Black Beetles in Amber
Part 2 out of 5
O Ravlin, what cold water, thrown by whom
Upon the kindling Boycott's ruddy bloom,
Has slaked your parching blood-thirst and allayed
The flash and shimmer of your lingual blade?
Your salary--your salary's unpaid!
In the old days, when Christ with scourges drave
The Ravlins headlong from the Temple's nave,
Each bore upon his pelt the mark divine--
The Boycott's red authenticating sign.
Birth-marked forever in surviving hurts,
Glowing and smarting underneath their shirts,
Successive Ravlins have revenged their shame
By blowing every coal and flinging flame.
And you, the latest (may you be the last!)
Endorsed with that hereditary, vast
And monstrous rubric, would the feud prolong,
Save that cupidity forbids the wrong.
In strife you preferably pass your days--
But brawl no moment longer than it pays.
By shouting when no more you can incite
The dogs to put the timid sheep to flight
To load, for you, the brambles with their fleece,
You cackle concord to congenial geese,
Put pinches of goodwill upon their tails
And pluck them with a touch that never fails.
THE "WHIRLIGIG OF TIME"
Dr. Jewell speaks of Balaam
And his vices, to assail 'em.
Ancient enmities how cruel!--
Balaam cudgeled once a Jewell.
A RAILROAD LACKEY
Ben Truman, you're a genius and can write,
Though one would not suspect it from your looks.
You lack that certain spareness which is quite
Distinctive of the persons who make books.
You show the workmanship of Stanford's cooks
About the region of the appetite,
Where geniuses are singularly slight.
Your friends the Chinamen are understood,
Indeed, to speak of you as "belly good."
Still, you can write--spell, too, I understand--
Though how two such accomplishments can go,
Like sentimental schoolgirls, hand in hand
Is more than ever I can hope to know.
To have one talent good enough to show
Has always been sufficient to command
The veneration of the brilliant band
Of railroad scholars, who themselves, indeed,
Although they cannot write, can mostly read.
There's Towne and Fillmore, Goodman and Steve Gage,
Ned Curtis of Napoleonic face,
Who used to dash his name on glory's page
"A.M." appended to denote his place
Among the learned. Now the last faint trace
Of Nap. is all obliterate with age,
And Ned's degree less precious than his wage.
He says: "I done it," with his every breath.
"Thou canst not say I did it," says Macbeth.
Good land! how I run on! I quite forgot
Whom this was meant to be about; for when
I think upon that odd, unearthly lot--
Not quite Creedhaymonds, yet not wholly men--
I'm dominated by my rebel pen
That, like the stubborn bird from which 'twas got,
Goes waddling forward if I will or not.
To leave your comrades, Ben, I'm now content:
I'll meet them later if I don't repent.
You've writ a letter, I observe--nay, more,
You've published it--to say how good you think
The coolies, and invite them to come o'er
In thicker quantity. Perhaps you drink
No corporation's wine, but love its ink;
Or when you signed away your soul and swore
On railrogue battle-fields to shed your gore
You mentally reserved the right to shed
The raiment of your character instead.
You're naked, anyhow: unragged you stand
In frank and stark simplicity of shame.
And here upon your flank, in letters grand,
The iron has marked you with your owner's name.
Needless, for none would steal and none reclaim.
But "Leland $tanford" is a pretty brand,
Wrought by an artist with a cunning hand
But come--this naked unreserve is flat:
Don your habiliment--you're fat, you're fat!
In fair San Francisco a good man did dwell,
And he wrote out a will, for he didn't feel well,
Said he: "It is proper, when making a gift,
To stimulate virtue by comforting thrift."
So he left all his property, legal and straight,
To "the cursedest rascal in all of the State."
But the name he refused to insert, for, said he;
"Let each man consider himself legatee."
In due course of time that philanthropist died,
And all San Francisco, and Oakland beside--
Save only the lawyers--came each with his claim
The lawyers preferring to manage the same.
The cases were tried in Department Thirteen,
Judge Murphy presided, sedate and serene,
But couldn't quite specify, legal and straight,
The cursedest rascal in all of the State.
And so he remarked to them, little and big--
To claimants: "You skip!" and to lawyers: "You dig!"
They tumbled, tumultuous, out of his court
And left him victorious, holding the fort.
'Twas then that he said: "It is plain to my mind
This property's ownerless--how can I find
The cursedest rascal in all of the State?"
So he took it himself, which was legal and straight.
"DIED OF A ROSE"
A reporter he was, and he wrote, wrote he:
"The grave was covered as thick as could be
With floral tributes"--which reading,
The editor man he said, he did so:
"For 'floral tributes' he's got for to go,
For I hold the same misleading."
Then he called him in and he pointed sweet
To a blooming garden across the street,
Inquiring: "What's them a-growing?"
The reporter chap said: "Why, where's your eyes?
Them's floral tributes!" "Arise, arise,"
The editor said, "and be going."
A LITERARY HANGMAN
Beneath his coat of dirt great Neilson loves
To hide the avenging rope.
He handles all he touches without gloves,
AT THE ELEVENTH HOUR
As through the blue expanse he skims
On joyous wings, the late
Frank Hutchings overtakes Miss Sims,
Both bound for Heaven's high gate.
In life they loved and (God knows why
A lover so should sue)
He slew her, on the gallows high
Died pious--and they flew.
Her pinions were bedraggled, soiled
And torn as by a gale,
While his were bright--all freshly oiled
The feathers of his tail.
Her visage, too, was stained and worn
And menacing and grim;
His sweet and mild--you would have sworn
That _she_ had murdered _him_.
When they'd arrived before the gate
He said to her: "My dear,
'Tis hard once more to separate,
But _you_ can't enter here.
"For you, unluckily, were sent
So quickly to the grave
You had no notice to repent,
Nor time your soul to save."
"'Tis true," said she, "and I should wail
In Hell even now, but I
Have lingered round the county jail
To see a Christian die."
I've sometimes wished that Ingersoll were wise
To hold his tongue, nor rail against the skies;
For when he's made a point some pious dunce
Like Bartlett of the _Bulletin_ "replies."
I brandish no iconoclastic fist,
Nor enter the debate an atheist;
But when they say there is a God I ask
Why Bartlett, then, is suffered to exist.
Even infidels that logic might resent,
Saying: "There's no place for his punishment
That's worse than earth." But humbly I submit
That he would make a hell wherever sent.
High Lord of Liars, Pickering, to thee
Let meaner mortals bend the subject knee!
Thine is mendacity's imperial crown,
Alike by genius, action and renown.
No man, since words could set a cheek aflame
E'er lied so greatly with so little shame!
O bad old man, must thy remaining years
Be passed in leading idiots by their ears--
Thine own (which Justice, if she ruled the roast
Would fasten to the penitential post)
Still wagging sympathetically--hung
the same rocking-bar that bears thy tongue?
Thou dog of darkness, dost thou hope to stay
Time's dread advance till thou hast had thy day?
Dost think the Strangler will release his hold
Because, forsooth, some fibs remain untold?
