the French make their cigarettes would be used in America to enrich the fields. In the city the French are delightful they kiss in the cafes and dine on the sidewalks or dance halls are gay with paper ribbons and caps and colored balloons. Their rudeness is more gracious than other people's courtesy but they are afraid of the water they drink it mixed with wine. They swim with wings and they bathed with an atomizer. Their conception of a sport suit is a black taffeta gown long sleeves with fringe on a patent leather handbag and a dish bought dog in the country they are too darn funny for words.
I like Americans. They carry such pretty umbrellas. The Avenue de l'Opera on a rainy day is just an avenue on a rainy day. But Fifth Avenue on a rainy day is an old fashioned garden under a shower. The French are a jolly lot. Their cities have no traffic regulations and no speed limit. If you get run over you have to pay for a fine for getting in the way. But they have no ear drums. Paris is the loveliest city in the world. Until she opens her mouth should the French go forth to battle armed only with their taxi horns. They would drive all before them. I would liefer live in a hammock slung under the ell at Herald Square than in a palace within earshot of the plus their nominee. I like Americans so ridiculous they're always risking their lives to save a minute. The pavement under their feet is red hot. They are the
only people in the world who can eat their soup without a sound as of the tide coming in. They sell their bread I gently rocked the Europeans sell it naked. They carried under the arm drop it and pick it up beat the horses with it and spank the children. They delivered at your apartment you find it lying outside your door on the doormat and the European hotels are so hateful and irritating. There was never an ashtray in your bedroom or a wastebasket nor a cake of soap no sweet little cake of new so balls sealed in a paper knot over a sliver left behind by a former guest. No soap. No soap at all. I like Americans. They let you play around the Grand Central Station all you please their parts are not locked at sunset and they always have plenty of paper bags which are not made of back numbers of the rear. The Spanish are nice but they're not quite as nice as the Americans
they serve you huge beautiful grapes and oranges and they think it's funny if you eat them and enjoy their food they eat everything that comes out of the sea but they never let their chickens get past the egg stage. They dip their bread in their chocolate and are artists in the use of the knife and the idea of a quick lunch would send them into spasms. They are clever. They hire for chaperons the ugliest old women in the village. No wonder Spanish girls are always beautiful. I like Americans they make so much noise. But the Spanish make more. The winner of an argument is the one who talks the loudest in the theater they guess when they like the show and they when they don't like it they clap for the waiter to bring the bill and they clap to get out of their houses at night and they have a revolution whenever public life seems a bit quiet. The Spaniards are the kindest people in the world and the most polite
they will offer you their last crust of bread. They will pay your carfare whether they know you or not but if they make a mistake they expect you to apologize for it and they make you wait till Christmas for a new summer dress. They are romantic. They can recite volumes of poetry with all the appropriate gestures. But on a summer evening they will sit for hours under the palms and not even know there was a full moon and they roll their own cigarettes. The Spanish are an aesthetic people but they are not too aesthetic to be comforting. They know all about Vela caves and Mario. They will sit all night in a cafe so full of smoke you think you're in a London fog. Listen to Brahms or grant us. And yet when you regretfully appear on the street on your last summer's act they will tell you you were beautiful. Yes the Spanish are almost but not quite as nice as the Americans. The English are nice
but they are not so nice as the Americans. They were too much flannel. The matter with whom they are dancing they dance a solo and no matter where they go they remain at home. They are nice they keep the TV set at the office but the Americans keep the dish pan in the music room. The English are an amusing people. They are a tribe of shepherds inhabiting a small island off the coast of France. They are a simple and genial folk but they have one idiosyncrasy. They persist in referring to their island as if it were the mainland. The Irish are nice but they are not so nice as the Americans they are always rocking the boat. I like Americans they either shoot the whole nickel or give up the bones you may say what you will. They are the nicest people in the world. And thank you Nancy Boyd. We turn quickly while the mood of self and dunk indulgence is upon us. To a fellow countryman of Nancy Borat
Boyd's Henry would never consent. Now Vinson was one of the ablest of English journalists and war correspondents and was born in Leicester educated in Oxford farewell to America was written in February nineteen twenty two. When he returned to England after attending the Washington conference on imitation of armament a little essay or perhaps we can call it a prose poem sums up brilliantly the many superficial differences between English An American Life and its conclusion together. There are other European interpretations of American I suggest that you see America in perspective. The United States through foreign eyes edited by Henry Steele comics are excellent compendium of interpretations of America. But for now here is the piece by Henry Wood Nevinson called Farewell to America
