Part 10 out of 21
Or else thet they'd cair off the leg, an' fairly cut an' run.
I vow I didn't b'lieve there wuz a decent alligatur
Thet hed a heart so destitoot o' common human natur;
However, ez there worn't no help, I finally give in 200
An' heft my arms away to git my leg safe back agin.
Pomp gethered all the weapins up, an' then he come an' grinned,
He showed his ivory some, I guess, an' sez, 'You're fairly pinned;
Jest buckle on your leg agin, an' git right up an' come,
'T wun't du fer fammerly men like me to be so long frum hum.'
At fust I put my foot right down an' swore I wouldn't budge.
'Jest ez you choose,' sez he, quite cool, 'either be shot or trudge.'
So this black-hearted monster took an' act'lly druv me back
Along the very feetmarks o' my happy mornin' track,
An' kep' me pris'ner 'bout six months, an' worked me, tu, like sin, 210
Till I hed gut his corn an' his Carliny taters in;
He made me larn him readin', tu (although the crittur saw
How much it hut my morril sense to act agin the law),
So'st he could read a Bible he'd gut; an' axed ef I could pint
The North Star out; but there I put his nose some out o' jint,
Fer I weeled roun' about sou'west, an', lookin' up a bit,
Picked out a middlin' shiny one an' tole him thet wuz it.
Fin'lly he took me to the door, an' givin' me a kick,
Sez, 'Ef you know wut's best fer ye, be off, now, double-quick;
The winter-time's a comin' on, an' though I gut ye cheap, 220
You're so darned lazy, I don't think you're hardly woth your keep;
Besides, the childrin's growin' up, an' you aint jest the model
I'd like to hev 'em immertate, an' so you'd better toddle!'
Now is there anythin' on airth'll ever prove to me
Thet renegader slaves like him air fit fer bein' free?
D' you think they'll suck me in to jine the Buff'lo chaps, an' them
Rank infidels thet go agin the Scriptur'l cus o' Shem?
Not by a jugfull! sooner 'n thet, I'd go thru fire an' water;
Wen I hev once made up my mind, a meet'nhus aint sotter; 229
No, not though all the crows thet flies to pick my bones wuz cawin',--
I guess we're in a Christian land,--
[Here, patient reader, we take leave of each other, I trust with some
mutual satisfaction. I say _patient_, for I love not that kind which
skims dippingly over the surface of the page, as swallows over a pool
before rain. By such no pearls shall be gathered. But if no pearls there
be (as, indeed the world is not without example of books wherefrom the
longest-winded diver shall bring up no more than his proper handful of
mud), yet let us hope that an oyster or two may reward adequate
perseverance. If neither pearls nor oysters, yet is patience itself a
gem worth diving deeply for.
It may seem to some that too much space has been usurped by my own
private lucubrations, and some may be fain to bring against me that old
jest of him who preached all his hearers out of the meeting-house save
only the sexton, who, remaining for yet a little space, from a sense of
official duty, at last gave out also, and, presenting the keys, humbly
requested our preacher to lock the doors, when he should have wholly
relieved himself of his testimony. I confess to a satisfaction in the
self act of preaching, nor do I esteem a discourse to be wholly thrown
away even upon a sleeping or unintelligent auditory. I cannot easily
believe that the Gospel of Saint John, which Jacques Cartier ordered to
be read in the Latin tongue to the Canadian savages, upon his first
meeting with them, fell altogether upon stony ground. For the
earnestness of the preacher is a sermon appreciable by dullest
intellects and most alien ears. In this wise did Episcopius convert many
to his opinions, who yet understood not the language in which he
discoursed. The chief thing is that the messenger believe that he has an
authentic message to deliver. For counterfeit messengers that mode of
treatment which Father John de Plano Carpini relates to have prevailed
among the Tartars would seem effectual, and, perhaps, deserved enough.
For my own part, I may lay claim to so much of the spirit of martyrdom
as would have led me to go into banishment with those clergymen whom
Alphonso the Sixth of Portugal drave out of his kingdom for refusing to
shorten their pulpit eloquence. It is possible, that, I having been
invited into my brother Biglow's desk, I may have been too little
scrupulous in using it for the venting of my own peculiar doctrines to a
congregation drawn together in the expectation and with the desire of
I am not wholly unconscious of a peculiarity of mental organization
which impels me, like the railroad-engine with its train of cars, to run
backward for a short distance in order to obtain a fairer start. I may
compare myself to one fishing from the rocks when the sea runs high,
who, misinterpreting the suction of the undertow for the biting of some
larger fish, jerks suddenly, and finds that he has _caught bottom_,
hauling in upon the end of his line a trail of various _algae_, among
which, nevertheless, the naturalist may haply find somewhat to repay the
disappointment of the angler. Yet have I conscientiously endeavored to
adapt myself to the impatient temper of the age, daily degenerating more
and more from the high standard of our pristine New England. To the
catalogue of lost arts I would mournfully add also that of listening to
two-hour sermons. Surely we have been abridged into a race of pygmies.
For, truly, in those of the old discourses yet subsisting to us in
print, the endless spinal column of divisions and subdivisions can be
likened to nothing so exactly as to the vertebrae of the saurians,
whence the theorist may conjecture a race of Anakim proportionate to the
withstanding of these other monsters. I say Anakim rather than Nephelim,
because there seem reasons for supposing that the race of those whose
heads (though no giants) are constantly enveloped in clouds (which that
name imports) will never become extinct. The attempt to vanquish the
innumerable _heads_ of one of those aforementioned discourses may supply
us with a plausible interpretation of the second labor of Hercules, and
his successful experiment with fire affords us a useful precedent.
But while I lament the degeneracy of the age in this regard, I cannot
refuse to succumb to its influence. Looking out through my study-window,
I see Mr. Biglow at a distance busy in gathering his Baldwins, of which,
to judge by the number of barrels lying about under the trees, his crop
is more abundant than my own,--by which sight I am admonished to turn to
those orchards of the mind wherein my labors may be more prospered, and
apply myself diligently to the preparation of my next Sabbath's
* * * * *
[Greek: 'Estin ar o idiotismos eniote tou kosmou parapolu
'J'aimerois mieulx que mon fils apprinst aux tavernes a parler, qu'aux
escholes de la parlerie.'
"Unser Sprach ist auch ein Sprach und fan so wohl ein Sad nennen als
die Lateiner saccus."
'Vim rebus aliquando ipsa verborum humilitas affert.'
'O ma lengo,
Plantarey une estelo a toun froun encrumit!'
* * * * *
'Multos enim, quibus loquendi ratio non desit, invenias, quos curiose
potius loqui dixeris quam Latine; quomodo et illa Attica anus
Theophrastum, hominem alioqui disertissimum, annotata unius affectatione
verbi, hospitem dixit, nec alio se id deprehendisse interrogata
respondit, quam quod nimium Attice loqueretur.'--QUINTILIANUS.
'Et Anglice sermonicari solebat populo, sed secundum linguam Norfolchie
ubi natus et nutritus erat.'--CRONICA JOCELINI.
'La politique est une pierre attachee an cou de la litterature, et qui en
moins de six mois la submerge.... Cette politique va offenser mortellement
une moitie des lecteurs, et ennuyer l'autre qui l'a trouvee bien autrement
speciale et energique dans le journal du matin.'--HENRI BEYLE.
[When the book appeared it bore a dedication to E.R. Hoar, and was
introduced by an essay of the Yankee form of English speech. This
Introduction is so distinctly an essay that it has been thought best to
print it as an appendix to this volume, rather than allow it to break in
upon the pages of verse. There is, however, one passage in it which may
be repeated here, since it bears directly upon the poem which serves as
a sort of prelude to the series.]
'The only attempt I had ever made at anything like a pastoral (if that
may be called an attempt which was the result almost of pure accident)
was in _The Courtin'_. While the introduction to the First Series was
going through the press, I received word from the printer that there was
a blank page left which must be filled. I sat down at once and
improvised another fictitious "notice of the press," in which, because
verse would fill up space more cheaply than prose, I inserted an extract
from a supposed ballad of Mr. Biglow. I kept no copy of it, and the
printer, as directed, cut it off when the gap was filled. Presently I
began to receive letters asking for the rest of it, sometimes for the
_balance_ of it. I had none, but to answer such demands, I patched a
conclusion upon it in a later edition. Those who had only the first
continued to importune me. Afterward, being asked to write it out as an
autograph for the Baltimore Sanitary Commission Fair, I added other
verses, into some of which I infused a little more sentiment in a homely
way, and after a fashion completed it by sketching in the characters and
making a connected story. Most likely I have spoiled it, but I shall put
it at the end of this Introduction, to answer once for all those kindly
God makes sech nights, all white an' still
Fur 'z you can look or listen,
Moonshine an' snow on field an' hill,
All silence an' all glisten.
Zekle crep' up quite unbeknown
An' peeked in thru' the winder,
An' there sot Huldy all alone,
'ith no one nigh to hender.
A fireplace filled the room's one side
With half a cord o' wood in--
There warn't no stoves (tell comfort died)
To bake ye to a puddin'.
The wa'nut logs shot sparkles out
Towards the pootiest, bless her,
An' leetle flames danced all about
The chiny on the dresser.
Agin the chimbley crook-necks hung,
An' in amongst 'em rusted
The ole queen's-arm thet gran'ther Young
Fetched back f'om Concord busted.
The very room, coz she was in,
Seemed warm f'om floor to ceilin',
An' she looked full ez rosy agin
Ez the apples she was peelin'.
'Twas kin' o' kingdom come to look
On sech a blessed cretur,
A dogrose blushin' to a brook
Ain't modester nor sweeter.
He was six foot o' man, A 1,
Clear grit an' human natur',
None couldn't quicker pitch a ton
Nor dror a furrer straighter.
He'd sparked it with full twenty gals,
Hed squired 'em, danced 'em, druv 'em,
Fust this one, an' then thet, by spells--
All is, he couldn't love 'em.
But long o' her his veins 'ould run
All crinkly like curled maple,
The side she breshed felt full o' sun
Ez a south slope in Ap'il.
She thought no v'ice hed sech a swing
Ez hisn in the choir;
My! when he made Ole Hunderd ring,
She _knowed_ the Lord was nigher.
An' she'd blush scarlit, right in prayer,
When her new meetin'-bunnet
Felt somehow thru' its crown a pair
O' blue eyes sot upon it.
Thet night, I tell ye, she looked _some!_
She seemed to've gut a new soul,
For she felt sartin-sure he'd come,
Down to her very shoe-sole.
She heered a foot, an' knowed it tu,
A-raspin' on the scraper,--
All ways to once, her feelins flew
Like sparks in burnt-up paper.
He kin' o' l'itered on the mat,
Some doubtfle o' the sekle,
His heart kep' goin' pity-pat,
But hern went pity Zekle.
An' yit she gin her cheer a jerk
Ez though she wished him furder,
An' on her apples kep' to work,
Parin' away like murder.
'You want to see my Pa, I s'pose?'
'Wal ... no ... I come dasignin'--
'To see my Ma? She's sprinklin' clo'es
Agin to-morrer's i'nin'.'
To say why gals acts so or so,
Or don't, 'ould be persumin';
Mebby to mean _yes_ an' say _no_
Comes nateral to women.
He stood a spell on one foot fust,
Then stood a spell on t'other,
An' on which one he felt the wust
He couldn't ha' told ye nuther.
Says he, 'I'd better call agin:'
Says she, 'Think likely, Mister:'
Thet last word pricked him like a pin,
An' ... Wal, he up an' kist her.