No, no--beneath thy multiplying load
Of years thou canst not tarry on the road
To dabble in the blood thy leaden feet
Have pressed from bosoms that have ceased to beat
Of reputations margining thy way,
Nor wander from the path new truth to slay.
Tell to thyself whatever lies thou wilt,
Catch as thou canst at pennies got by guilt--
Straight down to death this blessed year thou'lt sink,
Thy life washed out as with a wave of ink.
But if this prophecy be not fulfilled,
And thou who killest patience be not killed;
If age assail in vain and vice attack
Only by folly to be beaten back;
Yet Nature can this consolation give:
The rogues who die not are condemned to live!
THE RETROSPECTIVE BIRD
His caw is a cackle, his eye is dim,
And he mopes all day on the lowest limb;
Not a word says he, but he snaps his bill
And twitches his palsied head, as a quill,
The ultimate plume of his pride and hope,
Quits his now featherless nose-of-the-Pope,
Leaving that eminence brown and bare
Exposed to the Prince of the Power of the Air.
And he sits and he thinks: "I'm an old, old man,
Mateless and chickless, the last of my clan,
But I'd give the half of the days gone by
To perch once more on the branches high,
And hear my great-grand-daddy's comical croaks
In authorized versions of _Bulletin_ jokes."
THE OAKLAND DOG
I lay one happy night in bed
And dreamed that all the dogs were dead.
They'd all been taken out and shot--
Their bodies strewed each vacant lot.
O'er all the earth, from Berkeley down
To San Leandro's ancient town,
And out in space as far as Niles--
I saw their mortal parts in piles.
One stack upreared its ridge so high
Against the azure of the sky
That some good soul, with pious views,
Put up a steeple and sold pews.
No wagging tail the scene relieved:
I never in my life conceived
(I swear it on the Decalogue!)
Such penury of living dog.
The barking and the howling stilled,
The snarling with the snarler killed,
All nature seemed to hold its breath:
The silence was as deep as death.
True, candidates were all in roar
On every platform, as before;
And villains, as before, felt free
To finger the calliope.
True, the Salvationist by night,
And milkman in the early light,
The lonely flutist and the mill
Performed their functions with a will.
True, church bells on a Sunday rang
The sick man's curtain down--the bang
Of trains, contesting for the track,
Out of the shadow called him back.
True, cocks, at all unheavenly hours,
Crew with excruciating powers,
Cats on the woodshed rang and roared,
Fat citizens and fog-horns snored.
But this was all too fine for ears
Accustomed, through the awful years,
To the nocturnal monologues
And day debates of Oakland dogs.
And so the world was silent. Now
What else befell--to whom and how?
_Imprimis_, then, there were no fleas,
And days of worth brought nights of ease.
Men walked about without the dread
Of being torn to many a shred,
Each fragment holding half a cruse
Of hydrophobia's quickening juice.
They had not to propitiate
Some curst kioodle at each gate,
But entered one another's grounds,
Unscared, and were not fed to hounds.
Women could drive and not a pup
Would lift the horse's tendons up
And let them go--to interject
A certain musical effect.
Even children's ponies went about,
All grave and sober-paced, without
A bulldog hanging to each nose--
Proud of his fragrance, I suppose.
Dog being dead, Man's lawless flame
Burned out: he granted Woman's claim,
Children's and those of country, art--
all took lodgings in his heart.
When memories of his former shame
Crimsoned his cheeks with sudden flame
He said; "I know my fault too well--
They fawned upon me and I fell."
Ah! 'twas a lovely world!--no more
I met that indisposing bore,
The unseraphic cynogogue--
The man who's proud to love a dog.
Thus in my dream the golden reign
Of Reason filled the world again,
And all mankind confessed her sway,
From Walnut Creek to San Jose.
THE UNFALLEN BRAVE
Not all in sorrow and in tears,
To pay of gratitude's arrears
The yearly sum--
Not prompted, wholly by the pride
Of those for whom their friends have died,
To-day we come.
Another aim we have in view
Than for the buried boys in blue
To drop a tear:
Memorial Day revives the chin
Of Barnes, and Salomon chimes in--
That's why we're here.
And when in after-ages they
Shall pass, like mortal men, away,
Their war-song sung,
Then fame will tell the tale anew
Of how intrepidly they drew
The deadly tongue.
Then cull white lilies for the graves
Of Liberty's loquacious braves,
And roses red.
Those represent their livers, these
The blood that in unmeasured seas
They did not shed.
A CELEBRATED CASE
Way down in the Boom Belt lived Mrs. Roselle;
A person named Petrie, he lived there as well;
But Mr. Roselle he resided away--
Sing tooral iooral iooral iay.
Once Mrs. Roselle in her room was alone:
The flesh of her flesh and the bone of her bone
Neglected the wife of his bosom to woo--
Sing tooral iooral iooral ioo.
Then Petrie, her lover, appeared at the door,
Remarking: "My dear; I don't love you no more."
"That's awfully rough," said the lady, "on me--
Sing tooral iooral iooral iee."
"Come in, Mr. Petrie," she added, "pray do:
Although you don't love me no more, I love you.
Sit down while I spray you with vitriol now--
Sing tooral iooral iooral iow."
Said Petrie: "That liquid I know won't agree
With my beauty, and then you'll no longer love me;
So spray and be "--O, what a word he did say!--
Sing tooral iooral iooral iay.
She deluged his head and continued to pour
Till his bonny blue eyes, like his love, were no more.
It was seldom he got such a hearty shampoo--
Sing tooral iooral iooral ioo.
Then Petrie he rose and said: "Mrs. Roselle,
I have an engagement and bid you farewell."
"You see," she began to explain--but not he!--
Sing tooral, iooral, iooral iee.
The Sheriff he came and he offered his arm,
Saying, "Sorry I am for disturbin' you, marm,
But business is business." Said she, "So they say--
Sing tooral, iooral, iooral iay."
The Judge on the bench he looked awfully stern;
The District Attorney began to attorn;
The witnesses lied and the lawyers--O my!--
Sing tooral, iooral, iooral iyi.
The chap that defended her said: "It's our claim
That he loved us no longer and told us the same.
What else than we did could we decently do?--
Sing tooral, iooral, iooral ioo."
The District Attorney, sarcastic, replied:
"We loved you no longer--that can't be denied.
Not having no eyes we may dote on you now--
Sing tooral, iooral, iooral iow."
The prisoner wept to entoken her fears;
The sockets of Petrie were flooded with tears.
O heaven-born Sympathy, bully for you!--
Sing tooral, iooral, iooral ioo.
Four jurors considered the prisoner mad,
And four thought her victim uncommonly bad,
And four that the acid was all in his eye--
Sing rum tiddy iddity iddity hi.
Intended for Inscription on a Sword Presented to Colonel
Cutting of the National Guard of California.
I am for Cutting. I'm a blade
Designed for use at dress parade.
My gleaming length, when I display
Peace rules the land with gentle sway;
But when the war-dogs bare their teeth
Go seek me in the modest sheath.
I am for Cutting. Not for me
The task of setting nations free.
Let soulless blades take human life,
My softer metal shuns the strife.