written in 1922 in mist and driving snow the towers of New York fade from view the great ship slides down the river. Already the dark broad seas loom before her. Goodbye. Most beautiful of modern cities. Goodbye to glimmering spires and lighted bastions dreamlike as the castles and cathedrals of a romantic vision though mainly devoted to commerce and finance. Goodbye to thin films of white steam the issue from central furnaces and flipped and dissolving wreaths around those precipitous heights. Goodbye to heaven piled offices so clean so warm where lovely stood not gophers with silk stockings and powdered faces set luxury at work or converse in charming ease. Good bye New York. I'm going home. I'm going to an ancient city of mean and moldering streets of ignoble
covers for mankind extended monotonously over many miles of smudgy typists. You know something of Potter but little of silk and less of leisure and charming needs. Good bye New York. I'm going home. Goodbye to the copious meals the early grapefruit the cereals the eggs broken on the glass. Goodbye to oysters large and small of celery and olives beside the soup to seafood to sublimated vines to bleeding ducks to the salad course to the individual pie or the thick wedge of apple pie to the invariable slab of ice cream to the coffee. Also bland with cream to iced water and home brewed alcohol. I am going to the land of joints and roots and solid putting the land of how many eggs and violent t the land where oysters are good for suicides alone where cream is seldom seen. The land where mustard grows and whiskey flows. Good bye America. I am going home.
Goodbye to the long stream of motors limousines or flippers. Goodbye to the signal lights on Fifth Avenue. Gold crimson and green. The sudden halt when the green light shines as though what the magic word of an enchanted princess had fallen asleep. The hurried rush for the leisure lunch at noon the deliberate appearance of hustle and bustle and business however little is accomplished. Good by to outside stair cases for escape from fire. Good bye to Scrappy suburbs littered with rubbish of old boards tin pails empty cans and boots. Good bye to standardized villages and towns alike in letter in ropes of electric wires along streets in clanking trolleys in chapels stores railway stations main streets an isolated wooden houses flung at random over the countryside. Goodbye To miles of advertisement imploring me in ten foot letters to each somebodies codfish no bones or smoke somebody's cigarettes.
They satisfy or sleep with innocents in the faultless night gown. Goodbye to the long trains where one smokes in a lavatory and sleeps at night up on a shelf screen with a heavy green curtains and heated stifling air while over your head or under your back a baby yells and the mother tosses moaning until at last you reach your stopping off place and a porter sweeps you down with a little broom. As it is in a supreme right of unction goodbye to the house that is labelled 100 years old for the amazement of mortality. Goodbye to thin woods and fields and clothes with casual pulls old hoops and lengths of wire. I am going to a land of the policeman's finger where the horse and bicycles still drag out a lingering life. A land of persistent and silent toil. A land of villages and towns as little alike each other as one woman is like the next.
A land where trains are short and one seldom sleeps in them far in any direction within a day they will reach the sea. A land a vast and ancient trees of houses time honored three centuries ago of cathedrals that have been growing for a thousand years and a village church is built while people believed in God. Goodbye America I'm going home. Good bye to a land of a new language and growth of split infinitives and crossbred words. The land where a dinner jacket is a tuxedo a spittoon a cuspidor where your opinion is called your reaction and where vamp instead of meaning an improvised accompany meant to a song means a dangerous female goodbye to the land where a grotesque exaggeration is called humor and people gape in bewilderment at irony as a bullock gapes at a dog straying in his field. Goodbye to the land where strangers say glad to meet you sir and
really seem glad we're children incessantly whine and wail their little desires and never grow much older. Where men keep their trousers up with belts that run through loops and women have to bathe in stockings. I'm going to a line of ancient speech where we will say record and Concord for record and Concord where unnecessarily and extraordinarily must be taken that one Rush as a hedge ditch and rail in the hunting field where we do not commute or check or page but take a season and register and send a boy around. Well we never say we are glad to meet a stranger and seldom are. Where humor is understatement and irony is our habitual resource in danger or distress. But children are told that they are meant to be seen and not heard. Where it is bad form to express emotion and suspenders are strictly feminine article of attire. Good bye America. I am going home.