When Ma bimeby upon 'em slips,
Huldy sot pale ez ashes,
All kin' o' smily roun' the lips
An' teary roun' the lashes.
For she was jes' the quiet kind
Whose naturs never vary,
Like streams that keep a summer mind
Snowhid in Jenooary.
The blood clost roun' her heart felt glued
Too tight for all expressin',
Tell mother see how metters stood,
An' gin 'em both her blessin'.
Then her red come back like the tide
Down to the Bay o' Fundy,
An' all I know is they was cried
In meetin' come nex' Sunday.
THE BIGLOW PAPERS
BIRDOFREDUM SAWIN, ESQ.,
TO MR. HOSEA BIGLOW
LETTER FROM THE REVEREND HOMER WILBUR, M.A., ENCLOSING THE EPISTLE
JAALAM, 15th Nov., 1861.
* * * * *
It is not from any idle wish to obtrude my humble person with undue
prominence upon the publick view that I resume my pen upon the present
occasion. _Juniores ad labores_. But having been a main instrument in
rescuing the talent of my young parishioner from being buried in the
ground, by giving it such warrant with the world as could be derived
from a name already widely known by several printed discourses (all of
which I may be permitted without immodesty to state have been deemed
worthy of preservation in the Library of Harvard College by my esteemed
friend Mr. Sibley), it seemed becoming that I should not only testify to
the genuineness of the following production, but call attention to it,
the more as Mr. Biglow had so long been silent as to be in danger of
absolute oblivion. I insinuate no claim to any share in the authorship
(_vix ea nostra voco_) of the works already published by Mr. Biglow, but
merely take to myself the credit of having fulfilled toward them the
office of taster (_experto crede_), who, having first tried, could
afterward bear witness (_credenzen_ it was aptly named by the Germans),
an office always arduous, and sometimes even dangerous, as in the case
of those devoted persons who venture their lives in the deglutition of
patent medicines (_dolus latet in generalibus_, there is deceit in the
most of them) and thereafter are wonderfully preserved long enough to
append their signatures to testimonials in the diurnal and hebdomadal
prints. I say not this as covertly glancing at the authors of certain
manuscripts which have been submitted to my literary judgment (though an
epick in twenty-four books on the 'Taking of Jericho' might, save for
the prudent forethought of Mrs. Wilbur in secreting the same just as I
had arrived beneath the walls and was beginning a catalogue of the
various horns and their blowers, too ambitiously emulous in longanimity
of Homer's list of ships, might, I say, have rendered frustrate any hope
I could entertain _vacare Musis_ for the small remainder of my days),
but only the further to secure myself against any imputation of unseemly
forthputting. I will barely subjoin, in this connexion, that, whereas
Job was left to desire, in the soreness of his heart, that his adversary
had written a book, as perchance misanthropically wishing to indite a
review thereof, yet was not Satan allowed so far to tempt him as to send
Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar each with an unprinted work in his wallet to
be submitted to his censure. But of this enough. Were I in need of other
excuse, I might add that I write by the express desire of Mr. Biglow
himself, whose entire winter leisure is occupied, as he assures me, in
answering demands for autographs, a labor exacting enough in itself, and
egregiously so to him, who, being no ready penman, cannot sign so much
as his name without strange contortions of the face (his nose, even,
being essential to complete success) and painfully suppressed
Saint-Vitus-dance of every muscle in his body. This, with his having
been put in the Commission of the Peace by our excellent Governor (_O,
si sic omnes!_) immediately on his accession to office, keeps him
continually employed. _Haud inexpertus loquor_, having for many years
written myself J.P., and being not seldom applied to for specimens of my
chirography, a request to which I have sometimes over weakly assented,
believing as I do that nothing written of set purpose can properly be
called an autograph, but only those unpremeditated sallies and lively
runnings which betray the fireside Man instead of the hunted Notoriety
doubling on his pursuers. But it is time that I should bethink me of St.
Austin's prayer, _libera me a meipso_, if I would arrive at the matter
Moreover, I had yet another reason for taking up the pen myself. I am
informed that 'The Atlantic Monthly' is mainly indebted for its success
to the contributions and editorial supervision of Dr. Holmes, whose
excellent 'Annals of America' occupy an honored place upon my shelves.
The journal itself I have never seen; but if this be so, it might seem
that the recommendation of a brother-clergyman (though _par magis quam
similis_) should carry a greater weight. I suppose that you have a
department for historical lucubrations, and should be glad, if deemed
desirable, to forward for publication my 'Collections for the
Antiquities of Jaalam,' and my (now happily complete) pedigree of the
Wilbur family from its _fons et origo_, the Wild Boar of Ardennes.
Withdrawn from the active duties of my profession by the settlement of a
colleague-pastor, the Reverend Jeduthun Hitchcock, formerly of Brutus
Four-Corners, I might find time for further contributions to general
literature on similar topicks. I have made large advances towards a
completer genealogy of Mrs. Wilbur's family, the Pilcoxes, not, if I
know myself, from any idle vanity, but with the sole desire of rendering
myself useful in my day and generation. _Nulla dies sine linea_. I
inclose a meteorological register, a list of the births, deaths, and
marriages, and a few _memorabilia_ of longevity in Jaalam East Parish
for the last half-century. Though spared to the unusual period of more
than eighty years, I find no diminution of my faculties or abatement of
my natural vigor, except a scarcely sensible decay of memory and a
necessity of recurring to younger eyesight or spectacles for the finer
print in Cruden. It would gratify me to make some further provision for
declining years from the emoluments of my literary labors. I had
intended to effect an insurance on my life, but was deterred therefrom
by a circular from one of the offices, in which the sudden death of so
large a proportion of the insured was set forth as an inducement, that
it seemed to me little less than a tempting of Providence. _Neque in
summa inopia levis esse senectus potest, ne sapienti quidem_.
Thus far concerning Mr. Biglow; and so much seemed needful (_brevis esse
laboro_) by way of preliminary, after a silence of fourteen years. He
greatly fears lest he may in this essay have fallen below himself, well
knowing that, if exercise be dangerous on a full stomach, no less so is
writing on a full reputation. Beset as he has been on all sides, he
could not refrain, and would only imprecate patience till he shall again
have 'got the hang' (as he calls it) of an accomplishment long disused.
The letter of Mr. Sawin was received some time in last June, and others
have followed which will in due season be submitted to the publick. How
largely his statements are to be depended on, I more than merely
dubitate. He was always distinguished for a tendency to
exaggeration,--it might almost be qualified by a stronger term.
_Fortiter mentire, aliquid haeret_ seemed to be his favorite rule of
rhetoric. That he is actually where he says he is the postmark would
seem to confirm; that he was received with the publick demonstrations he
describes would appear consonant with what we know of the habits of
those regions; but further than this I venture not to decide. I have
sometimes suspected a vein of humor in him which leads him to speak by
contraries; but since, in the unrestrained intercourse of private life,
I have never observed in him any striking powers of invention, I am the
more willing to put a certain qualified faith in the incidents and the
details of life and manners which give to his narratives some portion of
the interest and entertainment which characterizes a Century Sermon.
It may be expected of me that I should say something to justify myself
with the world for a seeming inconsistency with my well-known principles
in allowing my youngest son to raise a company for the war, a fact known
to all through the medium of the publick prints. I did reason with the
young man, but _expellas naturam furca tamen usque recurrit_. Having
myself been a chaplain in 1812, I could the less wonder that a man of
war had sprung from my loins. It was, indeed, grievous to send my
Benjamin, the child of my old age; but after the discomfiture of
Manassas, I with my own hands did buckle on his armor, trusting in the
great Comforter and Commander for strength according to my need. For
truly the memory of a brave son dead in his shroud were a greater staff
of my declining years than a living coward (if those may be said to have
lived who carry all of themselves into the grave with them), though his
days might be long in the land, and he should get much goods. It is not
till our earthen vessels are broken that we find and truly possess the
treasure that was laid up in them. _Migravi in animam meam_, I have
sought refuge in my own soul; nor would I be shamed by the heathen
comedian with his _Neqwam illud verbum, bene vult, nisi bene facit_.
During our dark days, I read constantly in the inspired book of Job,
which I believe to contain more food to maintain the fibre of the soul
for right living and high thinking than all pagan literature together,
though I would by no means vilipend the study of the classicks. There I
read that Job said in his despair, even as the fool saith in his heart
there is no God,--'The tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that
provoke God are secure.' (Job xii. 6.) But I sought farther till I found
this Scripture also, which I would have those perpend who have striven
to turn our Israel aside to the worship of strange gods.--'If I did
despise the cause of my manservant or of my maid-servant, when they
contended with me, what then shall I do when God riseth up? and when he
visiteth, what shall I answer him?' (Job xxxi. 13, 14.) On this text I
preached a discourse on the last day of Fasting and Humiliation with
general acceptance, though there were not wanting one or two Laodiceans
who said that I should have waited till the President announced his
policy. But let us hope and pray, remembering this of Saint Gregory,
_Vult Deus rogari, vult cogi, vult quadam importunitate vinci_.
We had our first fall of snow on Friday last. Frosts have been unusually
backward this fall. A singular circumstance occurred in this town on the
20th October, in the family of Deacon Pelatiah Tinkham. On the previous
evening, a few moments before family prayers,
* * * * *
[The editors of the 'Atlantic' find it necessary here to cut short the
letter of their valued correspondent, which seemed calculated rather on
the rates of longevity in Jaalam than for less favored localities. They
have every encouragement to hope that he will write again.]
With esteem and respect, Your obedient servant, Homer Wilbur, A.M.
It's some consid'ble of a spell sence I hain't writ no letters,
An' ther' 's gret changes hez took place in all polit'cle metters:
Some canderdates air dead an' gone, an' some hez ben defeated,
Which 'mounts to pooty much the same; fer it's ben proved repeated
A betch o' bread thet hain't riz once ain't goin' to rise agin,
An' it's jest money throwed away to put the emptins in:
But thet's wut folks wun't never larn; they dunno how to go,
Arter you want their room, no more 'n a bullet-headed bean;
Ther' 's ollers chaps a-hangin' roun' thet can't see peatime's past,
Mis'ble as roosters in a rain, heads down an' tails half-mast: 10
It ain't disgraceful bein' beat, when a holl nation doos it,
But Chance is like an amberill,--it don't take twice to lose it.
I spose you're kin' o' cur'ous, now, to know why I hain't writ.
Wal, I've ben where a litt'ry taste don't somehow seem to git
Th' encouragement a feller'd think, thet's used to public schools,
An' where sech things ez paper 'n' ink air clean agin the rules:
A kind o' vicyvarsy house, built dreffle strong an' stout,
So 's 't honest people can't get in, ner t'other sort git out.
An' with the winders so contrived, you'd prob'ly like the view
Better alookin' in than out, though it seems sing'lar, tu; 20
But then the landlord sets by ye, can't bear ye out o' sight,
And locks ye up ez reg'lar ez an outside door at night.
This world is awfle contrary: the rope may stretch your neck
Thet mebby kep' another chap frum washin' off a wreck;
An' you may see the taters grow in one poor feller's patch,
So small no self-respectin' hen thet vallied time 'ould scratch,
So small the rot can't find 'em out, an' then agin, nex' door,
Ez big ez wut hogs dream on when they're 'most too fat to snore.
But groutin' ain't no kin' o' use; an' ef the fust throw fails,
Why, up an' try agin, thet's all,--the coppers ain't all tails, 30
Though I _hev_ seen 'em when I thought they hedn't no more head
Than 'd sarve a nussin' Brigadier thet gits some Ink to shed.