The annual review is mine,
When gorgeous shopmen sweat and shine,
And Biddy, tip-toe on the pave,
Adores the cobble-trotting brave.
I am for Cutting. 'Tis not mine
To hew amain the hostile line;
Not mine all pitiless to spread
The plain with tumuli of dead.
My grander duty lies afar
From haunts of the insane hussar,
Where charging horse and struggling foot
Are grimed alike with cannon-soot.
When Loveliness and Valor meet
Beneath the trees to dance, and eat,
And sing, and much beside, behold
My golden glories all unfold!
There formidably are displayed
The useful horrors of my blade
In time of feast and dance and ballad,
I am for cutting chicken salad.
As vicious women think all men are knaves,
And shrew-bound gentlemen discourse of slaves;
As reeling drunkards judge the world unsteady
And idlers swear employers ne'er get ready--
Thieves that the constable stole all they had,
The mad that all except themselves are mad;
So, in another's clear escutcheon shown,
Barnes rails at stains reflected from his own;
Prates of "docility," nor feels the dark
Ring round his neck--the Ralston collar mark.
Back, man, to studies interrupted once,
Ere yet the rogue had merged into the dunce.
Back, back to Yale! and, grown with years discreet,
The course a virgin's lust cut short, complete.
Go drink again at the Pierian pool,
And learn--at least to better play the fool.
No longer scorn the draught, although the font,
Unlike Pactolus, waters not Belmont.
A VISION OF RESURRECTION
I had a dream. The habitable earth--
Its continents and islands, all were bare
Of cities and of forests. Naught remained
Of its old aspect, and I only knew
(As men know things in dreams, unknowing how)
That this was earth and that all men were dead.
On every side I saw the barren land,
Even to the distant sky's inclosing blue,
Thick-pitted all with graves; and all the graves
Save one were open--not as newly dug,
But rather as by some internal force
Riven for egress. Tombs of stone were split
And wide agape, and in their iron decay
The massive mausoleums stood in halves.
With mildewed linen all the ground was white.
Discarded shrouds upon memorial stones
Hung without motion in the soulless air.
While greatly marveling how this should be
I heard, or fancied that I heard, a voice,
Low like an angel's, delicately strong,
And sweet as music.
--"Spirit," it said, "behold
The burial place of universal Man!
A million years have rolled away since here
His sheeted multitudes (save only some
Whose dark misdeeds required a separate
And individual arraignment) rose
To judgment at the trumpet's summoning
And passed into the sky for their award,
Leaving behind these perishable things
Which yet, preserved by miracle, endure
Till all are up. Then they and all of earth,
Rock-hearted mountain and storm-breasted sea,
River and wilderness and sites of dead
And vanished capitals of men, shall spring
To flame, and naught shall be for evermore!
When all are risen that wonder will occur.
'Twas but ten centuries ago the last
But one came forth--a soul so black with sin,
Against whose name so many crimes were set
That only now his trial is at end.
But one remains."
Straight, as the voice was stilled--
That single rounded mound cracked lengthliwise
And one came forth in grave-clothes. For a space
He stood and gazed about him with a smile
Superior; then laying off his shroud
Disclosed his two attenuated legs
Which, like parentheses, bent outwardly
As by the weight of saintliness above,
And so sprang upward and was lost to view
Noting his headstone overthrown, I read:
"Sacred to memory of George K. Fitch,
Deacon and Editor--a holy man
Who fell asleep in Jesus, full of years
And blessedness. The dead in Christ rise first."
MASTER OF THREE ARTS
Your various talents, Goldenson, command
Respect: you are a poet and can draw.
It is a pity that your gifted hand
Should ever have been raised against the law.
If you had drawn no pistol, but a picture,
You would have saved your throttle from a stricture.
About your poetry I'm not so sure:
'Tis certain we have much that's quite as bad,
Whose hardy writers have not to endure
The hangman's fondling. It is said they're mad:
Though lately Mr. Brooks (I mean the poet)
Looked well, and if demented didn't show it.
Well, Goldenson, I am a poet, too--
Taught by the muses how to smite the harp
And lift the tuneful voice, although, like you
And Brooks, I sometimes flat and sometimes sharp.
But let me say, with no desire to taunt you,
I never murder even the girls I want to.
I hold it one of the poetic laws
To sing of life, not take. I've ever shown
A high regard for human life because
I have such trouble to support my own.
And you--well, you'll find trouble soon in blowing
Your private coal to keep it red and glowing.
I fancy now I see you at the Gate
Approach St. Peter, crawling on your belly,
You cry: "Good sir, take pity on my state--
Forgive the murderer of Mamie Kelly!"
And Peter says: "O, that's all right--but, mister,
You scribbled rhymes. In Hell I'll make you
So, in the Sunday papers _you_, Del Mar,
Damn, all great Englishmen in English speech?
I am no Englishman, but in my reach
A rogue shall never rail where heroes are.
You are the man, if I mistake you not,
Who lately with a supplicating twitch
Plucked at the pockets of the London rich
And paid your share-engraver all you got.
Because that you have greatly lied, because
You libel nations, and because no hand
Of officer is raised to bid you stand,
And falsehood is unpunished of the laws,
I stand here in a public place to mark
With level finger where you part the crowd--
I stand to name you and to cry aloud:
"Behold mendacity's great hierarch!"
A SOCIETY LEADER
"The Social World"! O what a world it is--
Where full-grown men cut capers in the German,
Cotillion, waltz, or what you will, and whizz
And spin and hop and sprawl about like mermen!
I wonder if our future Grant or Sherman,
As these youths pass their time, is passing his--
If eagles ever come from painted eggs,
Or deeds of arms succeed to deeds of legs.
I know they tell us about Waterloo:
How, "foremost fighting," fell the evening's
I don't believe it: I regard it true
That soldiers who are skillful in "the Lancers"
Less often die of cannon than of cancers.
Moreover, I am half-persuaded, too,
That David when he danced before the Ark
Had the reporter's word to keep it dark.
Ed. Greenway, you fatigue. Your hateful name
Like maiden's curls, is in the papers daily.
You think it, doubtless, honorable fame,
And contemplate the cheap distinction gaily,
As does the monkey the blue-painted tail he
Believes becoming to him. 'Tis the same
With men as other monkeys: all their souls
Crave eminence on any kind of poles.
But cynics (barking tribe!) are all agreed
That monkeys upon poles performing capers
Are not exalted, they are only "treed."
A glory that is kindled by the papers
Is transient as the phosphorescent vapors
That shine in graveyards and are seen, indeed,
But while the bodies that supply the gas
Are turning into weeds to feed an ass.
One can but wonder sometimes how it feels
To _be_ an ass--a beast we beat condignly
Because, like yours, his life is in his heels
And he is prone to use them unbenignly.
The ladies (bless them!) say you dance divinely.
I like St. Vitus better, though, who deals
His feet about him with a grace more just,
And hops, not for he will, but for he must.
Doubtless it gratifies you to observe
Elbowy girls and adipose mamas
All looking adoration as you swerve
This way and that; but prosperous papas
Laugh in their sleeves at you, and their ha-has,
If heard, would somewhat agitate your nerve.