Goodbye to the multitudinous papers and definite opinion Crandon and sit in significant news and asking you to continue a first page article on page 23 column 5. Goodbye to the weary platitude accepted as wisdoms latest revelation. Goodbye to the docile audiences that lapped rhetoric for sustenance. Goodbye to politicians contending for aims more practical than principles. Good bye to Republicans and Democrats distinguishable only by mutual hatred. Goodbye to the land where liberals are thought dangerous and radicals show red a land too large for concentrated indignation. A land where wealth beyond the dreams of British profiteers dwells dresses gorges and luxury ates emulated and unashamed. I am going to a land of politics violently divergent a land work. Coalitions cannot coalesce where meetings break up and turbulent disorder and no platitude avails to soothe the savage breast. A land fears for personal freedom and indignant with rage for justice a land where wealth is taxed out of sight of
every shame strives to disguise its luxury. A land where an ancient order of feudal families is passing away and labor leaders whom Wall Street would shut her out are hailed by large chancellors as the very fortifications of security. Goodbye America I'm going home. Goodbye to prose chopped up to look like verse. Goodbye to the indiscriminating appetite which gulps lectures and opiates and printed matter as literature. Goodbye to the wizards and witches who claim to psycho analyze my complexes inhibitions and silly dreams goodbye to the exuberant religious or fantastic beliefs by which unsatisfied mankind still strives desperately to penetrate beyond the flaming bulwarks of the world. Good bye Americans. I am going to a country very much like yours. I am going to your spiritual home. Goodbye. And so for the past 30 minutes we have seen ourselves as others see
us and Father preceding 25 weeks. We have sketched a profile of America in terms of its own writer's past and present. The men and women whose life lines of course the length and breadth of our land. We have heard the poems the stories the anecdotes the folklore humorous moving perceptive profound that echoed what we have been what we are and what we hope to be. Thus it seemed fitting in this final program to stand back and let those who are not Americans tell us how we look to them their words can be as instructive as they are perceptive. Please let me thank you anon for joining me in these weekly sessions of self-analysis. If they have stimulated in you a fresh awareness and an appreciation of our country's literature and perhaps reawakened your desire to read further about this land and its people they have been more than worthwhile.
The bookstores and the libraries of this great and varied nation await your pleasure. Now this is Dick Burdick closing the notebook for the last time and saying so long. Listen to the land a series of 26 programs about America by Americans was produced and recorded at station w h y y Philadelphia. Under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center. And is being distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is James Keeler joining with your host and narrator Richard S. verdict in thanking you for being with us for listening to the line.
- Listen to the land
- As others see us
- Producing Organization
- WHYY (Radio station : Philadelphia, Pa.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- In this program, Burdick reads various writings from foreign visitors to the United States, relating their observations about American people and culture.
- Series Description
- America's literary heritage is explored through readings of short stories, poems, folklore, journalism and legends. The series is narrated by Richard S. Burdick.
- Media type
Announcer: Keeler, James
Funder: Nash, Grover C.
Host: Burdick, Richard S.
Producing Organization: WHYY (Radio station : Philadelphia, Pa.)
Writer: Voegeli, Don
Writer: Leacock, Stephen, 1869-1944
Writer: Boyd, Nancy
Writer: Mellish, Joseph Charles, 1768-1823
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 60-54-26 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “Listen to the land; As others see us,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 28, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-7659hh3t.
- MLA: “Listen to the land; As others see us.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 28, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-7659hh3t>.
- APA: Listen to the land; As others see us. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-7659hh3t