When I writ last, I'd ben turned loose by thet blamed nigger, Pomp,
Ferlorner than a musquash, ef you'd took an' dreened his swamp;
But I ain't o' the meechin' kind, thet sets an' thinks fer weeks
The bottom's out o' th' univarse coz their own gillpot leaks.
I hed to cross bayous an' criks, (wal, it did beat all natur',)
Upon a kin' o' corderoy, fust log, then alligator;
Luck'ly, the critters warn't sharp-sot; I guess 'twuz overruled
They 'd done their mornin's marketin' an' gut their hunger cooled; 40
Fer missionaries to the Creeks an' runaways are viewed
By them an' folks ez sent express to be their reg'lar food;
Wutever 'twuz, they laid an' snoozed ez peacefully ez sinners,
Meek ez disgestin' deacons be at ordination dinners;
Ef any on 'em turned an' snapped, I let 'em kin' o' taste
My live-oak leg, an' so, ye see, ther' warn't no gret o' waste;
Fer they found out in quicker time than ef they'd ben to college
'Twarn't heartier food than though 'twuz made out o' the tree o'
But I tell _you_ my other leg hed larned wut pizon-nettle meant,
An' var'ous other usefle things, afore I reached a settlement, 50
An' all o' me thet wuzn't sore an' sendin' prickles thru me
Wuz jest the leg I parted with in lickin' Montezumy:
A useful limb it's ben to me, an' more of a support
Than wut the other hez ben,--coz I dror my pension for 't.
Wal, I gut in at last where folks wuz civerlized an' white,
Ez I diskivered to my cost afore 'twarn't hardly night;
Fer 'z I wuz settin' in the bar a-takin' sunthin' hot,
An' feelin' like a man agin, all over in one spot,
A feller thet sot oppersite, arter a squint at me,
Lep' up an' drawed his peacemaker, an', 'Dash it, Sir,' suz he, 60
'I'm doubledashed ef you ain't him thet stole my yaller chettle,
(You're all the stranger thet's around,) so now you've gut to settle;
It ain't no use to argerfy ner try to cut up frisky,
I know ye ez I know the smell of ole chain-lightnin' whiskey;
We're lor-abidin' folks down here, we'll fix ye so's 't a bar
Wouldn' tech ye with a ten-foot pole; (Jedge, you jest warm the tar;)
You'll think you'd better ha' gut among a tribe o' Mongrel Tartars,
'fore we've done showin' how we raise our Southun prize tar-martyrs;
A moultin' fallen cherubim, ef he should see ye, 'd snicker,
Thinkin' he warn't a suckemstance. Come, genlemun, le' 's liquor; 70
An', Gin'ral, when you've mixed the drinks an' chalked 'em up, tote roun'
An' see ef ther' 's a feather-bed (thet's borryable) in town.
We'll try ye fair, ole Grafted-Leg, an' ef the tar wun't stick,
Th' ain't not a juror here but wut'll 'quit ye double-quick,'
To cut it short, I wun't say sweet, they gi' me a good dip,
(They ain't _perfessin'_ Bahptists here,) then give the bed a rip,--
The jury'd sot, an' quicker 'n a flash they hetched me out, a livin'
Extemp'ry mammoth turkey-chick fer a Fejee Thanksgivin'.
Thet I felt some stuck up is wut it's nat'ral to suppose,
When poppylar enthusiasm hed funnished me sech clo'es; 80
(Ner 'tain't without edvantiges, this kin' o' suit, ye see,
It's water-proof, an' water's wut I like kep' out o' me;)
But nut content with thet, they took a kerridge from the fence
An' rid me roun' to see the place, entirely free 'f expense,
With forty-'leven new kines o' sarse without no charge acquainted me,
Gi' me three cheers, an' vowed thet I wuz all their fahncy painted me;
They treated me to all their eggs; (they keep 'em I should think,
Fer sech ovations, pooty long, for they wuz mos' distinc');
They starred me thick 'z the Milky-Way with indiscrim'nit cherity,
Fer wut we call reception eggs air sunthin' of a rerity; 90
Green ones is plentifle anough, skurce wuth a nigger's getherin',
But your dead-ripe ones ranges high fer treatin' Nothun bretherin;
A spotteder, ring-streakeder child the' warn't in Uncle Sam's
Holl farm,--a cross of striped pig an' one o' Jacob's lambs;
'Twuz Dannil in the lions' den, new an' enlarged edition,
An' everythin' fust-rate o' 'ts kind; the' warn't no impersition.
People's impulsiver down here than wut our folks to home be,
An' kin' o' go it 'ith a resh in raisin' Hail Columby:
Thet's _so:_ an' they swarmed out like bees, for your real Southun men's
Time isn't o' much more account than an ole settin' hen's; 100
(They jest work semioccashnally, or else don't work at all,
An' so their time an' 'tention both air at saci'ty's call.)
Talk about hospatality! wut Nothun town d' ye know
Would take a totle stranger up an' treat him gratis so?
You'd better b'lleve ther' 's nothin' like this spendin' days an' nights
Along 'ith a dependent race fer civerlizin' whites.
But this wuz all prelim'nary; it's so Gran' Jurors here
Fin' a true bill, a hendier way than ourn, an' nut so dear;
So arter this they sentenced me, to make all tight 'n' snug,
Afore a reg'lar court o' law, to ten years in the Jug. 110
I didn't make no gret defence: you don't feel much like speakin',
When, ef you let your clamshells gape, a quart o' tar will leak in:
I _hev_ hearn tell o' winged words, but pint o' fact it tethers
The spoutin' gift to hev your words _tu_ thick sot on with feathers,
An' Choate ner Webster wouldn't ha' made an A 1 kin' o' speech
Astride a Southun chestnut horse sharper 'n a baby's screech.
Two year ago they ketched the thief, 'n' seein' I wuz innercent,
They jest uncorked an' le' me run, an' in my stid the sinner sent
To see how _he_ liked pork 'n' pone flavored with wa'nut saplin',
An' nary social priv'ledge but a one-hoss, starn-wheel chaplin. 120
When I come out, the folks behaved mos' gen'manly an' harnsome;
They 'lowed it wouldn't be more 'n right, ef I should cuss 'n' darn some:
The Cunnle he apolergized; suz he, 'I'll du wut's right,
I'll give ye settisfection now by shootin' ye at sight,
An' give the nigger (when he's caught), to pay him fer his trickin'
In gittin' the wrong man took up, a most H fired lickin',--
It's jest the way with all on 'em, the inconsistent critters,
They're 'most enough to make a man blaspheme his mornin' bitters;
I'll be your frien' thru thick an' thin an' in all kines o' weathers,
An' all you'll hev to pay fer's jest the waste o' tar an'
A lady owned the bed, ye see, a widder, tu, Miss Shennon;
It wuz her mite; we would ha' took another, ef ther' 'd ben one:
We don't make _no_ charge for the ride an' all the other fixins.
Le' 's liquor; Gin'ral, you can chalk our friend for all the mixins.'
A meetin' then wuz called, where they 'RESOLVED, Thet we respec'
B.S. Esquire for quallerties o' heart an' intellec'
Peculiar to Columby's sile, an' not to no one else's,
Thet makes European tyrans scringe in all their gilded pel'ces,
An' doos gret honor to our race an' Southun institootions:'
(I give ye jest the substance o' the leadin' resolootions:) 140
'RESOLVED, Thet we revere In him a soger 'thout a flor,
A martyr to the princerples o' libbaty an' lor:
RESOLVED, Thet other nations all, ef sot 'longside o' us,
For vartoo, larnin', chivverlry, ain't noways wuth a cuss.'
They got up a subscription, tu, but no gret come o' _thet;_
I 'xpect in cairin' of it roun' they took a leaky hat;
Though Southun genelmun ain't slow at puttin' down their name,
(When they can write,) fer in the eend it comes to jes' the same,
Because, ye see, 't 's the fashion here to sign an' not to think
A critter'd be so sordid ez to ax 'em for the chink: 150
I didn't call but jest on one, an' _he_ drawed tooth-pick on me,
An' reckoned he warn't goin' to stan' no sech dog-gauned econ'my:
So nothin' more wuz realized, 'ceptin' the good-will shown,
Than ef 't had ben from fust to last a regular Cotton Loan.
It's a good way, though, come to think, coz ye enjy the sense
O' lendin' lib'rally to the Lord, an' nary red o' 'xpense:
Sence then I've gut my name up for a gin'rous-hearted man
By jes' subscribin' right an' left on this high-minded plan;
I've gin away my thousans so to every Southun sort
O' missions, colleges, an' sech, ner ain't no poorer for 't. 160
I warn't so bad off, arter all; I needn't hardly mention
That Guv'ment owed me quite a pile for my arrears o' pension,--
I mean the poor, weak thing we _hed:_ we run a new one now,
Thet strings a feller with a claim up ta the nighes' bough,
An' _prectises_ the rights o' man, purtects down-trodden debtors,
Ner wun't hev creditors about ascrougin' o' their betters:
Jeff's gut the last idees ther' is, poscrip', fourteenth edition,
He knows it takes some enterprise to run an oppersition;
Ourn's the fust thru-by-daylight train, with all ou'doors for deepot;
Yourn goes so slow you'd think 'twuz drawed by a las' cent'ry
Wal, I gut all on 't paid in gold afore our State seceded,
An' done wal, for Confed'rit bonds warn't jest the cheese I needed:
Nut but wut they're ez _good_ ez gold, but then it's hard a-breakin'
An' ignorant folks is ollers sot an' wun't git used to takin' on 'em;
They're wuth ez much ez wut they wuz afore ole Mem'nger signed 'em,
An' go off middlin' wal for drinks, when ther' 's a knife behind 'em;
We _du_ miss silver, jes' fer thet an' ridin' in a bus,
Now we've shook off the desputs thet wuz suckin' at our pus;
An' it's _because_ the South's so rich; 'twuz nat'ral to expec'
Supplies o' change wuz jes' the things we shouldn't recollec'; 180
We'd ough' to ha' thought aforehan', though, o' thet good rule o'
For 't 's tiresome cairin' cotton-bales an' niggers in your pockets,
Ner 'tain't quite hendy to pass off one o' your six-foot Guineas
An' git your halves an' quarters back in gals an' pickaninnies:
Wal, 'tain't quite all a feller'd ax, but then ther's this to say,
It's on'y jest among ourselves thet we expec' to pay;
Our system would ha' caird us thru in any Bible cent'ry,
'fore this onscripterl plan come up o' books by double entry;
We go the patriarkle here out o' all sight an' hearin',
For Jacob warn't a suckemstance to Jeff at financierin'; 190
_He_ never'd thought o' borryin' from Esau like all nater
An' then cornfiscatin' all debts to sech a small pertater;
There's p'litickle econ'my, now, combined 'ith morril beauty
Thet saycrifices privit eends (your in'my's, tu) to dooty!
Wy, Jeff 'd ha' gin him five an' won his eye-teeth 'fore he knowed it,
An', stid o' wastin' pottage, he'd ha' eat it up an' owed it.
But I wuz goin' on to say how I come here to dwall;--
'Nough said, thet, arter lookin' roun', I liked the place so wal,
Where niggers doos a double good, with us atop to stiddy 'em,
By bein' proofs o' prophecy an' suckleatin' medium, 200
Where a man's sunthin' coz he's white, an' whiskey's cheap ez fleas,
An' the financial pollercy jes' sooted my idees,
Thet I friz down right where I wuz, merried the Widder Shennon,
(Her thirds wuz part in cotton-land, part in the curse o' Canaan,)
An' here I be ez lively ez a chipmunk on a wall,
With nothin' to feel riled about much later 'n Eddam's fall.