And dames and maids who keep you on their
Don't seem to want a closer tie themselves.
Gods! what a life you live!--by day a slave
To your exacting back and urgent belly;
Intent to earn and vigilant to save--
By night, attired so sightly and so smelly,
With countenance as luminous as jelly,
Bobbing and bowing! King of hearts and knave
Of diamonds, I'd bet a silver brick
If brains were trumps you'd never take a trick.
I Slept, and, waking in the years to be,
Heard voices, and approaching whence they came,
Listened indifferently where a key
Had lately been removed. An ancient dame
Said to her daughter: "Go to yonder caddy
And get some emery to scour your daddy."
And then I knew--some intuition said--
That tombs were not and men had cleared their shelves
Of urns; and the electro-plated dead
Stood pedestaled as statues of themselves.
With famous dead men all the public places
Were thronged, and some in piles awaited bases.
One mighty structure's high facade alone
Contained a single monumental niche,
Where, central in that steep expanse of stone,
Gleamed the familiar form of Thomas Fitch.
A man cried: "Lo! Truth's temple and its founder!"
Then gravely added: "I'm her chief expounder."
TO "COLONEL" DAN. BURNS
They say, my lord, that you're a Warwick. Well,
The title's an absurd one, I believe:
You make no kings, you have no kings to sell,
Though really 'twere easy to conceive
You stuffing half-a-dozen up your sleeve.
No, you're no Warwick, skillful from the shell
To hatch out sovereigns. On a mare's nest, maybe,
You'd incubate a little jackass baby.
I fancy, too, that it is naught but stuff,
This "power" that you're said to be "behind
The throne." I'm sure 'twere accurate enough
To represent you simply as inclined
To push poor Markham (ailing in his mind
And body, which were never very tough)
Round in an invalid's wheeled chair. Such menial
Employment to low natures is congenial.
No, Dan, you're an impostor every way:
A human bubble, for "the earth," you know,
"Hath bubbles, as the water hath." Some day
Some careless hand will prick your film, and O,
How utterly you'll vanish! Daniel, throw
(As fallen Woolsey might to Cromwell say)
Your curst ambition to the pigs--though truly
'Twould make them greater pigs, and more unruly.
GEORGE A. KNIGHT
Attorney Knight, it happens so sometimes
That lawyers, justifying cut-throats' crimes
For hire--calumniating, too, for gold,
The dead, dumb victims cruelly unsouled--
Speak, through the press, to a tribunal far
More honorable than their Honors are,--
A court that sits not with assenting smile
While living rogues dead gentleman revile,--
A court where scoundrel ethics of your trade
Confuse no judgment and no cheating aid,--
The Court of Honest Souls, where you in vain
May plead your right to falsify for gain,
Sternly reminded if a man engage
To serve assassins for the liar's wage,
His mouth with vilifying falsehoods crammed,
He's twice detestable and doubly damned!
Attorney Knight, defending Powell, you,
To earn your fee, so energetic grew
(So like a hound, the pride of all the pack,
Clapping your nose upon the dead man's track
To run his faults to earth--at least proclaim
At vacant holes the overtaken game)
That men who marked you nourishing the tongue,
And saw your arms so vigorously swung,
All marveled how so light a breeze could stir
So great a windmill to so great a whirr!
Little they knew, or surely they had grinned,
The mill was laboring to raise the wind.
Ralph Smith a "shoulder-striker"! God, O hear
This hardy man's description of thy dear
Dead child, the gentlest soul, save only One,
E'er born in any land beneath the sun.
All silent benefactions still he wrought:
High deed and gracious speech and noble thought,
Kept all thy law, and, seeking still the right,
Upon his blameless breast received the light.
"Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints," he cried
Whose wrath was deep as his comparison wide--
Milton, thy servant. Nay, thy will be done:
To smite or spare--to me it all is one.
Can vengeance bring my sorrow to an end,
Or justice give me back my buried friend?
But if some Milton vainly now implore,
And Powell prosper as he did before,
Yet 'twere too much that, making no ado,
Thy saints be slaughtered and be slandered too.
So, Lord, make Knight his weapon keep in sheath,
Or do Thou wrest it from between his teeth!
Saint Peter sat at the jasper gate,
When Stephen M. White arrived in state.
"Admit me." "With pleasure," Peter said,
Pleased to observe that the man was dead;
"That's what I'm here for. Kindly show
Your ticket, my lord, and in you go."
White stared in blank surprise. Said he
"I _run_ this place--just turn that key."
"Yes?" said the Saint; and Stephen heard
With pain the inflection of that word.
But, mastering his emotion, he
Remarked: "My friend, you're too d---- free;
"I'm Stephen M., by thunder, White!"
And, "Yes?" the guardian said, with quite
The self-same irritating stress
Distinguishing his former yes.
And still demurely as a mouse
He twirled the key to that Upper House.
Then Stephen, seeing his bluster vain
Admittance to those halls to gain,
Said, neighborly: "Pray tell me. Pete,
Does any one contest my seat?"
The Saint replied: "Nay, nay, not so;
But you voted always wrong below:
"Whate'er the question, clear and high
You're voice rang: '_I_,' '_I_,' ever '_I_.'"
Now indignation fired the heart
Of that insulted immortal part.
"Die, wretch!" he cried, with blanching lip,
And made a motion to his hip,
With purpose murderous and hearty,
To draw the Democratic party!
He felt his fingers vainly slide
Upon his unappareled hide
(The dead arise from their "silent tents"
But not their late habiliments)
Then wailed--the briefest of his speeches:
"I've left it in my other breeches!"
A POLITICAL VIOLET
Come, Stanford, let us sit at ease
And talk as old friends do.
You talk of anything you please,
And I will talk of you.
You recently have said, I hear,
That you would like to go
To serve as Senator. That's queer!
Have you told William Stow?
Once when the Legislature said:
"Go, Stanford, and be great!"
You lifted up your Jovian head
And everlooked the State.
As one made leisurely awake,
You lightly rubbed your eyes
And answered: "Thank you--please to make
A note of my surprise.
"But who are they who skulk aside,
As to get out of reach,
And in their clothing strive to hide
Three thousand dollars each?
"Not members of your body, sure?
No, that can hardly be:
All statesmen, I suppose, are pure.
What! there are rogues? Dear me!"
You added, you'll recall, that though
You were surprised and pained,
You thought, upon the whole, you'd go,
And in that mind remained.
Now, what so great a change has wrought
That you so frankly speak
Of "seeking" honors once unsought
Because you "scorned to seek"?
Do you not fear the grave reproof
In good Creed Haymond's eye?
Will Stephen Gage not stand aloof
And pass you coldly by?
O, fear you not that Vrooman's lich
Will rise from earth and point
At you a scornful finger which
May lack, perchance, a joint?
Go, Stanford, where the violets grow,
And join their modest train.
Await the work of William Stow
And be surprised again.
THE SUBDUED EDITOR
Pope-choker Pixley sat in his den
A-chewin' upon his quid.
He thought it was Leo Thirteen, and then
He bit it intenser, he did.
