Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
From Mason and Slidell: A Yankee Idyll
By James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)
*        *        *        *        *
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 to du
Is jes’ to show you’re up to fightin’, tu.
I recollect how sailors’ rights was won        5
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.        10
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:        15
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.        20
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 flagstaff flapped its tethered flame,
An’ all the people, startled from their doubt,        25
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’,        30
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 gitting slow,
An’ I ’most think we’d better let ’em go.
I tell ye wut, this war’s agoin to cost—        35

An’ I tell you it wun’t be money lost;
We wun’t give up afore the ship goes down:
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.        40
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,        45
Whose youth from thee by gripin’ need was wrung.
Brown foundlin’ o’ the woods, whose baby-bed
Was prowled roun’ by the Injuns’ cracklin’ tread,
An’ who grew’st strong thru shifts an’ wants an’ pains,
Nussed by stern men with empires in their brains,        50
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,        55
Thet man’s devices can’t unmake a man,
An’ whose free latch-string never was drawed in
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!        60
I see—
    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 goss’pin’ on some birch-trees near;
But ez they hedn’t no gret things to say,        65
An’ sed ’em often, I come right away,
An’, walkin’ home’ards, jest to pass the time,
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—        70

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        75
    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!”
Blood ain’t so cool as ink, John;        80
  It’s likely you’d ha’ wrote,
An’ stopped a spell to think, John,
  Arter they’d cut your throat?
    Ole Uncle S. sez he, “I guess
    He’d skurce ha’ stopped,” sez he,        85
    “To mind his p’s an’ q’s ef thet weasan’
    He’d b’longed to old J. B.,
    Instid o’ you an’ me!”
Ef I turned mad dogs loose, John,
  On your front-parlor stairs,        90
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 Vattell on his toes fell,        95
    ’Twould kind o’ rile J. B.,
    Ez wal ez you and me!”
Who made the law thet hurts, John,
  Heads I win—ditto, tails?
“J. B.” was on his shirts, John,        100
  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.,        105
    No more than you or me!”
When your rights was our wrong, John,
  You didn’t stop for fuss,—
Britanny’s trident-prongs, John,
  Was good ’nough law for us.        110
    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!”        115
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.
    Ole Uncle S. sez he, “I guess        120
    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,        125
  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:        130
    “When all is done, it’s number one
    Thet’s nearest to J. B.,
    Ez wal ez you an’ me!”
We give the critters back, John,
  Coz Abra’m thought ’twas right;        135
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 just now: but thet, somehow,        140
    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,        145
  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.,        150
    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.        155
    Ole Uncle S. sez he, “I guess
    Ef’t warn’t for law,” sez he,
    “There’d be one shindy from here to Indy;
    An’ thet don’t suit J. B.,
    (When ’tain’t ’twixt you an’ me!”)        160
We know we’ve gut 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        165
    His love of right,” sez he,
    “Hangs by a rotten fibre o’cotton:
    There’s natur’ in J. B.,
    Ez wal ez you an’ me!”
The South says, “Poor folks down!” John,        170
  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:        175
    “But, sermon thru, an’ come to du,
    Why, there’s the ole J. B.
    A-crowdin’ you an’ me!”
Shall it be love or hate, John?
  It’s you thet’s to decide:        180
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 forget; an’ sometime yet        185
    The 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,        190
  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.        195
    May larn like you an’ me!”

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.