Ez fur ez human foresight goes, we made an even trade:
She gut an overseer, an' I a fem'ly ready-made,
The youngest on 'em 's 'mos' growed up, rugged an' spry ez weazles,
So 's 't ther' 's no resk o' doctors' bills fer hoopin'-cough an' measles.
Our farm's at Turkey-Buzzard Roost, Little Big Boosy River, 211
Wal located in all respex,--fer 'tain't the chills 'n' fever
Thet makes my writin' seem to squirm; a Southuner'd allow I'd
Some call to shake, for I've jest hed to meller a new cowhide.
Miss S. is all 'f a lady; th' ain't no better on Big Boosy
Ner one with more accomplishmunts 'twist here an' Tuscaloosy;
She's an F.F., the tallest kind, an' prouder 'n the Gran' Turk,
An' never hed a relative thet done a stroke o' work;
Hern ain't a scrimpin' fem'ly sech ez _you_ git up Down East,
Th' ain't a growed member on 't but owes his thousuns et the least:
She _is_ some old; but then agin ther' 's drawbacks in my sheer: 221
Wut's left o' me ain't more 'n enough to make a Brigadier:
Wust is, thet she hez tantrums; she's like Seth Moody's gun
(Him thet wuz nicknamed from his limp Ole Dot an' Kerry One);
He'd left her loaded up a spell, an' hed to git her clear,
So he onhitched,--Jeerusalem! the middle o' last year
Wuz right nex' door compared to where she kicked the critter tu
(Though _jest_ where he brought up wuz wut no human never knew);
His brother Asaph picked her up an' tied her to a tree,
An' then she kicked an hour 'n' a half afore she'd let it be: 230
Wal, Miss S. _doos_ hev cuttins-up an' pourins-out o' vials,
But then she hez her widder's thirds, an' all on us hez trials.
My objec', though, in writin' now warn't to allude to sech,
But to another suckemstance more dellykit to tech,--
I want thet you should grad'lly break my merriage to Jerushy,
An' there's a heap of argymunts thet's emple to indooce ye:
Fust place, State's Prison,--wal, it's true it warn't fer crime,
But then it's jest the same fer her in gittin' a disvorce;
Nex' place, my State's secedin' out hez leg'lly lef' me free
To merry any one I please, pervidin' it's a she; 240
Fin'lly, I never wun't come back, she needn't hev no fear on 't,
But then it's wal to fix things right fer fear Miss S. should hear on 't;
Lastly, I've gut religion South, an' Rushy she's a pagan
Thet sets by th' graven imiges o' the gret Nothun Dagon;
(Now I hain't seen one in six munts, for, sence our Treashry Loan,
Though yaller boys is thick anough, eagles hez kind o' flown;)
An' ef J wants a stronger pint than them thet I hev stated,
Wy, she's an aliun in'my now, an' I've been cornfiscated,--
For sence we've entered on th' estate o' the late nayshnul eagle,
She hain't no kin' o' right but jes' wut I allow ez legle: 250
Wut _doos_ Secedin' mean, ef 'tain't thet nat'rul rights hez riz, 'n'
Thet wut is mine's my own, but wut's another man's ain't his'n?
Besides, I couldn't do no else; Miss S. suz she to me,
'You've sheered my bed,' [thet's when I paid my interduction fee
To Southun rites,] 'an' kep' your sheer,' [wal, I allow it sticked
So 's 't I wuz most six weeks in jail afore I gut me picked,]
'Ner never paid no demmiges; but thet wun't do no harm,
Pervidin' thet you'll ondertake to oversee the farm;
(My eldes' boy he's so took up, wut with the Ringtail Rangers
An' settin' in the Jestice-Court for welcomin' o' strangers;') 260
[He sot on _me;_] 'an' so, ef you'll jest ondertake the care
Upon a mod'rit sellery, we'll up an' call it square;
But ef you _can't_ conclude,' suz she, an' give a kin' o' grin,
'Wy, the Gran' Jurymen, I 'xpect, 'll hev to set agin.'
That's the way metters stood at fust; now wut wuz I to du,
But jes' to make the best on 't an' off coat an' buckle tu?
Ther' ain't a livin' man thet finds an income necessarier
Than me,--bimeby I'll tell ye how I fin'lly come to merry her.
She hed another motive, tu: I mention of it here
T' encourage lads thet's growin' up to study 'n' persevere, 270
An' show 'em how much better 't pays to mind their winter-schoolin'
Than to go off on benders 'n' sech, an' waste their time in foolin';
Ef 'twarn't for studyin' evenins, why, I never 'd ha' ben here
A orn'ment o' saciety, in my approprut spear:
She wanted somebody, ye see, o' taste an' cultivation,
To talk along o' preachers when they stopt to the plantation;
For folks in Dixie th't read an' rite, onless it is by jarks,
Is skurce ez wut they wuz among th' origenle patriarchs;
To fit a feller f' wut they call the soshle higherarchy,
All thet you've gut to know is jes' beyond an evrage darky; 280
Schoolin' 's wut they can't seem to stan', they 're tu consarned
An' knowin' t' much might spile a boy for hem' a Secesher.
We hain't no settled preachin' here, ner ministeril taxes;
The min'ster's only settlement's the carpet-bag he packs his
Razor an' soap-brush intu, with his hym-book an' his Bible,--
But they _du_ preach, I swan to man, it's puf'kly indescrib'le!
They go it like an Ericsson's ten-hoss-power coleric ingine,
An' make Ole Split-Foot winch an' squirm, for all he's used to singein';
Hawkins's whetstone ain't a pinch o' primin' to the innards
To hearin' on 'em put free grace t' a lot o' tough old sinhards! 290
But I must eend this letter now: 'fore long I'll send a fresh un;
I've lots o' things to write about, perticklerly Seceshun:
I'm called off now to mission-work, to let a leetle law in
To Cynthy's hide: an' so, till death,
MASON AND SLIDELL: A YANKEE IDYLL
TO THE EDITORS OF THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY
JAALAM, 6th Jan., 1862.
Gentlemen,--I was highly gratified by the insertion of a portion of my
letter in the last number of your valuable and entertaining Miscellany,
though in a type which rendered its substance inaccessible even to the
beautiful new spectacles presented to me by a Committee of the Parish on
New Year's Day. I trust that I was able to bear your very considerable
abridgment of my lucubrations with a spirit becoming a Christian. My
third granddaughter, Rebekah, aged fourteen years, and whom I have
trained to read slowly and with proper emphasis (a practice too much
neglected in our modern systems of education), read aloud to me the
excellent essay upon 'Old Age,' the author of which I cannot help
suspecting to be a young man who has never yet known what it was to have
snow (_canities morosa_) upon his own roof. _Dissolve frigus, large
super foco ligna reponens_, is a rule for the young, whose woodpile is
yet abundant for such cheerful lenitives. A good life behind him is the
best thing to keep an old man's shoulders from shivering at every
breath of sorrow or ill-fortune. But methinks it were easier for an old
man to feel the disadvantages of youth than the advantages of age. Of
these latter I reckon one of the chiefest to be this: that we attach a
less inordinate value to our own productions, and, distrusting daily
more and more our own wisdom (with the conceit whereof at twenty we wrap
ourselves away from knowledge as with a garment), do reconcile ourselves
with the wisdom of God. I could have wished, indeed, that room might
have been made for the residue of the anecdote relating to Deacon
Tinkham, which would not only have gratified a natural curiosity on the
part of the publick (as I have reason to know from several letters of
inquiry already received), but would also, as I think, have largely
increased the circulation of your Magazine in this town. _Nihil humani
alienum_, there is a curiosity about the affairs of our neighbors which
is not only pardonable, but even commendable. But I shall abide a more
As touching the following literary effort of Esquire Biglow, much might
be profitably said on the topick of Idyllick and Pastoral Poetry, and
concerning the proper distinctions to be made between them, from
Theocritus, the inventor of the former, to Collins, the latest authour I
know of who has emulated the classicks in the latter style. But in the
time of a Civil War worthy a Milton to defend and a Lucan to sing, it
may be reasonably doubted whether the publick, never too studious of
serious instruction, might not consider other objects more deserving of
present attention. Concerning the title of Idyll, which Mr. Biglow has
adopted at my suggestion, it may not be improper to animadvert, that the
name properly signifies a poem somewhat rustick in phrase (for, though
the learned are not agreed as to the particular dialect employed by
Theocritus, they are universanimous both as to its rusticity and its
capacity of rising now and then to the level of more elevated sentiments
and expressions), while it is also descriptive of real scenery and
manners. Yet it must be admitted that the production now in question
(which here and there bears perhaps too plainly the marks of my
correcting hand) does partake of the nature of a Pastoral, inasmuch as
the interlocutors therein are purely imaginary beings, and the whole is
little better than [Greek: kapnou skias onar]. The plot was, as I
believe, suggested by the 'Twa Brigs' of Robert Burns, a Scottish poet
of the last century, as that found its prototype in the 'Mutual
Complaint of Plainstanes and Causey' by Fergusson, though, the metre of
this latter be different by a foot in each verse. Perhaps the Two Dogs
of Cervantes gave the first hint. I reminded my talented young
parishioner and friend that Concord Bridge had long since yielded to the
edacious tooth of Time. But he answered me to this effect: that there
was no greater mistake of an authour than to suppose the reader had no
fancy of his own; that, if once that faculty was to be called into
activity, it were _better_ to be in for the whole sheep than the
shoulder; and that he knew Concord like a book,--an expression
questionable in propriety, since there are few things with which he is
not more familiar than with the printed page. In proof of what he
affirmed, he showed me some verses which with others he had stricken
out as too much delaying the action, but which I communicate in this
place because they rightly define 'punkin-seed' (which Mr. Bartlett
would have a kind of perch,--a creature to which I have found a rod or
pole not to be so easily equivalent in our inland waters as in the books
of arithmetic) and because it conveys an eulogium on the worthy son of
an excellent father, with whose acquaintance (_eheu, fugaces anni!_) I
was formerly honoured.
'But nowadays the Bridge ain't wut they show,
So much ez Em'son, Hawthorne, an' Thoreau.
I know the village, though; was sent there once
A-schoolin', 'cause to home I played the dunce;
An' I 've ben sence a visitin' the Jedge,
Whose garding whispers with the river's edge,
Where I 've sot mornin's lazy as the bream,
Whose on'y business is to head upstream,
(We call 'em punkin-seed,) or else in chat
Along 'th the Jedge, who covers with his hat
More wit an' gumption an' shrewd Yankee sense
Than there is mosses on an ole stone fence.'
Concerning the subject-matter of the verses. I have not the leisure at
present to write so fully as I could wish, my time being occupied with
the preparation of a discourse for the forthcoming bicentenary
celebration of the first settlement of Jaalam East Parish. It may
gratify the publick interest to mention the circumstance, that my
investigations to this end have enabled me to verify the fact (of much
historick importance, and hitherto hotly debated) that Shearjashub
Tarbox was the first child of white parentage born in this town, being
named in his father's will under date August 7th, or 9th, 1662. It is
well known that those who advocate the claims of Mehetable Goings are
unable to find any trace of her existence prior to October of that year.
