Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
349. From “The Biglow Papers”
By James Russell Lowell

GUVENER B. is a sensible man;
  He stays to his home an’ looks arter his folks;
He draws his furrer ez straight ez he can,
  An’ into nobody’s tater-patch pokes;
          But John P.        5
          Robinson he
    Sez he wunt vote fer Guvener B.
My! aint it terrible? Wut shall we du?
  We can’t never choose him o’ course,—thet’s flat;
Guess we shall hev to come round, (don’t you?)        10
  An’ go in fer thunder an’ guns, an’ all that;
          Fer John P.
          Robinson he
    Sez he wunt vote fer Guvener B.
Gineral C. is a dreffle smart man:        15
  He ’s ben on all sides thet give places or pelf;
But consistency still wuz a part of his plan,—
  He ’s ben true to one party,—an’ thet is himself;—
          So John P.
          Robinson he        20
    Sez he shall vote fer Gineral C.
Gineral C. he goes in fer the war;
  He don’t vally princerple morn’n an old cud;
Wut did God make us raytional creeturs fer,
  But glory an’ gunpowder, plunder an’ blood?        25
          So John P.
          Robinson he
    Sez he shall vote fer Gineral C.
We were gittin’ on nicely up here to our village,
  With good old idees o’ wut’s right an’ wut aint,        30
We kind o’ thought Christ went agin war an’ pillage,
  An’ thet eppyletts worn’t the best mark of a saint;
          But John P.
          Robinson he
    Sez this kind o’ thing’s an exploded idee.        35
The side of our country must ollers be took,
  An’ Presidunt Polk, you know, he is our country.
An’ the angel thet writes all our sins in a book
  Puts the debit to him, an’ to us the per contry;
          An’ John P.        40
          Robinson he
    Sez this is his view o’ the thing to a T.
Parson Wilbur he calls all these argimunts lies;
  Sez they ’re nothin’ on airth but jest fee, faw, fum;
An’ thet all this big talk of our destinies        45
  Is half on it ign’ance, an’ t’other half rum;
          But John P.
          Robinson he
    Sez it aint no sech thing;an’, of course, so must we.
Parson Wilbur sez he never heerd in his life        50
  Thet th’ Apostles rigged out in their swaller-tail coats,
An’ marched round in front of a drum an’ a fife,
  To git some on ’em office, an’ some on ’em votes;
          But John P.
          Robinson he        55
    Sez they didn’t know everythin’ down in Judee.
Wal, it ’sa marcy we ’ve gut folks to tell us
  The rights an’ the wrongs o’ these matters, I vow,—
God sends country lawyers, an’ other wise fellers,
  To start the world’s team wen it gits in a slough;        60
          Fer John P.
          Robinson he
    Sez the world ’ll go right, ef he hollers out Gee!

