Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
The Fight over the Body of Keitt
London Punch
A fragment from the great American epic, the Washingtoniad

SING, O goddess, the wrath, the ontamable dander of Keitt—
Keitt of South Carolina, the clear grit, the tall, the ondaunted—
Him that hath wopped his own niggers till Northerners all unto Keitt
Seem but as niggers to wop, and hills of the smallest potatoes.
Late and long was the fight on the Constitution of Kansas;        5
Daylight passed into dusk, and dusk into lighting of gas-lamps;—
Still on the floor of the house the heroes unwearied were fighting.
Dry grew palates and tongues with excitement and expectoration,
Plugs were becoming exhausted, and Representatives also.
Who led on to the war the anti-Lecomptonite phalanx?        10
Grow, hitting straight from the shoulder, the Pennsylvania Slasher;
Him followed Hickman, and Potter the wiry, from woody Wisconsin;
Washburne stood with his brother,—Cadwallader stood with Elihu;
Broad Illinois sent the one, and woody Wisconsin the other.
Mott came mild as new milk, with gray hairs under his broad brim,        15
Leaving the first chop location and water privilege near it,
Held by his fathers of old on the willow-fringed banks of Ohio.
Wrathy Covode, too, I saw, and Montgomery ready for mischief.
Who against these to the floor led on the Lecomptonite legions?
Keitt of South Carolina, the clear grit, the tall, the ondaunted—        20
Keitt, and Reuben Davis, the ra’al hoss of wild Mississippi;
Barksdale, wearer of wigs, and Craige from North Carolina;
Craige and scorny McQueen, and Owen, and Lovejoy, and Lamar,
These Mississippi sent to the war, “tres juncti in uno.”
Long had raged the warfare of words; it was four in the morning:        25
Whittling and expectoration and liquorin’ all were exhausted,
When Keitt, tired of talk, bespake Reu. Davis, “O Reuben,
Grow’s a tarnation blackguard, and I’ve concluded to clinch him.”
This said, up to his feet he sprang, and loos’ning his choker,
Straighted himself for a grip, as a bar-hunter down in Arkansas        30
Squares to go in at the bar, when the dangerous varmint is cornered.
“Come out, Grow,” he cried, “you Black Republican puppy,
Come on the floor, like a man, and darn my eyes, but I’ll show you”—
Him answered straight-hitting Grow, “Waal now, I calkilate, Keitt,
No nigger-driver shall leave his plantation in South Carolina,        35
Here to crack his cow-hide round this child’s ears, if he knows it.”
Scarce had he spoke when the hand, the chivalrous five fingers of Keitt,
Clutched at his throat,—had they closed, the speeches of Grow had been ended,—
Never more from a stump had he stirred up the free and enlightened;—
But though smart Keitt’s mauleys, the mauleys of Grow were still smarter;        40
Straight from the shoulder he shot,—not Owen Swift or Ned Adams
Ever put in his right with more delicate feeling of distance.
As drops hammer on anvil, so dropped Grow’s right into Keitt
Just where the jugular runs to the point at which Ketch ties his drop-knot;—
Prone like a log sank Keitt, his dollars rattled about him.        45
Forth sprang his friends o’er the body; first, Barksdale, waving-wig-wearer,
Craige and McQueen and Davis, the ra’al hoss of wild Mississippi;
Fiercely they gathered round Grow, catawampously up as to chaw him;
But without Potter they reckoned, the wiry from woody Wisconsin;
He, striking out right and left, like a catamount varmint and vicious,        50
Dashed to the rescue, and with him the Washburnes, Cadwallader, Elihu;
Slick into Barksdale’s bread-basket walked Potter’s one, two,—hard and heavy;
Barksdale fetched wind in a trice, dropped Grow, and let out at Elihu.
Then like a fountain had flowed the claret of Washburne the elder,
But for Cadwallader’s care,—Cadwallader, guard of his brother,        55
Clutching at Barksdale’s nob, into Chancery soon would have drawn it.
Well was it then for Barksdale, the wig that waved over his forehead:
Off in Cadwallader’s hands it came, and, the wearer releasing,
Left to the conqueror nought but the scalp of his baldheaded foeman.
Meanwhile hither and thither, a dove on the waters of trouble,        60
Moved Mott, mild as new milk, with his gray hair under his broad brim,
Preaching peace to deaf ears, and getting considerably damaged.
Cautious Covode in the rear, as dubious what it might come to,
Brandished a stone-ware spittoon ’gainst whoever might seem to deserve it,—
Little it mattered to him whether Pro or Anti-Lecompton,        65
So but he found in the Hall a foeman worthy his weapon!
So raged this battle of men, till into the thick of the mèlée,
Like to the heralds of old, stepped the Sergeant-at-Arms and the Speaker.

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