As respects the settlement of the Mason and Slidell question, Mr. Biglow
has not incorrectly stated the popular sentiment, so far as I can judge
by its expression in this locality. For myself, I feel more sorrow than
resentment: for I am old enough to have heard those talk of England who
still, even after the unhappy estrangement, could not unschool their
lips from calling her the Mother-Country. But England has insisted on
ripping up old wounds, and has undone the healing work of fifty years;
for nations do not reason, they only feel, and the _spretae injuria
formae_ rankles in their minds as bitterly as in that of a woman. And
because this is so, I feel the more satisfaction that our Government has
acted (as all Governments should, standing as they do between the people
and their passions) as if it had arrived at years of discretion. There
are three short and simple words, the hardest of all to pronounce in any
language (and I suspect they were no easier before the confusion of
tongues), but which no man or nation that cannot utter can claim to have
arrived at manhood. Those words are, _I was wrong;_ and I am proud that,
while England played the boy, our rulers had strength enough from the
People below and wisdom enough from God above to quit themselves like
The sore points on both sides have been skilfully exasperated by
interested and unscrupulous persons, who saw in a war between the two
countries the only hope of profitable return for their investment in
Confederate stock, whether political or financial. The always
supercilious, often insulting, and sometimes even brutal tone of British
journals and publick men has certainly not tended to soothe whatever
resentment might exist in America.
'Perhaps it was right to dissemble your love,
But why did you kick me down stairs?'
We have no reason to complain that England, as a necessary consequence
of her clubs, has become a great society for the minding of other
people's business, and we can smile good-naturedly when she lectures
other nations on the sins of arrogance and conceit: but we may justly
consider it a breach of the political _convenances_ which are expected
to regulate the intercourse of one well-bred government with another,
when men holding places in the ministry allow themselves to dictate our
domestic policy, to instruct us in our duty, and to stigmatize as unholy
a war for the rescue of whatever a high-minded people should hold most
vital and most sacred. Was it in good taste, that I may use the mildest
term, for Earl Russell to expound our own Constitution to President
Lincoln, or to make a new and fallacious application of an old phrase
for our benefit, and tell us that the Rebels were fighting for
independence and we for empire? As if all wars for independence were by
nature just and deserving of sympathy, and all wars for empire ignoble
and worthy only of reprobation, or as if these easy phrases in any way
characterized this terrible struggle,--terrible not so truly in any
superficial sense, as from the essential and deadly enmity of the
principles that underlie it. His Lordship's bit of borrowed rhetoric
would justify Smith O'Brien, Nana Sahib, and the Maori chieftains, while
it would condemn nearly every war in which England has ever been
engaged. Was it so very presumptuous in us to think that it would be
decorous in English statesmen if they spared time enough to acquire some
kind of knowledge, though of the most elementary kind, in regard to this
country and the questions at issue here, before they pronounced so
off-hand a judgment? Or is political information expected to come
Dogberry-fashion in England, like reading and writing, by nature?
And now all respectable England is wondering at our irritability, and
sees a quite satisfactory explanation of it in our national vanity.
_Suave mari magno_, it is pleasant, sitting in the easy-chairs of
Downing Street, to sprinkle pepper on the raw wounds of a kindred people
struggling for life, and philosophical to find in self-conceit the cause
of our instinctive resentment. Surely we were of all nations the least
liable to any temptation of vanity at a time when the gravest anxiety
and the keenest sorrow were never absent from our hearts. Nor is conceit
the exclusive attribute of any one nation. The earliest of English
travellers, Sir John Mandeville, took a less provincial view of the
matter when he said, 'For fro what partie of the erthe that men duellen,
other aboven or beneathen, it semethe alweys to hem that duellen that
thei gon more righte than any other folke.' The English have always had
their fair share of this amiable quality. We may say of them still, as
the authour of the 'Lettres Cabalistiques' said of them more than a
century ago, _'Ces derniers disent naturellement qu'il n'y a qu'eux qui
soient estimables_'. And, as he also says,_'J'aimerois presque autant
tomber entre les mains d'un Inquisiteur que d'un Anglois qui me fait
sentir sans cesse combien il s'estime plus que moi, et qui ne daigne me
parler que pour injurier ma Nation et pour m'ennuyer du recit des
grandes qualites de la sienne_.' Of _this_ Bull we may safely say with
Horace, _habet faenum in cornu._ What we felt to be especially insulting
was the quiet assumption that the descendants of men who left the Old
World for the sake of principle, and who had made the wilderness into a
New World patterned after an Idea, could not possibly be susceptible of
a generous or lofty sentiment, could have no feeling of nationality
deeper than that of a tradesman for his shop. One would have thought, in
listening to England, that we were presumptuous in fancying that we were
a nation at all, or had any other principle of union than that of booths
at a fair, where there is no higher notion of government than the
constable, or better image of God than that stamped upon the current
It is time for Englishmen to consider whether there was nothing in the
spirit of their press and of their leading public men calculated to
rouse a just indignation, and to cause a permanent estrangement on the
part of any nation capable of self-respect, and sensitively jealous, as
ours then was, of foreign interference. Was there nothing in the
indecent haste with which belligerent rights were conceded to the
Rebels, nothing in the abrupt tone assumed in the Trent case, nothing in
the fitting out of Confederate privateers, that might stir the blood of
a people already overcharged with doubt, suspicion, and terrible
responsibility? The laity in any country do not stop to consider points
of law, but they have an instinctive perception of the _animus_ that
actuates the policy of a foreign nation; and in our own case they
remembered that the British authorities in Canada did not wait till
diplomacy could send home to England for her slow official tinder-box to
fire the 'Caroline.' Add to this, what every sensible American knew,
that the moral support of England was equal to an army of two hundred
thousand men to the Rebels, while it insured us another year or two of
exhausting war. It was not so much the spite of her words (though the
time might have been more tastefully chosen) as the actual power for
evil in them that we felt as a deadly wrong. Perhaps the most immediate
and efficient cause of mere irritation was, the sudden and unaccountable
change of manner on the other side of the water. Only six months before,
the Prince of Wales had come over to call us cousins; and everywhere it
was nothing but 'our American brethren,' that great offshoot of British
institutions in the New World, so almost identical with them in laws,
language, and literature,--this last of the alliterative compliments
being so bitterly true, that perhaps it will not be retracted even now.
To this outburst of long-repressed affection we responded with genuine
warmth, if with something of the awkwardness of a poor relation
bewildered with the sudden tightening of the ties of consanguinity when
it is rumored that he has come into a large estate. Then came the
Rebellion, and, _presto!_ a flaw in our titles was discovered, the plate
we were promised at the family table is flung at our head, and we were
again the scum of creation, intolerably vulgar, at once cowardly and
overbearing,--no relations of theirs, after all, but a dreggy hybrid of
the basest bloods of Europe. Panurge was not quicker to call Friar John
his _former_ friend. I cannot help thinking of Walter Mapes's jingling
paraphrase of Petronius,--
'Dummodo sim splendidis vestibus ornatus,
Et multa familia sim circumvallatus,
Prudens sum et sapiens et morigeratus,
Et tuus nepos sum et tu meus cognatus,'--
which I may freely render thus:--
So long as I was prosperous, I'd dinners by the dozen,
Was well-bred, witty, virtuous, and everybody's cousin;
If luck should turn, as well she may, her fancy is so flexile,
Will virtue, cousinship, and all return with her from exile?
There was nothing in all this to exasperate a philosopher, much to make
him smile rather; but the earth's surface is not chiefly inhabited by
philosophers, and I revive the recollection of it now in perfect
good-humour, merely by way of suggesting to our _ci-devant_ British
cousins, that it would have been easier for them to hold their tongues
than for us to keep our tempers under the circumstances.
The English Cabinet made a blunder, unquestionably, in taking it so
hastily for granted that the United States had fallen forever from their
position as a first-rate power, and it was natural that they should vent
a little of their vexation on the people whose inexplicable obstinacy in
maintaining freedom and order, and in resisting degradation, was likely
to convict them of their mistake. But if bearing a grudge be the sure
mark of a small mind in the individual, can it be a proof of high spirit
in a nation? If the result of the present estrangement between the two
countries shall be to make us more independent of British twaddle
(_Indomito nec dira ferens stipendia Tauro_), so much the better; but if
it is to make us insensible to the value of British opinion in matters
where it gives us the judgment of an impartial and cultivated outsider,
if we are to shut ourselves out from the advantages of English culture,
the loss will be ours, and not theirs. Because the door of the old
homestead has been once slammed in our faces, shall we in a huff reject
all future advances of conciliation, and cut ourselves foolishly off
from any share in the humanizing influences of the place, with its
ineffable riches of association, its heirlooms of immemorial culture,
its historic monuments, ours no less than theirs, its noble gallery of
ancestral portraits? We have only to succeed, and England will not only
respect, but, for the first time, begin to understand us. And let us
not, in our justifiable indignation at wanton insult, forget that
England is not the England only of snobs who dread the democracy they do
not comprehend, but the England of history, of heroes, statesmen, and
poets, whose names are dear, and their influence as salutary to us as to
Let us strengthen the hands of those in authority over us, and curb our
own tongues, remembering that General Wait commonly proves in the end
more than a match for General Headlong, and that the Good Book ascribes
safety to a multitude, indeed, but not to a mob, of counsellours. Let us
remember and perpend the words of Paulus Emilius to the people of Rome;
that, 'if they judged they could manage the war to more advantage by any
other, he would willingly yield up his charge; but if they confided in
him, _they were not to make themselves his colleagues in his office, or
raise reports, or criticise his actions, but, without talking, supply
him with means and assistance necessary to the carrying on of the war;
for, if they proposed to command their own commander, they would render
this expedition more ridiculous than the former.' (Vide Plutarchum in
Vita P.E._) Let us also not forget what the same excellent authour says
concerning Perseus's fear of spending money, and not permit the
covetousness of Brother Jonathan to be the good fortune of Jefferson
Davis. For my own part, till I am ready to admit the Commander-in-Chief
to my pulpit, I shall abstain from planning his battles. If courage be
the sword, yet is patience the armour of a nation; and in our desire for
peace, let us never be willing to surrender the Constitution bequeathed
us by fathers at least as wise as ourselves (even with Jefferson Davis
to help us), and, with those degenerate Romans, _tuta et praesentia quam
vetera et periculosa malle_.
And not only should we bridle our own tongues, but the pens of others,
which are swift to convey useful intelligence to the enemy. This is no
new inconvenience; for, under date, 3d June, 1745, General Pepperell
wrote thus to Governor Shirley from Louisbourg: 'What your Excellency
observes of the _army's being made acquainted with any plans proposed,
until ready to be put in execution_, has always been disagreeable to me,
and I have given many cautions relating to it. But when your Excellency
considers that _our Council of War consists of more than twenty
members_, I am persuaded you will think it _impossible for me to hinder
it_, if any of them will persist in communicating to inferior officers
and soldiers what ought to be kept secret. I am informed that the Boston
newspapers are filled with paragraphs from private letters relating to
the expedition. Will your Excellency permit me to say I think it may be
of ill consequence? Would it not be convenient, if your Excellency
should forbid the Printers' inserting such news?' Verily, if _tempora
mutantur_, we may question the _et nos mutamur in illis;_ and if tongues
be leaky, it will need all hands at the pumps to save the Ship of State.
Our history dotes and repeats itself. If Sassycus (rather than
Alcibiades) find a parallel in Beauregard, so Weakwash, as he is called
by the brave Lieutenant Lion Gardiner, need not seek far among our own
Sachems for his anti-type.
Your ob't humble serv't
Homer Wilbur, A.M.
I love to start out arter night's begun,
An' all the chores about the farm are done,
The critters milked an' foddered, gates shet fast,
Tools cleaned aginst to-morrer, supper past.