DEAR SIR,—You wish to know my notions
  On sartin pints thet rile the land;        65
There ’s nothin’ thet my natur so shuns
  Ez bein’ mum or underhand;
I ’m a straight-spoken kind o’ creetur
  Thet blurts right out wut’s in his head,
An’ ef I ’ve one pecooler feetur,        70
  It is a nose thet wunt be led.
So, to begin at the beginnin’
  An’ come direcly to the pint,
I think the country’s underpinnin’
  Is some consid’ble out o’jint;        75
I aint agoin’ to try your patience
  By tellin’ who done this or thet,
I don’t make no insinooations,
  I jest let on I smell a rat.
Thet is, I mean, it seems to me so,        80
  But, ef the public think I ’m wrong,
I wunt deny but wut I be so,—
  An’, fact, it don’t smell very strong;
My mind’s tu fair to lose its balance
  An’ say wich party hez most sense;        85
There may be folks o’ greater talence
  Thet can’t set stiddier on the fence.
I ’m an eclectic; ez to choosin’
  ’Twixt this an’ thet, I ’m plaguy lawth;
I leave a side thet looks like losin’,        90
  But (wile there ’s doubt) I stick to both;
I stan’ upon the Constitution,
  Ez preudunt statesmun say, who ’ve planned
A way to git the most profusion
  O’ chances ez to ware they ’ll stand.        95
Ez fer the war, I go agin it,—
  I mean to say I kind o’ du,—
Thet is, I mean thet, bein’ in it,
  The best way wuz to fight it thru;
Not but wut abstract war is horrid,        100
  I sign to thet with all my heart,—
But civlyzation doos git forrid
  Sometimes upon a powder-cart.
About thet darned Proviso matter
  I never hed a grain o’ doubt,        105
Nor I aint one my sense to scatter
  So ’st no one could n’t pick it out;
My love fer North an’ South is equil,
  So I ’ll jest answer plump an’ frank,
No matter wut may be the sequil,—        110
  Yes, Sir, I am agin a Bank.
Ez to the answerin’ o’ questions,
  I ’m an off ox at bein’ druv,
Though I aint one thet ary test shuns
  I ’ll give our folks a helpin’ shove;        115
Kind o’ permiscoous I go it
  Fer the holl country, an’ the ground
I take, ez nigh ez I can show it,
  Is pooty gen’ally all round.
I don’t appruve o’ givin’ pledges;        120
  You’d ough’ to leave a feller free,
An’ not fo knockin’ out the wedges
  To ketch his fingers in the tree;
Pledges air awfle breachy cattle
  Thet preudunt farmers don’t turn out,—        125
Ez long’z the people git their rattle,
  Wut is there fer’m to grout about?
Ez to the slaves, there ’s no confusion
  In my idees consarnin’ them,—
I think they air an Institution,        130
  A sort of—yes, jest so,—ahem:
Do I own any? Of my merit
  On thet pint you yourself may jedge;
All is, I never drink no sperit,
  Nor I haint never signed no pledge.        135
Ez to my princerples, I glory
  In hevin’ nothin’ o’ the sort;
I aint a Wig, I aint a Tory,
  I ’m jest a canderdate, in short;
Thet’s fair an’ square an’ parpendicler        140
  But, ef the Public cares a fig
To hev me an’thin’ in particler,
  Wy, I ’m a kind o’ peri-Wig.
P. S.

EZ we’re a sort o’ privateerin’,
  O’ course, you know, it ’ssheer an’ sheer,        145
An’ there is suthin’ wuth your hearin’
  I ’ll mention in your privit ear;
Ef you git me inside the White House,
  Your head with ile I ’ll kin’ o’ ’nint
By gittin’ you inside the Light-house        150
  Down to the eend o’ Jaalam Pint.
An’ ez the North hez took to brustlin’
  At bein’scrouged frum off the roost,
I ’ll tell ye wut ’ll save all tusslin’
  An’ give our side a harnsome boost,—        155
Tell ’em thet on the Slavery question
  I ’m RIGHT, although to speak I ’m lawth;
This gives you a safe pint to rest on,
  An’ leaves me frontin’ South by North.

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,        165
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)        170
  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.        175
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,        180
  Seemed warm f’om floor to ceilin’,
An’ she looked full ez rosy agin
  Ez the apples she was peelin’.
’T was kin’ o’ kingdom-come to look
  On sech a blessed cretur;        185
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 could n’t quicker pitch a ton        190
  Nor dror a furrer straighter.
He ’d sparked it with full twenty gals,
  He ’d squired ’em, danced ’em, druv ’em,
Fust this one, an’ then thet, by spells—
  All is, he could n’t love ’em.        195
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        200
  Ez hisn in the choir;
My! when he made Ole Hundred ring,
  She Knowed the Lord was nigher.
An’ she ’d blush scarlit, right in prayer,
  When her new meetin’-bunnet        205
Felt somehow thru its crown a pair
  O’blue eyes sot upun 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,        210
  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.        215
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        220
  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’”—        225
“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 presumin’;
Mebby to mean yes an’ say no        230
  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.        235
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,        240
  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,        245
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,        250
  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.        255

