Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Poem for Hill Country: THE PRAYER OF CYRUS BROWN by Sam Foss

By special request, below is a re-post of the most widely read poem article published at Hill Country --- the delightful poem The Prayer of Cyrus Brown by Sam Walter Foss. It was originally presented at Hill Country on June 24, 2007 (#094, Hill Country of Monroe County Mississippi, Volume 1).

Praying in Hill Country


I'd bet that everyone who has ever prayed remembers the "prayingest prayer they ever prayed" --- remembers the circumstances, the time of day, the when and the where, and the outcome of that prayingest prayer they've ever uttered.

The American poet, Sam Walter Foss [1858-1911], summed it up just fine in his poem, The Prayer of Cyrus Brown. Foss' character Mr. Brown remembered well the circumstances of his prayingest prayer he'd ever uttered. And Foss' poems all have that touch of reality and humanity and humility to make him a true poet of the people. Plus Foss is funny as all get out at times.

Further, Foss tells us through this humor that there are perhaps many ways of accomplishing life's little tasks --- and that the soothsayers, naysayers, and self-appointed do-righters who argue that there is one and only one true way have never fallen head-first into the kind of problem Mr. Brown, a common man, found himself caught up in. Read on. . .


"The proper way for a man to pray,"
Said Deacon Lemuel Keyes, "
And the only proper attitude
Is down upon his knees."

"No, I should say the way to pray,"
Said Rev. Dr. Wise,
Is standing straight, with outstretched arms,
And rapt and upturned eyes."

"Oh, no; no, no," said Elder Slow,
Such posture is too proud;
A man should pray with eyes fast closed
And head contritely bowed."

"It seems to me his hands should be
Austerely clasped in front,
With both thumbs pointing toward the ground,"
Said Rev. Dr. Blunt.

"Las' year I fell in Hodgkin's well
Head first," said Cyrus Brown,
With both my heels a-stickin' up,
My head a-pinting down.

"An' I made a prayer right then an' there--
Best prayer I ever said.
The prayingest prayer I ever prayed,
A-standing on my head."

Also see a brief look at Foss at Hill County, post at

Foss, Sam Walter. The Prayer of Cyrus Brown. Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wit and Humor of America, Volume VII (of X). Available online at link:

Foss, Sam Walter.

Photograph "Well at the Back Door" by Clifton Johnson. Highways and Byways of the Pacific Coast. New York: Macmillan Company, page 213. Available online at Google Full-view Books. PDF copy in file of writer.

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