An' Nancy darnin' by her ker'sene lamp,--
I love, I say, to start upon a tramp,
To shake the kinkles out o' back an' legs,
An' kind o' rack my life off from the dregs
Thet's apt to settle in the buttery-hutch
Of folks thet foller in one rut too much: 10
Hard work is good an' wholesome, past all doubt;
But 't ain't so, ef the mind gits tuckered out.
Now, bein' born in Middlesex, you know,
There's certin spots where I like best to go:
The Concord road, for instance (I, for one,
Most gin'lly ollers call it _John Bull's Run_).
The field o' Lexin'ton where England tried
The fastest colours thet she ever dyed,
An' Concord Bridge, thet Davis, when he came,
Found was the bee-line track to heaven an' fame, 20
Ez all roads be by natur', ef your soul
Don't sneak thru shun-pikes so's to save the toll.
They're 'most too fur away, take too much time
To visit of'en, ef it ain't in rhyme;
But the' 's a walk thet's hendier, a sight,
An' suits me fust-rate of a winter's night,--
I mean the round whale's-back o' Prospect Hill.
I love to l'iter there while night grows still,
An' in the twinklin' villages about,
Fust here, then there, the well-saved lights goes out, 30
An' nary sound but watch-dogs' false alarms,
Or muffled cock-crows from the drowsy farms,
Where some wise rooster (men act jest thet way)
Stands to 't thet moon-rise is the break o' day;
(So Mister Seward sticks a three-months' pin
Where the war'd oughto eend, then tries agin:
My gran'ther's rule was safer 'n 'tis to crow:
_Don't never prophesy--onless ye know_.)
I love to muse there till it kind o' seems
Ez ef the world went eddyin' off in dreams; 40
The northwest wind thet twitches at my baird
Blows out o' sturdier days not easy scared,
An' the same moon thet this December shines
Starts out the tents an' booths o' Putnam's lines;
The rail-fence posts, acrost the hill thet runs,
Turn ghosts o' sogers should'rin' ghosts o' guns;
Ez wheels the sentry, glints a flash o' light,
Along the firelock won at Concord Fight,
An', 'twixt the silences, now fur, now nigh,
Rings the sharp chellenge, hums the low reply. 50
Ez I was settin' so, it warn't long sence,
Mixin' the puffict with the present tense,
I heerd two voices som'ers in the air,
Though, ef I was to die, I can't tell where:
Voices I call 'em: 'twas a kind o' sough
Like pine-trees thet the wind's ageth'rin' through;
An', fact, I thought it _was_ the wind a spell,
Then some misdoubted, couldn't fairly tell,
Fust sure, then not, jest as you hold an eel,
I knowed, an' didn't,--fin'lly seemed to feel 60
'Twas Concord Bridge a talkin' off to kill
With the Stone Spike thet's druv thru Bunker's Hill;
Whether 'twas so, or ef I on'y dreamed,
I couldn't say; I tell it ez it seemed.
Wal, neighbor, tell us wut's turned up thet's new?
You're younger 'n I be,--nigher Boston, tu:
An' down to Boston, ef you take their showin',
Wut they don't know ain't hardly wuth the knowin'.
There's _sunthin'_ goin' on, I know: las' night
The British sogers killed in our gret fight 70
(Nigh fifty year they hedn't stirred nor spoke)
Made sech a coil you'd thought a dam hed broke:
Why, one he up an' beat a revellee
With his own crossbones on a holler tree,
Till all the graveyards swarmed out like a hive
With faces I hain't seen sence Seventy-five.
Wut _is_ the news? 'T ain't good, or they'd be cheerin'.
Speak slow an' clear, for I'm some hard o' hearin'.
I don't know hardly ef it's good or bad,--
At wust, it can't be wus than wut we've had. 80
You know them envys thet the Rebbles sent,
An' Cap'n Wilkes he borried o' the Trent?
Wut! they ha'n't hanged 'em?
Then their wits is gone!
Thet's the sure way to make a goose a swan!
No: England she _would_ hev 'em, _Fee, Faw, Fum!_
(Ez though she hedn't fools enough to home,)
So they've returned 'em--
_Hev_ they? Wal, by heaven,
Thet's the wust news I've heerd sence Seventy-seven!
_By George_, I meant to say, though I declare
It's 'most enough to make a deacon swear. 90
Now don't go off half-cock: folks never gains
By usin' pepper-sarse instid o' brains.
Come, neighbor, you don't understan'--
Not understan'? Why, wut's to hender, pray?
Must I go huntin' round to find a chap
To tell me when my face hez hed a slap?
See here: the British they found out a flaw
In Cap'n Wilkes's readin' o' the law:
(They _make_ all laws, you know, an' so, o' course,
It's nateral they should understan' their force:) 100
He'd oughto ha' took the vessel into port,
An' hed her sot on by a reg'lar court;
She was a mail-ship, an' a steamer, tu,
An' thet, they say, hez changed the pint o' view,
Coz the old practice, bein' meant for sails,
Ef tried upon a steamer, kind o' fails;
You _may_ take out despatches, but you mus'n't
Take nary man--
You mean to say, you dus'n't!
Changed pint o'view! No, no,--it's overboard
With law an' gospel, when their ox is gored! 110
I tell ye, England's law, on sea an' land,
Hez ollers ben, '_I've gut the heaviest hand_.'
Take nary man? Fine preachin' from _her_ lips!
Why, she hez taken hunderds from our ships,
An' would agin, an' swear she had a right to,
Ef we warn't strong enough to be perlite to.
Of all the sarse thet I can call to mind,
England _doos_ make the most onpleasant kind:
It's you're the sinner ollers, she's the saint;
Wut's good's all English, all thet isn't ain't; 120
Wut profits her is ollers right an' just,
An' ef you don't read Scriptur so, you must;
She's praised herself ontil she fairly thinks
There ain't no light in Natur when she winks;
Hain't she the Ten Comman'ments in her pus?
Could the world stir 'thout she went, tu, ez nus?
She ain't like other mortals, thet's a fact:
_She_ never stopped the habus-corpus act,
Nor specie payments, nor she never yet
Cut down the int'rest on her public debt; 130
_She_ don't put down rebellions, lets 'em breed,
An' 's ollers willin' Ireland should secede;
She's all thet's honest, honnable, an' fair,
An' when the vartoos died they made her heir.
Wal, wal, two wrongs don't never make a right;
Ef we're mistaken, own up, an' don't fight:
For gracious' sake, ha'n't we enough to du
'thout gettin' up a fight with England, tu?
She thinks we're rabble-rid--
An' so we can't
Distinguish 'twixt _You oughtn't_ an' _You shan't!_ 140
She jedges by herself; she's no idear
How 't stiddies folks to give 'em their fair sheer:
The odds 'twixt her an' us is plain's a steeple,--
Her People's turned to Mob, our Mob's turned People.
She's riled jes' now--
Plain proof her cause ain't strong,--
The one thet fust gits mad's 'most ollers wrong.
Why, sence she helped in lickin' Nap the Fust,
An' pricked a bubble jest agoin' to bust,
With Rooshy, Prooshy, Austry, all assistin',
Th' ain't nut a face but wut she's shook her fist in, 150
Ez though she done it all, an' ten times more,
An' nothin' never hed gut done afore,
Nor never could agin, 'thout she wuz spliced
On to one eend an' gin th' old airth a hoist.
She _is_ some punkins, thet I wun't deny,
(For ain't she some related to you 'n' I?)
But there's a few small intrists here below
Outside the counter o' John Bull an' Co,
An' though they can't conceit how 't should be so,
I guess the Lord druv down Creation's spiles 160
'thout no _gret_ helpin' from the British Isles,
An' could contrive to keep things pooty stiff
Ef they withdrawed from business in a miff;
I ha'n't no patience with sech swellin' fellers ez
Think God can't forge 'thout them to blow the bellerses.
You're ollers quick to set your back aridge,
Though 't suits a tom-cat more 'n a sober bridge:
Don't you get het: they thought the thing was planned;
They'll cool off when they come to understand.
Ef _thet_'s wut you expect, you'll _hev_ to wait; 170
Folks never understand the folks they hate:
She'll fin' some other grievance jest ez good,
'fore the month's out, to git misunderstood.
England cool off! She'll do it, ef she sees
She's run her head into a swarm o' bees.
I ain't so prejudiced ez wut you spose:
I hev thought England was the best thet goes;
Remember (no, you can't), when _I_ was reared,
_God save the King_ was all the tune you heerd:
But it's enough to turn Wachuset roun' 180
This stumpin' fellers when you think they're down.
But, neighbor, ef they prove their claim at law,
The best way is to settle, an' not jaw.
An' don't le' 's mutter 'bout the awfle bricks
We'll give 'em, ef we ketch 'em in a fix:
That 'ere's most frequently the kin' o' talk
Of critters can't be kicked to toe the chalk;
Your 'You'll see _nex'_ time!' an' 'Look out bumby!'
'Most ollers ends in eatin' umble-pie.
'Twun't pay to scringe to England: will it pay 190
To fear thet meaner bully, old 'They'll say'?
Suppose they _du_ say; words are dreffle bores,
But they ain't quite so bad ez seventy-fours.
Wut England wants is jest a wedge to fit
Where it'll help to widen out our split:
She's found her wedge, an' 'tain't for us to come
An' lend the beetle thet's to drive it home.
For growed-up folks like us 'twould be a scandle,
When we git sarsed, to fly right off the handle.
England ain't _all_ bad, coz she thinks us blind: 200
Ef she can't change her skin, she can her mind;
An' we shall see her change it double-quick.
Soon ez we've proved thet we're a-goin' to lick.
She an' Columby's gut to be fas' friends:
For the world prospers by their privit ends:
'Twould put the clock back all o' fifty years
Ef they should fall together by the ears.
I 'gree to thet; she's nigh us to wut France is;
But then she'll hev to make the fust advances;
We've gut pride, tu, an' gut it by good rights, 210
An' ketch _me_ stoopin' to pick up the mites
O' condescension she'll be lettin' fall
When she finds out we ain't dead arter all!
I tell ye wut, it takes more'n one good week
Afore _my_ nose forgits it's hed a tweak.
She'll come out right bumby, thet I'll engage,
Soon ez she gits to seein' we're of age;
This talkin' down o' hers ain't wuth a fuss;
It's nat'ral ez nut likin' 'tis to us; 220
Ef we're agoin' to prove we _be_ growed-up.
'Twun't be by barkin' like a tarrier pup,
But turnin' to an' makin' things ez good
Ez wut we're ollers braggin' that we could;
We're boun' to be good friends, an' so we'd oughto,
In spite of all the fools both sides the water.
I b'lieve thet's so; but hearken in your ear,--
I'm older'n you,--Peace wun't keep house with Fear;
Ef you want peace, the thing you've gut tu du
Is jes' to show you're up to fightin', tu.
_I_ recollect how sailors' rights was won, 230
Yard locked in yard, hot gun-lip kissin' gun;
Why, afore thet, John Bull sot up thet he
Hed gut a kind o' mortgage on the sea;
You'd thought he held by Gran'ther Adam's will,
An' ef you knuckle down, _he_'ll think so still.
Better thet all our ships an' all their crews
Should sink to rot in ocean's dreamless ooze,
Each torn flag wavin' chellenge ez it went,
An' each dumb gun a brave man's moniment,
Than seek sech peace ez only cowards crave: 240
Give _me_ the peace of dead men or of brave!
I say, ole boy, it ain't the Glorious Fourth:
You'd oughto larned 'fore this wut talk wuz worth.
It ain't _our_ nose thet gits put out o' jint;
It's England thet gives up her dearest pint.
