Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Deseret: The Opera — Act I

Deseret: The Opera — Act I

By: Ardis E. Parshall - October 17, 2011


An American Opera.

In Three Acts.

Libretto by W.A. Croffut.
Music by Dudley Buck.

Produced, for the First Time, in Haverly’s Fourteenth Street Theatre, New York, Oct. 11,
by the Dudley Buck Opera Company,
Hart Jackson, Manager.

No right of representation is acquired by the purchase of this libretto, and any person infringing the copyright will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

New York, 1880.


Place, Utah. Time, the present. Theme, Mormonism. The sentiment chiefly concerns major Clem, of the United States Army, and Rosamond, who has been, by her Mormon father, promised to Elder Scram for his twenty-fifth wife. The Elder’s wives violently object to his marrying again, but he persists. Joseph Jessup, an unscrupulous Indian Agent, makes mock war on polygamy in the person of Scram, but renewing his interest in the first wife, of whom he was a former lover in Vermont, proposes to her to elope. His letter to her is intercepted by Arabella and the Lieutenant (Rosamond’s brother), who mischievously take twenty-five duplicates on manifold-paper and send to all the wives. The wives come to the rendezvous, and Jessup, recovering from his surprise, elopes with them all. Major Clem rescues Rosamond from imprisonment, Jessup falls into the hands of the plundered and enraged savages, and the wives, again bereaved, resolve to give up matrimony and “go and lecture.”


Elder Scram: Husband of 24 wives and father of 1 child . . . . . . . . . . J. Evarde.
Joseph Jessup: A dishonest Indian Agent, who attacks polygamy . . . . . . . . . . W.G. Coggswell.
Major Clem, of Twenty-seventh Cavalry, near Salt Lake City . . . . . . . . . . Chas. F. Lang.
Lieutenant Montgomery, of Twenty-seventh Cavalry . . . . . . . . . . W.J. Marks.
Rosamond: Daughter of Elder Montgomery, sister of Lieutenant . . . . . . . . . . Miss Julia Polk.
Arabella: Pet of the Army and Sylph of the Plain . . . . . . . . . . Miss Belle Cole.
Sally: Elder Scram’s first wife . . . . . . . . . . Miss Kate French.
Setting Hen: Chief of the Arapahoes . . . . . . . . . . Eugene Eberle.
Baby of Scram & Co.
Soldiers, Indians, etc.


First and Third Acts: Camp of the Twenty-seventh Cavalry.
Second Act: Residence of Elder Scram in Salt Lake City.



(Camp in suburbs of Salt Lake City – soldiers and friendly Indians.)

Chorus of Soldiers.

We follow the chase in eager race,
Wherever the bison be;
To the lava beds we hunt the Reds,
The Modoc and the Cree.
We cook our food in playful mood;
Oh! merry lads are we,
For Sam employs his jolliest boys
In the regular cavalree.


In the reguilar cavalree!
In the regular cavalree!
Ha! ha! ha! etc.
For Sam employs his jolliest boys
In the regular cavalree!

(Setting Hen, overjoyed at song, gives war-whoop.)

Indians (solemnly). How! how! how!


My thoughts will roam to the far-off home
To the girl that is true to me,
Who looks to the West with a loving breast
From the shore of the sunny sea!
But loud and strong we lift our song
On the prairies wild and free,
For Sam employs his jolliest boys
In the regular cavalree!

In the regular cavalree!
In the regular cavalree!
Ha! ha! ha! etc.
For Sam employs his jolliest boys
In the regular cavalree!

Setting Hen (war-whoop).

Indians. How! how! how!

Lieut. But there’s one thing, boys, I’d rather be than even a soldier out here in Utah.

Corp. What can it be, I wonder?

Lieut. Why, I’d rather be an Indian agent.

Corp. Oh! of course! Of course.

Lieut. Here’s this Joseph Jessup. Came here seven years ago from Vermont to superintend the Arapahoes. Salary $1,500. Saved $25,000 out of that the first year.

Corp. The ould rashcal!