The amber which overflew from the cud
Like rivers which burst out of bounds--
'Twas peculiar grateful to think it blood
A-gushin' from Papal wounds.
A knockin' was heard uponto the door
Where some one a-waitin' was.
"Come in," said the shedder of priestly gore,
Arrestin' to once his jaws.
The person which entered was curly of hair
And smilin' as ever you see;
His eyes was blue, and uncommon fair
Was his physiognomee.
And yet there was some'at remarkable grand--
And the editor says as he looks:
"Your Height" (it was Highness, you understand,
That he meant, but he spoke like books)--
"Your Height, I am in. I'm the editor man
Of this paper--which is to say,
I'm the owner, too, and it's alway ran
In the independentest way!
"Not a damgaloot can interfere,
A-shapin' my course for me:
This paper's (and nothing can make it veer)
Pixleian in policee!"
"It's little to me," said the sunny youth,
"If journals is better or worse
Where I am to home they won't keep, in truth,
The climate is that perverse.
"I've come, howsomever, your mind to light
With a more superior fire:
You'll have naught hencefor'ard to do but write,
While I sets by and inspire.
"We'll make it hot all round, bedad!"
And his laughture was loud and free.
"The devil!" cried Pixley, surpassin' mad.
"Exactly, my friend--that's me."
So he took a chair and a feather fan,
And he sets and sets and sets,
Inspirin' that humbled editor man,
Which sweats and sweats and sweats!
All unavailin' his struggles be,
And it's, O, a weepin' sight
To see a great editor bold and free
Reducted to sech a plight!
"BLACK BART, Po8"
Welcome, good friend; as you have served your term,
And found the joy of crime to be a fiction,
I hope you'll hold your present faith, stand firm
And not again be open to conviction.
Your sins, though scarlet once, are now as wool:
You've made atonement for all past offenses,
And conjugated--'twas an awful pull!--
The verb "to pay" in all its moods and tenses.
You were a dreadful criminal--by Heaven,
I think there never was a man so sinful!
We've all a pinch or two of Satan's leaven,
But you appeared to have an even skinful.
Earth shuddered with aversion at your name;
Rivers fled backward, gravitation scorning;
The sea and sky, from thinking on your shame,
Grew lobster-red at eve and in the morning.
But still red-handed at your horrid trade
You wrought, to reason deaf, and to compassion.
But now with gods and men your peace is made
I beg you to be good and in the fashion.
What's that?--you "ne'er again will rob a stage"?
What! did you do so? Faith, I didn't know it.
Was _that_ what threw poor Themis in a rage?
I thought you were convicted as a poet!
I own it was a comfort to my soul,
And soothed it better than the deepest curses,
To think they'd got one poet in a hole
Where, though he wrote, he could not print, his verses.
I thought that Welcker, Plunkett, Brooks, and all
The ghastly crew who always are begriming
With villain couplets every page and wall,
Might be arrested and "run in" for rhyming.
And then Parnassus would be left to me,
And Pegasus should bear me up it gaily,
Nor down a steep place run into the sea,
As now he must be tempted to do daily.
Well, grab the lyre-strings, hearties, and begin:
Bawl your harsh souls all out upon the gravel.
I must endure you, for you'll never sin
By robbing coaches, until dead men travel.
A "SCION OF NOBILITY"
Come, sisters, weep!--our Baron dear,
Alas! has run away.
If always we had kept him here
He had not gone astray.
Painter and grainer it were vain
To say he was, before;
And if he were, yet ne'er again
He'll darken here a door.
We mourn each matrimonial plan--
Even tradesmen join the cry:
He was so promising a man
Whenever he did buy.
He was a fascinating lad,
Deny it all who may;
Even moneyed men confess he had
A very taking way.
So from our tables he is gone--
Our tears descend in showers;
We loved the very fat upon.
His kidneys, for 'twas ours.
To women he was all respect
To duns as cold as ice;
No lady could his suit reject,
No tailor get its price.
He raised our hope above the sky;
Alas! alack! and O!
That one who worked it up so high
Should play it down so low!
THE NIGHT OF ELECTION
"O venerable patriot, I pray
Stand not here coatless; at the break of day
We'll know the grand result--and even now
The eastern sky is faintly touched with gray.
"It ill befits thine age's hoary crown--
This rude environment of rogue and clown,
Who, as the lying bulletins appear,
With drunken cries incarnadine the town.
"But if with noble zeal you stay to note
The outcome of your patriotic vote
For Blaine, or Cleveland, and your native land,
Take--and God bless you!--take my overcoat."
"Done, pard--and mighty white of you. And now
guess the country'll keep the trail somehow.
I aint allowed to vote, the Warden said,
But whacked my coat up on old Stanislow."
THE CONVICTS' BALL
San Quentin was brilliant. Within the halls
Of the noble pile with the frowning walls
(God knows they've enough to make them frown,
With a Governor trying to break them down!)
Was a blaze of light. 'Twas the natal day
Of his nibs the popular John S. Gray,
And many observers considered his birth
The primary cause of his moral worth.
"The ball is free!" cried Black Bart, and they all
Said a ball with no chain was a novel ball;
"And I never have seed," said Jimmy Hope,
"Sech a lightsome dance withouten a rope."
Chinamen, Indians, Portuguese, Blacks,
Russians, Italians, Kanucks and Kanaks,
Chilenos, Peruvians, Mexicans--all
Greased with their presence that notable ball.
None were excluded excepting, perhaps,
The Rev. Morrison's churchly chaps,
Whom, to prevent a religious debate,
The Warden had banished outside of the gate.
The fiddler, fiddling his hardest the while,
"Called off" in the regular foot-hill style:
"Circle to the left!" and "Forward and back!"
And "Hellum to port for the stabbard tack!"
(This great _virtuoso_, it would appear,
Was Mate of the _Gatherer_ many a year.)
"_Ally man_ left!"--to a painful degree
His French was unlike to the French of Paree,
As heard from our countrymen lately abroad,
And his "_doe cee doe_" was the gem of the fraud.
But what can you hope from a gentleman barred
From circles of culture by dogs in the yard?
'Twas a glorious dance, though, all the same,
The Jardin Mabille in the days of its fame
Never saw legs perform such springs--
The cold-chisel's magic had given them wings.
They footed it featly, those lades and gents:
Dull care (said Long Moll) had a helly go-hence!
'Twas a very aristocratic affair:
The _creme de la creme_ and _elite_ were there--
Rank, beauty and wealth from the highest sets,
And Hubert Howe Bancroft sent his regrets.
Sweet Spirit of Cesspool, hear a mother's prayer:
Her terrors pacify and offspring spare!
Upon Silurians alone let fall
(And God in Heaven have mercy on them all!)
The red revenges of your fragrant breath,
Hot with the flames invisible of death.
Sing in each nose a melody of smells,
And lead them snoutwise to their several hells!
TO ONE DETESTED
Sir, you're a veteran, revealed
In history and fable
As warrior since you took the field,
As Commissary later (or
If not, in every cottage
The tale is) you contracted for
A mess of pottage.