WHERE ’S Peace? I start, some clear-blown night,
  When gaunt stone walls grow numb an’ number,
An’ creakin’ ’cross the snow-crus’ white,
  Walk the col’ starlight into summer;
Up grows the moon, an’ swell by swell        260
  Thru the pale pasturs silvers dimmer
Than the last smile thet strives to tell
  O’ love gone heavenward in its shimmer.
I hev ben gladder o’ sech things
  Than cocks o’spring or bees o’clover,        265
They filled my heart with livin’ springs,
  But now they seem to freeze ’em over;
Sights innercent ez babes on knee,
  Peaceful ez eyes o’ pastur’d cattle,
Jes’ coz they be so, seem to me        270
  To rile me more with thoughts o’ battle.
Indoors an’ out by spells I try;
  Ma’am Natur’ keeps her spin-wheel goin’,
But leaves my natur’ stiff and dry
  Ez fiel’s o’ clover arter mowin’;        275
An’ her jes’ keepin’ on the same,
  Calmer ’n a clock, an’ never carin’,
An’ findin’ nary thing to blame,
  Is wus than ef she took to swearin’.
Rat-tat-tat-tattle thru the street        280
  I hear the drummers makin’ riot,
An’ I set thinkin’ o’ the feet
  Thet follered once an’ now are quiet,—
White feet ez snowdrops innercent,
  Thet never knowed the paths o’ Satan,        285
Whose comin’ step ther’s ears thet won’t,
  No, not lifelong, leave off awaitin’.
Why, hain’t I held ’em on my knee?
  Didn’t I love to see ’em growin’,
Three likely lads ez wal could be,        290
  Hahnsome an’ brave an’ not tu knowin’?
I set an’look into the blaze
  Whose natur’, jes’ like theirn, keeps climbin’,
Ez long ’z it lives, in shinin’ ways,
  An’ half despise myself for rhymin’.        295
Wut ’s words to them whose faith an’ truth
  On War’s red techstone rang true metal,
Who ventered life an’ love an’ youth
  For the gret prize o’ death in battle?
To him who, deadly hurt, agen        300
  Flashed on afore the charge’s thunder,
Tippin’ with fire the bolt of men
  Thet rived the Rebel line asunder?
’Tain’t right to hev the young go fust,
  All throbbin’ full o’ gifts an’ graces,        305
Leavin’ life’s paupers dry ez dust
  To try an’ make b’lieve fill their places:
Nothin’ but tells us wut we miss,
  Ther’s gaps our lives can’t never fay in,
An’ thet world seems so fur from this        310
  Lef’ for us loafers to grow gray in!
My eyes cloud up for rain; my mouth
  Will take to twitchin’ roun’ the corners;
I pity mothers, tu, down South,
  For all they sot among the scorners:        315
I ’d sooner take my chance to stan’
  At Jedgment where your meanest slave is,
Than at God’s bar hol’ up a han’
  Ez drippin’ red ez yourn, Jeff Davis!
Come, Peace! not like a mourner bowed        320
  For honor lost an’ dear ones wasted,
But proud, to meet a people proud,
  With eyes thet tell o’ triumph tasted!
Come, with han’ grippin’ on the hilt,
  An’ step thet proves ye Victory’s daughter!        325
Longin’ for you, our sperits wilt
  Like shipwrecked men’s on raf’s for water.
Come, while our country feels the lift
  Of a gret instinct shoutin’ “Forwards!”
An’ knows thet freedom ain’t a gift        330
  Thet tarries long in han’s o’cowards!
Come, sech ez mothers prayed for, when
  They kissed their cross with lips thet quivered,
An’ bring fair wages for brave men,
  A nation saved, a race delivered!        335


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