Indians How! how! how!

Soldiers (laugh quietly and say). Yes, How – how did he do it?

Lieut. How? How? He’s economical. He is an honest, humble, frugal man. And so he is rich. (Aside) The rascal! And the major still believes in Jessup!

Corp. Liftinant, sure, till me, is your swate sister goin’ to jine the regiment? (This intended for Lieut. only.)

Lieut. My sister Rosamond? Why do you ask such an absurd question?

Corp. Obsurd, is it? whist, Liftinant, it’s betune us two! Faith, I seen ‘em out walkin’ here to-morrow was a week, an’ he was kapin’ her from fallin’, and she had some little posy an’ a-pickin’ it to pieces she was, and sayin’ some nice balderdash about “loves me,” “hates me,” “loves me,” “hates me,” an’ he – oh! begorry, these two auld eyes wasn’t shtuck into me face for nothing!

Lieut. Corporal! (Corp. salutes.) You talk too much and you see too much (looking at watch). It is the hour for daily drill. (To Corp.) Lead off your men!

(Exit Lieut.)

(During prelude Corporal leads off soldiers, followed by straggling Indians. Enter Jessup, recognizing them.)

Jessup. Ha! ha! I’ve cleaned the Injuns out!
Their plight is awfully funny;
They’ve put their peltry up a spout,
And I’ve got all of their money.
The flock in squads around the fort,
As ragged as they can be,
But out of their poverty they support
Superior chaps like me.
Live Injun! bad Injun!
Dead Injun! good Injun!



Ha! ha! the happy hunting ground
Is being rapidly planted
With these red weeds that grow around
And don’t appear to be wanted.
Oh! sweep ‘em off, and leave the room
For Civilization’s tree,
Upon whose topmost branches bloom
Superior flowers like me.
Live Injun! bad Injun!
Dead Injun! good Injun!

I’ve made $300,000 out of these red devils in seven years. I can thrive in a desert like a cactus. By the way, I’ve got all I can out of the Injuns; now I will strike the Mormons for hush-money. I will tomorrow bring suit against Elder Scram in the United States District Court for bigamy. I can make a tool of the Major on account of that little Montgomery gal wanted by Scram, and if I don’t make that devout old humbug come down with a pile of money my name isn’t –

Major (entering). Joseph Jessup!

Jessup. Why, Major! (shakes hands warmly.) What’s the amtter? Cheer up! There’s nothing on earth important enough to be serious about.

Major. O friend! let sorrow find a tongue:
This flowery land is full of pain;
With agony its heart is wrung;
Its tears are shed like summer rain.
See its sweetest maidens flung
To this red dragon of the plain!
Oh! shall such sacrifices be?

Jessup. I see! I see!
You cannot hide your heart from me.

Major. I would not hide my heart from thee –
I love! I love, you guess aright,
A maiden of this sunny land,
With golden hair and eyes of night,
And rosy lips and dimpled hand.
Her father bids her shun the sight
Of any of the Gentile band.
Is this a nation of the free?

Jessup. I see! I see!
You cannot hide your heart from me!

Major. I would not hide my heart from thee!

Jessup. You cannot hide your heart from me!

Cheer up, my friend! You shall have that fair maiden, with the dewy hair and rosy eyes, and – what kind of lips did you say, Major? I don’t need any wife, or wives, myself; but I’m with you in this fight. The outrage of sacrificing beautiful girls to this brutal, heartless, cruel, beastly, confounded, disreputable old monopoly – why, it’s ridiculous! I’m going to make war on polygamy and crush it – if I can do it easy.

(Lieut., entering, salutes major and greets Jessup.)

Jessup. At last I have found out my mission –
To banish the Mormons! The fact is,
I’m bent on complete abolition
Of every polygamous practice.
‘Tis robbery, plunder, extortion!
The sweet creatures seem to abound,
But if one seizes more than his portion
There won’t be enough to go round.

Major. Go forth, reformer, go,
And smite the tyrant down!

Jessup. I will! For Scram & Co.
I’ll do the thing up brown!