In civil life you were, we read
(And our respect increases)
A man of peace--a man, indeed,
Of thirty pieces.
To paying taxes when you turned
Your mind, or what you call so,
A wide celebrity you earned--
In every age, by various names,
You've won renown in story,
But on your present record flames
A greater glory.
Cain, Esau, and Iscariot, too,
And Ananias, likewise,
Each had peculiar powers, but who
Could lie as Mike lies?
THE BOSS'S CHOICE
Listen to his wild romances:
He advances foolish fancies,
Each expounded as his "view"--
In his brain's opacous clot, ah
He has got a maggot! What a
Man with "views" to overwhelm us!--
Hear his demagogic clamor--
Hear him stammer in his grammar!
Teaching, he will learn to spell--
Slave who paid the price demanded--
With two-handed iron branded
By the boss--pray cease to dose us,
Gulielmus L. Jocosus.
A MERCIFUL GOVERNOR
Standing within the triple wall of Hell,
And flattening his nose against a grate
Behind whose brazen bars he'd had to dwell
A thousand million ages to that date,
Stoneman bewailed his melancholy fate,
And his big tear-drops, boiling as they fell,
Had worn between his feet, the record mentions,
A deep depression in the "good intentions."
Imperfectly by memory taught how--
For prayer in Hell is a lost art--he prayed,
Uplifting his incinerated brow
And flaming hands in supplication's aid.
"O grant," he cried, "my torment may be stayed--
In mercy, some short breathing spell allow!
If one good deed I did before my ghosting,
Spare me and give Delmas a double roasting."
Breathing a holy harmony in Hell,
Down through the appalling clamors of the place,
Charming them all to willing concord, fell
A Voice ineffable and full of grace:
"Because of all the law-defying race
One single malefactor of the cell
Thou didst not free from his incarceration,
Take thou ten thousand years of condonation."
Back from their fastenings began to shoot
The rusted bolts; with dreadful roar, the gate
Laboriously turned; and, black with soot,
The extinguished spirit passed that awful strait,
And as he legged it into space, elate,
Muttered: "Yes, I remember that galoot--
I'd signed his pardon, ready to allot it,
But stuck it in my desk and quite forgot it."
Now Lonergan appears upon the boards,
And Truth and Error sheathe their lingual swords.
No more in wordy warfare to engage,
The commentators bow before the stage,
And bookworms, militant for ages past,
Confess their equal foolishness at last,
Reread their Shakspeare in the newer light
And swear the meaning's obvious to sight.
For centuries the question has been hot:
Was Hamlet crazy, or was Hamlet not?
Now, Lonergan's illuminating art
Reveals the truth of the disputed "part,"
And shows to all the critics of the earth
That Hamlet was an idiot from birth!
A SOARING TOAD
So, Governor, you would not serve again
Although we'd all agree to pay you double.
You find it all is vanity and pain--
One clump of clover in a field of stubble--
One grain of pleasure in a peck of trouble.
'Tis sad, at your age, having to complain
Of disillusion; but the fault is whose
When pigmies stumble, wearing giants' shoes?
I humbly told you many moons ago
For high preferment you were all unfit.
A clumsy bear makes but a sorry show
Climbing a pole. Let him, judicious, sit
With dignity at bottom of his pit,
And none his awkwardness will ever know.
Some beasts look better, and feel better, too,
Seen from above; and so, I think, would you.
Why, you were mad! Did you suppose because
Our foolish system suffers foolish men
To climb to power, make, enforce the laws,
And, it is whispered, break them now and then,
We love the fellows and respect them when
We've stilled the volume of our loud hurrahs?
When folly blooms we trample it the more
For having fertilized it heretofore.
Behold yon laborer! His garb is mean,
His face is grimy, but who thinks to ask
The measure of his brains? 'Tis only seen
He's fitted for his honorable task,
And so delights the mind. But let him bask
In droll prosperity, absurdly clean--
Is that the man whom we admired before?
Good Lord, how ignorant, and what a bore!
Better for you that thoughtless men had said
(Noting your fitness in the humbler sphere):
"Why don't they make him Governor?" instead
Of, "Why the devil did they?" But I fear
My words on your inhospitable ear
Are wasted like a sermon to the dead.
Still, they may profit you if studied well:
You can't be taught to think, but may to spell.
AN UNDRESS UNIFORM
The apparel does _not_ proclaim the man--
Polonius lied like a partisan,
And Salomon still would a hero seem
If (Heaven dispel the impossible dream!)
He stood in a shroud on the hangman's trap,
His eye burning holes in the black, black cap.
And the crowd below would exclaim amain:
"He's ready to fall for his country again!"
THE PERVERTED VILLAGE
Sweet Auburn! liveliest village of the plain,
Where Health and Slander welcome every train,
Whence smiling innocence, its tribute paid,
Retires in terror, wounded and dismayed--
Dear lovely bowers of gossip and disease,
Whose climate cures us that thy dames may tease,
How often have I knelt upon thy green
And prayed for death, to mitigate their spleen!
How often have I paused on every charm
With mingled admiration and alarm--
The brook that runs by many a scandal-mill,
The church whose pastor groans upon the grill,
The cowthorn bush with seats beneath the shade,
Where hearts are struck and reputations flayed;
How often wished thine idle wives, some day,
Might more at whist, less at the devil, play.
Unblest retirement! ere my life's decline
(Killed by detraction) may I witness thine.
How happy she who, shunning shades like these,
Finds in a wolf-den greater peace and ease;
Who quits the place whence truth did earlier fly,
And rather than come back prefers to die!
For her no jealous maids renounce their sleep,
Contriving malices to make her weep;
No iron-faced dames her character debate
And spurn imploring mercy from the gate;
But down she lies to a more peaceful end,
For wolves do not calumniate, but rend--
Sinks piecemeal to their maws, a willing prey,
While resignation lubricates the way,
And all her prospects brighten at the last:
To wolves, not women, an approved repast.
The Devil stood before the gate
Of Heaven. He had a single mate:
Behind him, in his shadow, slunk
Clay Sheets in a perspiring funk.
"Saint Peter, see this season ticket,"
Said Satan; "pray undo the wicket."
The sleepy Saint threw slight regard
Upon the proffered bit of card,
Signed by some clerical dead-beats:
"Admit the bearer and Clay Sheets."
Peter expanded all his eyes:
"'Clay Sheets?'--well, I'll be damned!" he cries.
"Our couches are of golden cloud;
Nothing of earth is here allowed.
I'll let you in," he added, shedding
On Nick a smile--"but not your bedding."
So, Estee, you are still alive! I thought
That you had died and were a blessed ghost
I know at least your coffin once was bought
With Railroad money; and 'twas said by most
Historians that Stanford made a boast
The seller "threw you in." That goes for naught--
Man takes delight in fancy's fine inventions,
And woman too, 'tis said, if they are French ones.
Do you remember, Estee--ah, 'twas long
And long ago!--how fierce you grew and hot
When anything impeded the straight, strong,
Wild sweep of the great billow you had got
Atop of, like a swimmer bold? Great Scott!