We've gut, I tell ye now, enough to du
In our own fem'ly fight, afore we're thru.
I hoped, las' spring, jest arter Sumter's shame,
When every flag-staff flapped its tethered flame,
An' all the people, startled from their doubt, 250
Come must'rin' to the flag with sech a shout,--
I hoped to see things settled 'fore this fall,
The Rebbles licked, Jeff Davis hanged, an' all;
Then come Bull Run, an' _sence_ then I've ben waitin'
Like boys in Jennooary thaw for skatin',
Nothin' to du but watch my shadder's trace
Swing, like a ship at anchor, roun' my base,
With daylight's flood an' ebb: it's gittin' slow,
An' I 'most think we'd better let 'em go.
I tell ye wut, this war's a-goin' to cost-- 260
An' I tell _you_ it wun't be money lost;
Taxes milks dry, but, neighbor, you'll allow
Thet havin' things onsettled kills the cow:
We've gut to fix this thing for good an' all;
It's no use buildin' wut's a-goin' to fall.
I'm older'n you, an' I've seen things an' men,
An' _my_ experunce,--tell ye wut it's ben:
Folks thet worked thorough was the ones thet thriv,
But bad work follers ye ez long's ye live;
You can't git red on 't; jest ez sure ez sin, 270
It's ollers askin' to be done agin:
Ef we should part, it wouldn't be a week
'Fore your soft-soddered peace would spring aleak.
We've turned our cuffs up, but, to put her thru,
We must git mad an' off with jackets, tu;
'Twun't du to think thet killin' ain't perlite,--
You've gut to be to airnest, ef you fight;
Why, two thirds o' the Rebbles 'ould cut dirt,
Ef they once thought thet Guv'ment meant to hurt;
An' I _du_ wish our Gin'rals hed in mind 280
The folks in front more than the folks behind;
You wun't do much ontil you think it's God,
An' not constitoounts, thet holds the rod;
We want some more o' Gideon's sword, I jedge,
For proclamations ha'n't no gret of edge;
There's nothin' for a cancer but the knife,
Onless you set by 't more than by your life.
_I_'ve seen hard times; I see a war begun
Thet folks thet love their bellies never'd won;
Pharo's lean kine hung on for seven long year; 290
But when 'twas done, we didn't count it dear;
Why, law an' order, honor, civil right,
Ef they _ain't_ wuth it, wut _is_ wuth a fight?
I'm older'n you: the plough, the axe, the mill,
All kin's o' labor an' all kin's o' skill,
Would be a rabbit in a wile-cat's claw,
Ef 'twarn't for thet slow critter, 'stablished law;
Onsettle _thet_, an' all the world goes whiz,
A screw's gut loose in eyerythin' there is:
Good buttresses once settled, don't you fret 300
An' stir 'em; take a bridge's word for thet!
Young folks are smart, but all ain't good thet's new;
I guess the gran'thers they knowed sunthin', tu.
Amen to thet! build sure in the beginnin':
An' then don't never tech the underpinnin':
Th' older a guv'ment is, the better 't suits;
New ones hunt folks's corns out like new boots:
Change jes' for change, is like them big hotels
Where they shift plates, an' let ye live on smells.
Wal, don't give up afore the ship goes down: 310
It's a stiff gale, but Providence wun't drown;
An' God wun't leave us yit to sink or swim,
Ef we don't fail to du wut's right by Him,
This land o' ourn, I tell ye, 's gut to be
A better country than man ever see.
I feel my sperit swellin' with a cry
Thet seems to say, 'Break forth an' prophesy!'
O strange New World, thet yit wast never young,
Whose youth from thee by gripin' need was wrung,
Brown foundlin' o' the woods, whose baby-bed 320
Was prowled roun' by the Injun's cracklin' tread,
An' who grew'st strong thru shifts an' wants an' pains,
Nussed by stern men with empires in their brains,
Who saw in vision their young Ishmel strain
With each hard hand a vassal ocean's mane,
Thou, skilled by Freedom an' by gret events
To pitch new States ez Old-World men pitch tents,
Thou, taught by Fate to know Jehovah's plan
Thet man's devices can't unmake a man,
An' whose free latch-string never was drawed in 330
Against the poorest child of Adam's kin,--
The grave's not dug where traitor hands shall lay
In fearful haste thy murdered corse away!
Jest here some dogs begun to bark,
So thet I lost old Concord's last remark:
I listened long, but all I seemed to hear
Was dead leaves gossipin' on some birch-trees near;
But ez they hedn't no gret things to say,
An' sed 'em often, I come right away,
An', walkin' home'ards, jest to pass the time, 340
I put some thoughts thet bothered me in rhyme;
I hain't hed time to fairly try 'em on,
But here they be--it's
JONATHAN TO JOHN
It don't seem hardly right, John,
When both my hands was full,
To stump me to a fight, John,--
Your cousin, tu, John Bull!
Ole Uncle S. sez he, 'I guess
We know it now,' sez he,
'The lion's paw is all the law,
Accordin' to J.B.,
Thet's fit for you an' me!' 9
You wonder why we're hot, John?
Your mark wuz on the guns,
The neutral guns, thet shot, John,
Our brothers an' our sons:
Ole Uncle S. sez he, 'I guess
There's human blood,' sez he,
'By fits an' starts, in Yankee hearts,
Though't may surprise J.B.
More 'n it would you an' me.'
Ef _I_ turned mad dogs loose, John,
On _your_ front-parlor stairs, 20
Would it jest meet your views, John,
To wait an' sue their heirs?
Ole Uncle S. sez he, 'I guess,
I on'y guess,' sez he,
'Thet ef Vattel on _his_ toes fell,
'Twould kind o' rile J.B.,
Ez wal ez you an' me!'
Who made the law thet hurts, John,
_Heads I win,--ditto tails?_
'J.B.' was on his shirts, John, 30
Onless my memory fails.
Ole Uncle S. sez he, 'I guess
(I'm good at thet),' sez he,
'Thet sauce for goose ain't _jest_ the juice
For ganders with J.B.,
No more 'n with you or me!'
When your rights was our wrongs, John,
You didn't stop for fuss,--
Britanny's trident prongs, John,
Was good 'nough law for us. 40
Ole Uncle S. sez he, 'I guess,
Though physic's good,' sez he,
'It doesn't foller thet he can swaller
Prescriptions signed "J.B.,"
Put up by you an' me!'
We own the ocean, tu, John:
You mus'n' take it hard,
Ef we can't think with you, John,
It's jest your own back-yard. 49
Ole Uncle S. sez he, 'I guess,
Ef _thet's_ his claim,' sez he,
'The fencin' stuff'll cost enough
To bust up friend J.B.,
Ez wal ez you an' me!'
Why talk so dreffle big, John,
Of honor when it meant
You didn't care a fig, John,
But jest for _ten per cent?_
Ole Uncle S. sez he, 'I guess
He's like the rest,' sez he: 60
'When all is done, it's number one
Thet's nearest to J.B.,
Ez wal ez t' you an' me!'
We give the critters back, John,
Cos Abram thought 'twas right;
It warn't your bullyin' clack, John,
Provokin' us to fight.
Ole Uncle S. sez he, 'I guess
We've a hard row,' sez he,
'To hoe jest now; but thet, somehow, 70
May happen to J.B.,
Ez wal ez you an' me!'
We ain't so weak an' poor, John,
With twenty million people.
An' close to every door, John,
A school-house an' a steeple.
Ole Uncle S. sez he, 'I guess,
It is a fact,' sez he,
'The surest plan to make a Man
Is, think him so, J.B., 80
Ez much ez you or me!'
Our folks believe in Law, John;
An' it's for her sake, now,
They've left the axe an' saw, John,
The anvil an' the plough.
Ole Uncle S. sez he, 'I guess,
Ef 'twarn't for law,' sez he,
'There'd be one shindy from here to Indy;
An' thet don't suit J.B.
(When't ain't 'twixt you an' me!) 90
We know we've got a cause, John,
Thet's honest, just, an' true;
We thought 'twould win applause, John,
Ef nowheres else, from you.
Ole Uncle S. sez he, 'I guess
His love of right,' sez he,
'Hangs by a rotten fibre o' cotton:
There's natur' in J.B.,
Ez wal 'z in you an' me!'
The South says, '_Poor folks down!_' John, 100
An' '_All men up!_' say we,--
White, yaller, black, an' brown, John:
Now which is your idee?
Ole Uncle S. sez he, 'I guess,
John preaches wal,' sez he;
'But, sermon thru, an' come to _du_,
Why, there's the old J.B.
A-crowdin' you an' me!'
Shall it be love, or hate, John?
It's you thet's to decide; 110
Ain't _your_ bonds held by Fate, John,
Like all the world's beside?
Ole Uncle S. sez he, 'I guess
Wise men forgive,' sez he,
'But not forgit; an' some time yit
Thet truth may strike J.B.,
Ez wal ez you an' me!'
God means to make this land, John,
Clear thru, from sea to sea,
Believe an' understand, John, 120
The _wuth_ o' bein' free.
Ole Uncle S. sez he, 'I guess,
God's price is high,' sez he;
'But nothin' else than wut He sells
Wears long, an' thet J.B.
May larn, like you an' me!'
BIRDOFREDUM SAWIN, ESQ., TO MR. HOSEA BIGLOW
_With the following Letter from the_ REVEREND HOMER WILBUR, A.M.
TO THE EDITORS OF THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY
JAALAM, 7th Feb., 1862.
RESPECTED FRIENDS,--If I know myself,--and surely a man can hardly be
supposed to have overpassed the limit of fourscore years without
attaining to some proficiency in that most useful branch of learning (_e
coelo descendit_, says the pagan poet),--I have no great smack of that
weakness which would press upon the publick attention any matter
pertaining to my private affairs. But since the following letter of Mr.
Sawin contains not only a direct allusion to myself, but that in
connection with a topick of interest to all those engaged in the publick
ministrations of the sanctuary, I may be pardoned for touching briefly
thereupon. Mr. Sawin was never a stated attendant upon my
preaching,--never, as I believe, even an occasional one, since the
erection of the new house (where we now worship) in 1845. He did,
indeed, for a time, supply a not unacceptable bass in the choir; but,
whether on some umbrage (_omnibus hoc vitium est cantoribus_) taken
against the bass-viol, then, and till his decease in 1850 (_aet._ 77,)
under the charge of Mr. Asaph Perley, or, as was reported by others, on
account of an imminent subscription for a new bell, he thenceforth
absented himself from all outward and visible communion. Yet he seems to
have preserved (_alta mente repostum_), as it were, in the pickle of a
mind soured by prejudice, a lasting _scunner_, as he would call it,
against our staid and decent form of worship; for I would rather in that
wise interpret his fling, than suppose that any chance tares sown by my
pulpit discourses should survive so long, while good seed too often
fails to root itself. I humbly trust that I have no personal feeling in
the matter; though I know that, if we sound any man deep enough, our
lead shall bring up the mud of human nature at last. The Bretons believe
in an evil spirit which they call _ar c'houskezik_, whose office it is
to make the congregation drowsy; and though I have never had reason to
think that he was specially busy among my flock, yet have I seen enough
to make me sometimes regret the hinged seats of the ancient
meeting-house, whose lively clatter, not unwillingly intensified by boys
beyond eyeshot of the tithing-man, served at intervals as a wholesome
_reveil_. It is true, I have numbered among my parishioners some who are
proof against the prophylactick fennel, nay, whose gift of somnolence
rivalled that of the Cretan Rip Van Winkle, Epimenides, and who,
nevertheless, complained not so much of the substance as of the length
of my (by them unheard) discourses. Some ingenious persons of a
philosophick turn have assured us that our pulpits were set too high,
and that the soporifick tendency increased with the ratio of the angle
in which the hearer's eye was constrained to seek the preacher. This
were a curious topick for investigation. There can be no doubt that some
sermons are pitched too high, and I remember many struggles with the
drowsy fiend in my youth. Happy Saint Anthony of Padua, whose finny
acolytes, however they might profit, could never murmur! _Quare
fremuerunt gentes?_ Who is he that can twice a week be inspired, or has
eloquence (_ut ita dicam_) always on tap? A good man, and, next to
David, a sacred poet (himself, haply, not inexpert of evil in this
particular), has said,--
'The worst speak something good: if all want sense,
God takes a text and preacheth patience.'