Lieut. May victory bless!

Jessup. I fight to win!

All. For happiness
Is born a twin!

Jessup. There’s so many men – here’s the trouble –
Of women there’s scarcely as many;
If one fellow marries ‘em double
Another must go without any.
The love of a pair is Elysian,
But, Major, this maxim is sound –
Unless there’s an equal division,
There won’t be enough to go round!

Major. Release the hapless slave,
And heal the wounded life.

Jessup. I will! No man shall have
A multitudinous wife.

Lieut. One wife, or less!

Jessup. More is a sin!

All. For happiness
Is born a twin!

(Exit Lieutenant, followed by Jessup, who, as he heads off the stage, exclaims impressively to Major Clem:) Ha! listen, and you’ll hear something drop. To-day – this very day – the institution of polygamy begins its death-struggle. Sh! (with finger on lips.) I’ve hired a lawyer! However, keep cool! There’s nothing on earth important enough to be serious about.


Major (alone). Jessup’s a feather-head chap; isn’t very solid; but he means well, and is on the right track. He cannot do any harm. (Goes in tent. Rosamond is heard in distance singing plaintive song. Comes on stage with basket of wild flowers on arm. Goes to brother’s tent, and calls aloud:)

Charley! Charley! Charley!
Where can my gallant brother be?
Gone with the girls to gather berries?
When underneath the chaparral tree
Will he mistake their cheeks for cherries?
Oh! come to me. Oh! come to me!
I wonder where the truant tarries!
Charley! Charley! Charley!

Major (tiptoing from tent, shouts): “Charley!” (laughs heartily at seeing Rosa so startled.)

Rosa (agitated). Oh! tell me, tell me of my brother –
I need him! Oh! I need him now.

Major. Until he comes accept another!
My Rosa, I will be your brother –
Oh! let me help you. Tell me how!

Rosa. I cannot – cannot – O my friend1
My heart is sore! My heart is sore!
Unless my weary troubles end
I hope no more! Hope thou no more!

Major. Your face has filled the hollow earth
With brightness since I hither came,
Till other smiles are nothing worth,
And now my pulse is all aflame.
Je t’aime! Cherie! Je t’aime!

Rosa. I feel my cheeks are all aflame,
He loves – he loves me still the same.

Major. I stretch my hungry hands to you –
With rapture I repeat your name;
In my heart’s garden in the dew
There blooms a hope without a claim.
Je t’aime! Cherie! Je t’aime!

Rosa. To my brave brother, tried and true,
For help I come! For help I come!
How can I tell my griefs to you?
My lips are dumb! my lips are dumb!

Major. I go! I go to bring the lad
Whose loving help will make you glad,
For he will do his part.
From galling chains he’ll set you free
For evermore, and give to me
The angel of my heart!

Rosa. Oh! go. Yes, go and seek the lad
Whose loving help will make me glad,
For he will do his part;
From galling chains he’ll set me free
For evermore and then to thee
I’ll gladly yield my heart!

(Exit Clem. Rosa goes up and down wringing her hands and bewailing her fate.)

Rosa. Oh! I must go home. I must not be found here! Home! to meet my reproachful father, and that other one I hate!

(Exit to rear trees; reappears in front with basket going through woods singing):

Where can my gallant brother be?
Where can my gallant brother be?

(Looks anxiously around on all sides. Scram entering, Rosa starts back disagreeably surprised.)

Scram (confidentially). Ha! well met, my darling! ‘Tis here your father’s word led me to seek you. Full well I know your mind is prepared for the glad tidings I would now impart. With joy receive the blessed news I bear.

I see a new bird for my cage,
And, Rosa, I think you will do.

Rosa. O Elder! remember my age:
I’m too young for marrying you.

Scram. Ah, no! You are lovely and sweet,
And my heart is as fresh as the dew.

Rosa. How many first wives should I meet?

Scram. Ah! bless you, I’ve only a few.

Rosa. I cannot appear on the scene,
Although for the honor I thank you!

