Horace Russell & William Greene

The Japanese Lovers (ca. 1870?)

Fanny Foo-Foo was a Japanese girl,
A child of the great Tycoon;
She wore her head bald, and her clothes were made
Half petticoat, half pantaloon;
And her face was the color of lemon peel,
And the shape of a tablespoon.

A handsome young chap was Johnny Hi-Hi;
He wore paper-muslin clothes;
His glossy black hair on the top of his head
In the shape of a shoe brush rose;
And his eyes slanted downward, as if some chap
Had savagely pulled his nose.

Fanny Foo-Foo loved Johnny Hi-Hi,
And when in the usual style
He popped, she blushed such a deep orange tinge
You’d have thought she had too much bile,
If it hadn’t been for her slant-eyed glance
And her charming widemouthed smile.

And oft in the bliss of their newborn love
Did these little Pagans stray
All around in spots, enjoying themselves
In a strictly Japanese way,
She howling a song on a one-stringed lute,
On which she thought she could play.

Often he’d climb on a high ladder’s top,
And quietly there repose,
As he stood on his head and fanned himself,
While she balanced him on her nose,
Or else she would get in a pickle tub,
And be kicked around on his toes.

The course of true love, even in Japan,
Often runs extremely rough,
And the fierce Tycoon, when he heard of this,
Used Japanese oaths so tough
That his courtiers’ hair would have stood on end
If they’d only had enough.

So the Tycoon buckled on both his swords,
In his pistol placed a wad,
And went out to hunt for the truant pair,
With his nerves well braced by a tod.
He found them enjoying their guileless selves
On the top of a lightning rod.

Sternly he ordered the gentle Foo-Foo
To “Come down out of that there!”
And he told Hi-Hi to go to a place—
I won’t say precisely where.
Then he dragged off his child, whose spasms evinced
Unusual wild despair.

But the great Tycoon was badly fooled,
Despite his paternal pains,
For John, with a toothpick, let all the blood
Out of his jugular veins;
While with a back somersault over the floor
Foo-Foo battered out her brains.

They buried them both in the Tycoon’s lot
Right under a dogwood tree,
Where they could list to the nightingale
And the buzz of the bumblebee,
And where the mosquito’s sorrowful chant
Maddens the restless flea.

And often at night when the Tycoon’s wife
Slumbered as sound as a post,
His almond-shaped eyeballs glanced at a sight
That scared him to death, almost:
’Twas a bald-headed spectre flitting about
With a paper-muslin ghost.

‘The Japanese Lovers’ appeared in the first (1936) edition of the redoubtable Best Loved Poems of the American People, compiled by Hazel Felleman, but surely the work is from much earlier. Where Felleman came across it is a mystery. It does not appear in any earlier standard anthology, and no collection of verse, song, or doggerel by a Horace Russell or a William Greene either together or separately appears in any major database. Remarkably, nonethelss, wherever Felleman found the poem, and whatever one may say of her taste in including it, she knew what sells. Best Loved Poems of the American People has been in print since it first appeared in 1936, and so the tale of Fanny Foo-Foo and Johnny Hi-Hi remains in 2003 readily available in a highly popular anthology in bookshops across the United States, and is available on-line here.

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