chapter  5
10 Pages

The Decline of Mother Goose

One sees, to be sure, less and less dancing on the streets of New York. Progress has encroached upon pedestrian, as well as equestrian territories. I n the days of the hurdy-gurdy , the gut ter , as well as the sidewalk, lent ample space to unconscious arms and feet. Nobody minded horses and carriages, horses and trucks. As like as not, the horses and vehicles took p a r t in the dance, or respected the improvised show by swerving out of the p a t h of the organ, I tal ian, monkey, J a c k and Jil l . J a c k and J i l l are married now. If they ' re careless enough to have children, the children are kept off the streets. J a c k is quite prosperous in a land whose leading ideal is prosperi ty. His business downtown is successful enough for him to have rented the tenth-story elevator apar tment uptown over which J i l l presides with matronly efficiency and on whose divans and chairs ( "Not on the floor, my dears!") the kids play their solemn games. I may exaggerate the por t ra i t of the family. There are cousins of J ack and J i l l who are not so prosperous, who live in tenements, and whose children are forced to play in the streets no longer safe for even the most circumspect adult. But the poor relations envy their prosperous cousins. There is no state as conceivably happy as the lofty apar tment uptown. The relations work all their heads and hands toward removing the stigma of poverty from their backs and toward crowning their heads with respectability. I t is a dolorous game, well named, Keeping up with the Joneses. A t the hear t of the game lies the unceasing dread of economic failure: the most terrible dread in America. W e judge one another solely by the success achieved in a given profession. And tha t success is measured not by intellectual or moral or esthetic, but by material supremacy. Bu t this is an old story. W h a t has become of Mother Goose?