There are one or two other points in Mr. Sawin's letter which I would
also briefly animadvert upon. And first, concerning the claim he sets up
to a certain superiority of blood and lineage in the people of our
Southern States, now unhappily in rebellion against lawful authority and
their own better interests. There is a sort of opinions, anachronisms at
once and anachorisms, foreign both to the age and the country, that
maintain a feeble and buzzing existence, scarce to be called life, like
winter flies, which in mild weather crawl out from obscure nooks and
crannies to expatiate in the sun, and sometimes acquire vigor enough to
disturb with their enforced familiarity the studious hours of the
scholar. One of the most stupid and pertinacious of these is the theory
that the Southern States were settled by a class of emigrants from the
Old World socially superior to those who founded the institutions of New
England. The Virginians especially lay claim to this generosity of
lineage, which were of no possible account, were it not for the fact
that such superstitions are sometimes not without their effect on the
course of human affairs. The early adventurers to Massachusetts at least
paid their passages; no felons were ever shipped thither; and though it
be true that many deboshed younger brothers of what are called good
families may have sought refuge in Virginia, it is equally certain that
a great part of the early deportations thither were the sweepings of the
London streets and the leavings of the London stews. It was this my Lord
Bacon had in mind when he wrote: 'It is a shameful and unblessed thing
to take the scum of people and wicked condemned men to be the people
with whom you plant.' That certain names are found there is nothing to
the purpose, for, even had an _alias_ been beyond the invention of the
knaves of that generation, it is known that servants were often called
by their masters' names, as slaves are now. On what the heralds call the
spindle side, some, at least, of the oldest Virginian families are
descended from matrons who were exported and sold for so many hogsheads
of tobacco the head. So notorious was this, that it became one of the
jokes of contemporary playwrights, not only that men bankrupt in purse
and character were 'food for the Plantations' (and this before the
settlement of New England), but also that any drab would suffice to wive
such pitiful adventurers. 'Never choose a wife as if you were going to
Virginia,' says Middleton in one of his comedies. The mule is apt to
forget all but the equine side of his pedigree. How early the
counterfeit nobility of the Old Dominion became a topick of ridicule in
the Mother Country may be learned from a play of Mrs. Behn's, founded on
the Rebellion of Bacon: for even these kennels of literature may yield a
fact or two to pay the raking. Mrs. Flirt, the keeper of a Virginia
ordinary, calls herself the daughter of a baronet, 'undone in the late
rebellion,'--her father having in truth been a tailor,--and three of the
Council, assuming to themselves an equal splendor of origin, are shown
to have been, one 'a broken exciseman who came over a poor servant,'
another a tinker transported for theft, and the third 'a common
pickpocket often flogged at the cart's tail.' The ancestry of South
Carolina will as little pass muster at the Herald's Visitation, though I
hold them to have been more reputable, inasmuch as many of them were
honest tradesmen and artisans, in some measure exiles for conscience'
sake, who would have smiled at the high-flying nonsense of their
descendants. Some of the more respectable were Jews. The absurdity of
supposing a population of eight millions all sprung from gentle loins in
the course of a century and a half is too manifest for confutation. But
of what use to discuss the matter? An expert genealogist will provide
any solvent man with a _genus et pro avos_ to order. My Lord Burleigh
used to say, with Aristotle and the Emperor Frederick II. to back him,
that 'nobility was ancient riches,' whence also the Spanish were wont to
call their nobles _ricos hombres_, and the aristocracy of America are
the descendants of those who first became wealthy, by whatever means.
Petroleum will in this wise be the source of much good blood among our
posterity. The aristocracy of the South, such as it is, has the
shallowest of all foundations, for it is only skin-deep,--the most
odious of all, for, while affecting to despise trade, it traces its
origin to a successful traffick in men, women, and children, and still
draws its chief revenues thence. And though, as Doctor Chamberlayne
consolingly says in his 'Present State of England,' 'to become a
Merchant of Foreign Commerce, without serving any Apprentisage, hath
been allowed no disparagement to a Gentleman born, especially to a
younger Brother,' yet I conceive that he would hardly have made a like
exception in favour of the particular trade in question. Oddly enough
this trade reverses the ordinary standards of social respectability no
less than of morals, for the retail and domestick is as creditable as
the wholesale and foreign is degrading to him who follows it. Are our
morals, then, no better than _mores_ after all? I do not believe that
such aristocracy as exists at the South (for I hold with Marius,
_fortissimum quemque generosissimum_) will be found an element of
anything like persistent strength in war,--thinking the saying of Lord
Bacon (whom one quaintly called _inductionis dominus et Verulamii_) as
true as it is pithy, that 'the more gentlemen, ever the lower books of
subsidies.' It is odd enough as an historical precedent, that, while the
fathers of New England were laying deep in religion, education, and
freedom the basis of a polity which has substantially outlasted any then
existing, the first work of the founders of Virginia, as may be seen in
Wingfield's 'Memorial,' was conspiracy and rebellion,--odder yet, as
showing the changes which are wrought by circumstance, that the first
insurrection, in South Carolina was against the aristocratical scheme of
the Proprietary Government. I do not find that the cuticular aristocracy
of the South has added anything to the refinements of civilization
except the carrying of bowie-knives and the chewing of tobacco,--a
high-toned Southern gentleman being commonly not only _quadrumanous_ but
I confess that the present letter of Mr. Sawin increases my doubts as to
the sincerity of the convictions which he professes, and I am inclined
to think that the triumph, of the legitimate Government, sure sooner or
later to take place, will find him and a large majority of his newly
adopted fellow-citizens (who hold with Daedalus, the primal
sitter-on-the-fence, that _medium tenere tutissimum_) original Union
men. The criticisms towards the close of his letter on certain of our
failings are worthy to be seriously perpended; for he is not, as I
think, without a spice of vulgar shrewdness. _Fas est et ab hoste
doceri_: there is no reckoning without your host. As to the good-nature
in us which he seems to gird at, while I would not consecrate a chapel,
as they have not scrupled to do in France, to _Notre Dame de la Haine_
(Our Lady of Hate), yet I cannot forget that the corruption of
good-nature is the generation of laxity of principle. Good-nature is our
national characteristick; and though it be, perhaps, nothing more than a
culpable weakness or cowardice, when it leads us to put up tamely with
manifold impositions and breaches of implied contracts (as too
frequently in our publick conveyances) it becomes a positive crime when
it leads us to look unresentfully on peculation, and to regard treason
to the best Government that ever existed as something with which a
gentleman may shake hands without soiling his fingers. I do not think
the gallows-tree the most profitable member of our _Sylva;_ but, since
it continues to be planted, I would fain see a Northern limb ingrafted
on it, that it may bear some other fruit than loyal Tennesseeans.
A relick has recently been discovered on the east bank of Bushy Brook in
North Jaalam, which I conceive to be an inscription in Runick characters
relating to the early expedition of the Northmen to this continent. I
shall make fuller investigations, and communicate the result in due
Your obedient servant,
HOMER WILBUR, A.M.
P.S.--I inclose a year's subscription from Deacon Tinkham.
I hed it on my min' las' time, when I to write ye started,
To tech the leadin' featurs o' my gittin' me convarted;
But, ez my letters hez to go clearn roun' by way o' Cuby,
'Twun't seem no staler now than then, by th' time it gits where you be.
You know up North, though secs an' things air plenty ez you please,
Ther' warn't nut one on 'em thet come jes' square with my idees:
They all on 'em wuz too much mixed with Covenants o' Works,
An' would hev answered jest ez wal for Afrikins an' Turks,
Fer where's a Christian's privilege an' his rewards eusuin',
Ef 'taint perfessin' right and eend 'thout nary need o' doin'? 10
I dessay they suit workin'-folks thet ain't noways pertic'lar,
But nut your Southun gen'leman thet keeps his parpendic'lar;
I don't blame nary man thet casts his lot along o' _his_ folks,
But ef you cal'late to save _me_, 't must be with folks thet _is_ folks;
Cov'nants o' works go 'ginst my grain, but down here I've found out
The true fus'-fem'ly A 1 plan,--here's how it come about.
When I fus' sot up with Miss S., sez she to me, sez she,
'Without you git religion, Sir, the thing can't never be;
Nut but wut I respeck,' sez she, 'your intellectle part,
But you wun't noways du for me athout a change o' heart; 20
Nothun religion works wal North, but it's ez soft ez spruce,
Compared to ourn, for keepin' sound,' sez she, 'upon the goose;
A day's experunce 'd prove to ye, ez easy 'z pull a trigger.
It takes the Southun pint o' view to raise ten bales a nigger;
You'll fin' thet human natur', South, ain't wholesome more 'n skin-deep,
An' once 't a darkie's took with it, he wun't be wuth his keep,'
'How _shell_ I git it, Ma'am?'--sez I, 'Attend the nex' camp-meetin','
Sez she, 'an' it'll come to ye ez cheap ez onbleached sheetin'.'
Wal, so I went along an' hearn most an impressive sarmon
About besprinklin' Afriky with fourth-proof dew o' Harmon: 30
He didn't put no weaknin' in, but gin it tu us hot,
'Z ef he an' Satan 'd ben two bulls in one five-acre lot:
I don't purtend to foller him, but give ye jes' the heads;
For pulpit ellerkence, you know, 'most ollers kin' o' spreads.
Ham's seed wuz gin to us in chairge, an' shouldn't we be li'ble
In Kingdom Come, ef we kep' back their priv'lege in the Bible?
The cusses an' the promerses make one gret chain, an' ef
You snake one link out here, one there, how much on 't ud be lef'?
All things wuz gin to man for 's use, his sarvice, an' delight; 39
An' don't the Greek an' Hebrew words thet mean a Man mean White?
Ain't it belittlin' the Good Book in all its proudes' featurs
To think 'twuz wrote for black an' brown an' 'lasses-colored creaturs,
Thet couldn' read it, ef they would, nor ain't by lor allowed to,
But ough' to take wut we think suits their naturs, an' be proud to?
Warn't it more prof'table to bring your raw materil thru
Where you can work it inta grace an' inta cotton, tu,
Than sendin' missionaries out where fevers might defeat 'em,
An' ef the butcher didn' call, their p'rishioners might eat 'em?
An' then, agin, wut airthly use? Nor 'twarn't our fault, in so fur
Ez Yankee skippers would keep on atotin' on 'em over. 50
'T improved the whites by savin' 'em from ary need o' workin',
An' kep' the blacks from bein' lost thru idleness an' shirkin';
We took to 'em ez nat'ral ez a barn-owl doos to mice,
An' hed our hull time on our hands to keep us out o' vice;
It made us feel ez pop'lar ez a hen doos with one chicken,
An' fill our place in Natur's scale by givin' 'em a lickin':
For why should Caesar git his dues more 'n Juno, Pomp, an' Cuffy?