Scram. My home you shall rule as a queen,
And none of my wives shall outrank you.
So I seek a new bird for my cage,
And, Rosa, I think you will do!

Rosa. O Elder! remember my age:
I’m too young for marrying you!

Scram. Then rest in this bosom, my dear;
To me be thou speedily “sealed.”

Rosa (aside). My heart is oppressed with such fear.
Oh! may succor be swiftly revealed.

(To Scram.) Oh! Elder, please leave me and go,
And comfort the wives you have got.

Scram. Why, birdie, I’ve marked them down low
As quite an inferior lot.
They’re scrawny; you’re supple and slim,
And handsome, and rosy, and tall –
Rosa. O Father! Oh! save me from him;
I don’t wish to marry at all!

(Exeunt, Scram following and rubbing hands eagerly. Enter Lieut. with soldiers, Indians, etc.)

Lieut. Where is Arabella, the daughter of the Regiment? I have not seen her in camp this morning. Where can she be? Ah! here she comes. (She enters with bundle of green herbs in her arms.)

Arabella. Wal, there! I’m tired as a mill-wheel. I’ve strammed all over this blamed ranch for healin’ yarbs – scratched myself all to pieces. There’s (parceling them off)

Tansy fer rheumatiz,
Boneset for measles,
Wormwood fer seasonable complaints,
Peppermint fer mumps,
Blood-root fer biles,
Elecampane fer corns,
Catnip fer ringbone.

(Advances and sings:)

I’m cheerful and happy in doing my duty,
Devoted all day to the good and the true;
I stand at the tub in my natural beauty,
To wash out the duds of my darlings in blue.

(Chorus.) The Regiment’s daughter
With soap and hot water
From scrubbing and rubbing will never refrain,
And that is why all her
Acquaintances call her
The pet of the army, the sylph of the plain!

Arabella. I marched with the lads on the far-rolling prairie,
Where no other lady for months you would see,
And when they thought sadly of Mattie or Mary
I always cried, “Darlings! cheer up! look at me!”

(Chorus.) The Regiment’s daughter
With soap and hot water
From scrubbing and rubbing will never refrain,
And that is why all her
Acquaintances call her
The pet of the army, the sylph of the plain!

(Lieut.) What distant sounds come borne upon the wind?

(All listen attentively.)

Arabella. Ah, yes! I know. The wives of Scram approach. Their daily walk now taking.

(Enter Wives, one drawing baby-wagon.)

(Wives.) We’re out for an airing
And homeward are faring,
We pick huckleberries
While singing our ditty.
We heard your brave drumming,
And could not help coming.
We have but one husband
Far off in the city;
To him must we hasten,
Altho’ ‘tis a pity!

Arabella (sarcastically. They have but one husband,
And that is a pity!
Who cares if they leave us
And fly to the city?

Lieut. O ladies! don’t leave us,
Nor fly to the city.

Wives. The song we were singing,
Its echoes are ringing!
A moment we’ll linger
And sing it together!

Soldiers. the song you were singing
Its echoes are ringing!
And if you will linger
We’ll sing it together.

Major (comes from tent). Oh! linger, ladies. Your visits are but seldom. Not much have we to offer, but the council which I now must hold may interest you. Setting Hen, I now can hear you. What are your complaints?

Setting Hen (war-whoop). Injun heap trouble! (Other Indians: How! how! how!) White man lie! White Father take land, drive far off buffalo, say he give blanket, say he give powder, say he gibe grub – white man lie fast! Injun heap hungry! (How! how! how!) Braves all hungry (turning to them). Squaws hungry – can’t tote wigwam. Papooses hungry – die. Eat no grub since last moon. White man lie big. Me so hungry me ‘most fall on ground. White Father and Jessup – good man! (How! how! how!) Jessup show Injun raise little seed. show Injun plant ground. Sell Injun hoe. Jessup good man. Injun heap hungry! (How! how! how!) White Father lie. White Father no give Jessup grub for Injun. Jessup show us talk Yankee talk. (Turning to Indians) Talk Yankee.

Indians (solemnly). Dam!