How fine your wavemanship! How loud your song
Of "Down with railroads!" When the wave subsided
And left you stranded you were much divided.
Then for a time you were content to wade
The waters of the "robber barons'" moat.
To fetch, and carry was your humble trade,
And ferry Stanford over in a boat,
Well paid if he bestowed the kindly groat
And spoke you fair and called you pretty maid.
And when his stomach seemed a bit unsteady
You got your serviceable basin ready.
Strange man! how odd to see you, smug and spruce,
There at Chicago, burrowed in a Chair,
Not made to measure and a deal too loose,
And see you lift your little arm and swear
Democracy shall be no more! If it's a fair
And civil question, and not too abstruse,
Were you elected as a "robber baron,"
Or as a Communist whose teeth had hair on?
MY LORD POET
"Who drives fat oxen should himself be fat;"
Who sings for nobles, he should noble be.
There's no _non sequitur_, I think, in that,
And this is logic plain as a, b, c.
Now, Hector Stuart, you're a Scottish prince,
If right you fathom your descent--that fall
From grace; and since you have no peers, and since
You have no kind of nobleness at all,
'Twere better to sing little, lest you wince
When made by heartless critics to sing small.
And yet, my liege, I bid you not despair--
Ambition conquers but a realm at once:
For European bays arrange your hair--
Two continents, in time, shall crown you Dunce!
TO THE FOOL-KILLER
Ah, welcome, welcome! Sit you down, old friend;
Your pipe I'll serve, your bottle I'll attend.
'Tis many a year since you and I have known
Society more pleasant than our own
In our brief respites from excessive work--
I pointing out the hearts for you to dirk.
What have you done since lately at this board
We canvassed the deserts of all the horde
And chose what names would please the people best,
Engraved on coffin-plates--what bounding breast
Would give more satisfaction if at rest?
But never mind--the record cannot fail:
The loftiest monuments will tell the tale.
I trust ere next we meet you'll slay the chap
Who calls old Tyler "Judge" and Merry "Cap"--
Calls John P. Irish "Colonel" and John P.,
Whose surname Jack-son speaks his pedigree,
By the same title--men of equal rank
Though one is belly all, and one all shank,
Showing their several service in the fray:
One fought for food and one to get away.
I hope, I say, you'll kill the "title" man
Who saddles one on every back he can,
Then rides it from Beersheba to Dan!
Another fool, I trust, you will perform
Your office on while my resentment's warm:
He shakes my hand a dozen times a day
If, luckless, I so often cross his way,
Though I've three senses besides that of touch,
To make me conscious of a fool too much.
Seek him, friend Killer, and your purpose make
Apparent as his guilty hand you take,
And set him trembling with a solemn: "Shake!"
But chief of all the addle-witted crew
Conceded by the Hangman's League to you,
The fool (his dam's acquainted with a knave)
Whose fluent pen, of his no-brain the slave,
Strews notes of introduction o'er the land
And calls it hospitality--his hand
May palsy seize ere he again consign
To me his friend, as I to Hades mine!
Pity the wretch, his faults howe'er you see,
Whom A accredits to his victim, B.
Like shuttlecock which battledores attack
(One speeds it forward, one would drive it back)
The trustful simpleton is twice unblest--
A rare good riddance, an unwelcome guest.
The glad consignor rubs his hands to think
How duty is commuted into ink;
The consignee (his hands he cannot rub--
He has the man upon them) mutters: "Cub!"
And straightway plans to lose him at the Club.
You know, good Killer, where this dunce abides--
The secret jungle where he writes and hides--
Though no exploring foot has e'er upstirred
His human elephant's exhaustless herd.
Go, bring his blood! We'll drink it--letting fall
A due libation to the gods of Gall.
On second thought, the gods may have it all.
ONE AND ONE ARE TWO
The trumpet sounded and the dead
Came forth from earth and ocean,
And Pickering arose and sped
Aloft with wobbling motion.
"What makes him fly lop-sided?" cried
A soul of the elected.
"One ear was wax," a rogue replied,
"And isn't resurrected."
Below him on the pitted plain,
By his abandoned hollow,
His hair and teeth tried all in vain
The rest of him to follow.
Saint Peter, seeing him ascend,
Came forward to the wicket,
And said: "My mutilated friend,
I'll thank you for your ticket."
"The _Call_," said Pickering, his hand
To reach the latch extended.
Said Peter, affable and bland:
"The free-list is suspended--
"What claim have you that's valid here?"
That ancient vilifier
Reflected; then, with look austere,
Replied: "I am a liar."
Said Peter: "That is simple, neat
And candid Anglo-Saxon,
But--well, come in, and take a seat
Up there by Colonel Jackson."
As some enormous violet that towers
Colossal o'er the heads of lowlier flowers--
Its giant petals royally displayed,
And casting half the landscape into shade;
Delivering its odors, like the blows
Of some strong slugger, at the public nose;
Pride of two Nations--for a single State
Would scarce suffice to sprout a plant so great;
So Leverson's humility, outgrown
The meaner virtues that he deigns to own,
To the high skies its great corolla rears,
O'ertopping all he has except his ears.
THE WOFUL TALE OF MR. PETERS
I should like, good friends, to mention the disaster which befell
Mr. William Perry Peters, of the town of Muscatel,
Whose fate is full of meaning, if correctly understood--
Admonition to the haughty, consolation to the good.
It happened in the hot snap which we recently incurred,
When 'twas warm enough to carbonize the feathers of a bird,
And men exclaimed: "By Hunky!" who were bad enough to swear,
And pious persons supervised their adjectives with care.
Mr. Peters was a pedagogue of honor and repute,
His learning comprehensive, multifarious, minute.
It was commonly conceded in the section whence he came
That the man who played against him needed knowledge of the game.
And some there were who whispered, in the town of Muscatel,
That besides the game of Draw he knew Orthography as well;
Though, the school directors, frigidly contemning that as stuff,
Thought that Draw (and maybe Spelling, if it pleased him) was enough.
Withal, he was a haughty man--indubitably great,
But too vain of his attainments and his power in debate.
His mien was contumelious to men of lesser gift:
"It's only _me_," he said, "can give the human mind a lift.
"Before a proper audience, if ever I've a chance,
You'll see me chipping in, the cause of Learning to advance.
Just let me have a decent chance to back my mental hand
And I'll come to center lightly in a way they'll understand."
Such was William Perry Peters, and I feel a poignant sense
Of grief that I'm unable to employ the present tense;
But Providence disposes, be our scheming what it may,
And disposed of Mr. Peters in a cold, regardless way.
It occurred in San Francisco, whither Mr. Peters came
In the cause of Education, feeling still the holy flame
Of ambition to assist in lifting up the human mind
To a higher plane of knowledge than its Architect designed.
He attended the convention of the pedagogic host;
He was first in the Pavilion, he was last to leave his post.
For days and days he narrowly observed the Chairman's eye,
His efforts ineffectual to catch it on the fly.
The blessed moment came at last: the Chairman tipped his head.
"The gentleman from ah--um--er," that functionary said.
The gentleman from ah--um--er reflected with a grin:
"They'll know me better by-and-by, when I'm a-chipping in."
