Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IX. Tragedy: Humor
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IX. Tragedy: Humor.  1904.
 
Humorous Poems: II. Miscellaneous
American
James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)
 
From “A Fable for Critics”

THERE are truths you Americans need to be told,
And it never ’ll refute them to swagger and scold;
John Bull, looking o’er the Atlantic, in choler.
At your aptness for trade, says you worship the dollar;
But to scorn i-dollar-try ’s what very few do,        5
And John goes to that church as often as you do.
No matter what John says, don’t try to outcrow him,
’T is enough to go quietly on and outgrow him;
Like most fathers, Bull hates to see Number One
Displacing himself in the mind of his son,        10
And detests the same faults in himself he ’d neglected
When he sees them again in his child’s glass reflected;
To love one another you ’re too like by half,
If he is a bull, you ’re a pretty stout calf,
And tear your own pasture for naught but to show        15
What a nice pair of horns you ’re beginning to grow.
 
There are one or two things I should just like to hint,
For you don’t often get the truth told you in print;
The most of you (this is what strikes all beholders)
Have a mental and physical stoop in the shoulders;        20
Though you ought to be free as the winds and the waves,
You ’ve the gait and the manner of runaway slaves;
Though you brag of your New World, you don’t half believe in it;
And as much of the Old as is possible weave in it;
Your goddess of freedom, a tight, buxom girl,        25
With lips like a cherry and teeth like a pearl,
With eyes bold as Herë ’s, and hair floating free,
And full of the sun as the spray of the sea,
Who can sing at a husking or romp at a shearing,
Who can trip through the forests alone without fearing,        30
Who can drive home the cows with a song through the grass,
Keeps glancing aside into Europe’s cracked glass,
Hides her red hands in gloves, pinches up her lithe waist,
And makes herself wretched with transmarine taste;
She loses her fresh country charm when she takes        35
Any mirror except her own rivers and lakes.
 
 
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