Setting Hen. More Yankee talk.

Indians (solemnly). Rum!

Setting Hen. More Yankee talk.

Indians (solemnly). Keno! Rumdam! Rip! Skedaddle!

Setting Hen. Jessup bring calico frock for squaw. Jessup sell beads – keep squaw warm. Jessup good man. Jessup bring ox. No much grub – skin bones. Injun heap hungry. (How! how! how!) Make Injun’s heart cry all time. White Father lie! (How! how! how!)

I’m the Setting Hen you’ve heard of!
Now behold thy child is hungry;
Simple infant of the forest,
Hungry as a famished wildcat,
Stomach like a hollow poplar!
Tighter draw my beltum – no good!
Long time I’ve had nary rye juice,
Canteen nixy fiery water;
See, I tip him topsy-turvy,
And there an’t a bit of smellum;
See, I hammer on my stomach –
Injun hungry, Injun thirsty!
Rip! Dam! You bet!

Major. Me write (making motion with hand) white Father – big White Father – send more money (How! how!), more blankets (How! how!), more grub (How! how!)

Setting Hen. Write fast, write big (making large circles with a stick on the ground). Injun heap hungry! (How! how! how! how!) (The Indians now rise and begin the “Peace Dance.” The others sing the following words:)

Lo! The mighty Yankee nation
Loves to drive the Indians on,

(Indians. How! how!)

And no treaty stipulation
Makes it blush for what is done.

(How! how!)

When they want a reservation
Off they start us on a run
To hunt ‘em down.
To hunt ‘em down,
And think it lots of fun!

Robbing Indians isn’t stealing –
You can never wrong a Red;

(How! how!)

Killing one don’t hurt his feeling,
And he’s nicest when he’s dead.

(How! how!)

They ain’t fit for honest dealing,
So our pioneers are bred
To hunt ‘em down,
To hunt ‘em down,
It’s an awful waste of lead.

Keep away your school-book teaching;
If you educate their eyes

(How! how!)

They’ll detect our overreaching
When we furnish their supplies.

(How! how!)

All your namby-pamby preaching
Cannot make a savage rise;
To hunt ‘em down,
To hunt ‘em down,
Is the way to civilize!

End of Act I.




  1. Embarrassingly bad stereotype of Native Americans…check!
    Embarrassingly bad stereotype of Mormons…check!
    Embarrassingly bad stereotype of Indian Agents…check!
    Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I can see some not too subtle double meaning in Arabella’s song, which could be camped up (pun intended) for effect by the actress.

    Did Parker and Stone use this as source material for the BoM musical (sub Ugandans for Native Americans, and put the vulgarity right up front)?

    Maybe it’s just me, but I see some significant social commentary here, and perhaps the critics didn’t like it being pointed out to them.

    I laughed too about “24 wives but only 1 child”. I’d love to be able to hear the music.

    Comment by kevinf — October 17, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

  2. Uhm. This is pretty right on with regard to 19th Century Indian agents. I agree on the Native American and Mormon stereotypes. But, as a Mormon, I’d be glad to hear some of those songs. Reading along it seems like you can fit in any number of Sir Arthur Sullivan’s tunes and it works.

    Comment by Grant — October 17, 2011 @ 5:26 pm

  3. This needed a facebook link so I could click “like” and share it with people :)

    Comment by Stephen M (ethesis) — October 17, 2011 @ 8:33 pm

  4. Wow. The Sullivanesque music practically writes itself (and I just love “Hump-te-lump-te-lee!”).

    Scram (confidentially). Ha! well met, my darling!

    Not sure if he reminds me more of Dick Deadeye or Snidely Whiplash; one can so easily imagine him twirling his mustachios (or caressing his luxuriantly patriarchal beard).

    Comment by SLK in SF — October 18, 2011 @ 9:33 am

  5. Grant, I only said that the stereotype of the Indian agent was embarrassingly bad, not inaccurate. (insert your favorite emoticon here)

    Comment by kevinf — October 18, 2011 @ 12:48 pm

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