So William Perry Peters mounted cheerfully his feet--
And straightway was aglow with an incalculable heat!
His face was as effulgent as a human face could be,
And caloric emanated from his whole periphery;
For he felt himself the focus of non-Muscatelish eyes,
And the pain of their convergence was a terror and surprise.
As with pitiless impaction all their heat-waves on him broke
He was seen to be evolving awful quantities of smoke!
"Put him out!" cried all in chorus; but the meaning wasn't clear
Of that succoring suggestion to his obfuscated ear;
And it notably augmented his incinerating glow
To regard himself excessive, or in any way _de trop_.
Gone was all his wild ambition to lift up the human mind!--
Gone the words he would have uttered!--gone the thought that lay behind!
For "words that burn" may be consumed in a superior flame,
And "thoughts that breathe" may breathe their last, and die a death of shame.
He'd known himself a shining light, but never had he known
Himself so very luminous as now he knew he shone.
"A pillar, I, of fire," he'd said, "to guide my race will be;"
And now that very inconvenient thing to him was he.
He stood there all irresolute; the seconds went and came;
The minutes passed and did but add fresh fuel to his flame.
How long he stood he knew not--'twas a century or more--
And then that incandescent man levanted for the door!
He darted like a comet from the building to the street,
Where Fahrenheit attested ninety-five degrees of heat.
Vicissitudes of climate make the tenure of the breath
Precarious, and William Perry Peters froze to death!
Ye parasites that to the rich men stick,
As to the fattest sheep the thrifty tick--
Ed'ard to Stanford and to Crocker Ben
(To Ben and Ed'ard many meaner men,
And lice to these)--who do the kind of work
That thieves would have the honesty to shirk--
Whose wages are that your employers own
The fat that reeks upon your every bone
And deigns to ask (the flattery how sweet!)
About its health and how it stands the heat,--
Hail and farewell! I meant to write about you,
But, no, my page is cleaner far without you.
Editor Owen, of San Jose,
Commonly known as "our friend J.J."
Weary of scribbling for daily bread,
Weary of writing what nobody read,
Slept one day at his desk and dreamed
That an angel before him stood and beamed
With compassionate eyes upon him there.
Editor Owen is not so fair
In feature, expression, form or limb
But glances like that are familiar to him;
And so, to arrive by the shortest route
At his visitor's will he said, simply: "Toot."
"Editor Owen," the angel said,
"Scribble no more for your daily bread.
Your intellect staggers and falls and bleeds,
Weary of writing what nobody reads.
Eschew now the quill--in the coming years
Homilize man through his idle ears.
Go lecture!" "Just what I intended to do,"
Said Owen. The angel looked pained and flew.
Editor Owen, of San Jose,
Commonly known as "our friend J.J."
Scribbling no more to supply his needs,
Weary of writing what nobody reads,
Passes of life each golden year
Speaking what nobody comes to hear.
A POLITICAL APOSTATE
Good friend, it is with deep regret I note
The latest, strangest turning of your coat;
Though any way you wear that mental clout
The seamy side seems always to be out.
Who could have thought that you would e'er sustain
The Southern shotgun's arbitrary reign!--
Your sturdy hand assisting to replace
The broken yoke on a delivered race;
The ballot's purity no more your care,
With equal privilege to dark and fair.
To Yesterday a traitor, to To-day
You're constant but the better to betray
To-morrow. Your convictions all are naught
But the wild asses of the world of thought,
Which, flying mindless o'er the barren plain,
Perceive at last they've nothing so to gain,
And, turning penitent upon their track,
Economize their strength by flying back.
Ex-champion of Freedom, battle-lunged,
No more, red-handed, or at least red-tongued,
Brandish the javelin which by others thrown
Clove Sambo's heart to quiver in your own!
Confess no more that when his blood was shed,
And you so sympathetically bled,
The bow that spanned the mutual cascade
Was but the promise of a roaring trade
In offices. Your fingering now the trigger
Shows that you _knew_ your Negro was a nigger!
_Ad hominem_ this _argumentum_ runs:
Peace!--let us fire another kind of guns.
I grant you, friend, that it is very true
The Blacks are ignorant--and sable, too.
What then? One way of two a fool must vote,
And either way with gentlemen of note
Whose villain feuds the fact attest too well
That pedagogues nor vice nor error quell.
The fiercest controversies ever rage
When Miltons and Salmasii engage.
No project wide attention ever drew
But it disparted all the learned crew.
As through their group the cleaving line's prolonged
With fiery combatants each field is thronged.
In battle-royal they engage at once
For guidance of the hesitating dunce.
The Titans on the heights contend full soon--
On this side Webster and on that Calhoun,
The monstrous conflagration of their fight
Startling the day and splendoring the night!
Both are unconquerable--_one_ is right.
Will't keep the pigmy, if we make him strong,
From siding with a giant in the wrong?
When Genius strikes for error, who's afraid
To arm poor Folly with a wooden blade?
O Rabelais, you knew it all!--your good
And honest judge (by men misunderstood)
Knew to be right there was but one device
Less fallible than ignorance--the dice.
The time must come--Heaven expedite the day!--
When all mankind shall their decrees obey,
And nations prosper in their peaceful sway.
Good Parson Dickson preached, I'm told,
A sermon--ah, 'twas very old
And very, very, bald!
'Twas all about--I know not what
It was about, nor what 'twas not.
"A Screw Loose" it was called.
Whatever, Parson Dick, you say,
The world will get each blessed day
Still more and more askew,
And fall apart at last. Great snakes!
What skillful tinker ever takes
His tongue to turn a screw?
BATS IN SUNSHINE
Well, Mr. Kemble, you are called, I think,
A great divine, and I'm a great profane.
You as a Congregationalist blink
Some certain truths that I esteem a gain,
And drop them in the coffers of my brain,
Pleased with the pretty music of their chink.
Perhaps your spiritual wealth is such
A golden truth or two don't count for much.
You say that you've no patience with such stuff
As by Renan is writ, and when you read
(Why _do_ you read?) have hardly strength enough
To hold your hand from flinging the vile screed
Into the fire. That were a wasteful deed
Which you'd repent in sackcloth extra rough;
For books cost money, and I'm told you care
To lay up treasures Here as well as There.
I fear, good, pious soul, that you mistake
Your thrift for toleration. Never mind:
Renan in any case would hardly break
His great, strong, charitable heart to find
The bats and owls of your myopic kind
Pained by the light that his ideas make.
'Tis Truth's best purpose to shine in at holes
Where cower the Kembles, to confound their souls!
A WORD TO THE UNWISE
[Charles Main, of the firm of Main & Winchester, has ordered a
grand mausoleum for his plot in Mountain View Cemetery.--_City
Charles Main, of Main & Winchester, attend
With friendly ear the chit-chat of a friend
Who knows you not, yet knows that you and he
Travel two roads that have a common end.
We journey forward through the time allowed,
I humbly bending, you erect and proud.
Our heads alike will stable soon the worm--
The one that's lifted, and the one that's bowed.
You in your mausoleum shall repose,
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