Black Beetles in Amber
Part 4 out of 5
And showed him to the softest cloud.
The Senate woke; the Chairman's snore
Was stilled, its echoes balking;
The startled members dreamed no more,
For Steele, who long had held the floor,
Had suddenly ceased talking.
As, like Elijah, in his pride,
He to his seat was passing,
"Go up thou baldhead!" Reddy cried.
Then six fierce bears ensued and tried
To sunder him for "sassing."
Two seized his legs, and one his head,
The fourth his trunk, to munch on;
The fifth preferred an arm instead;
The last, with rueful visage, said:
"Pray what have _I_ for luncheon?"
Then to that disappointed bear
Said Steele, serene and chipper,
"My friend, you shall not lack your share:
Look in the Treasury, and there
You'll find his other flipper."
THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF THEFT
In fair Yosemite, that den of thieves
Wherein the minions of the moon divide
The travelers' purses, lo! the Devil grieves,
His larger share as leader still denied.
El Capitan, foreseeing that _his_ reign
May be disputed too, beclouds his head.
The joyous Bridal Veil is torn in twain
And the crepe steamer dangles there instead.
The Vernal Fall abates her pleasant speed
And hesitates to take the final plunge,
For rumors reach her that another greed
Awaits her in the Valley of the Sponge.
The Brothers envy the accord of mind
And peace of purpose (by the good deplored
As honor among Commissioners) which bind
That confraternity of crime, the Board.
The Half-Dome bows its riven face to weep,
But not, as formerly, because bereft:
Prophetic dreams afflict him when asleep
Of losing his remaining half by theft.
Ambitious knaves! has not the upper sod
Enough of room for every crime that crawls
But you must loot the Palaces of God
And daub your filthy names upon the walls?
DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN
Within my dark and narrow bed
I rested well, new-laid:
I heard above my fleshless head
The grinding of a spade.
A gruffer note ensued and grew
To harsh and harsher strains:
The poet Welcker then I knew
Was "snatching" my remains.
"O Welcker, let your hand be stayed
And leave me here in peace.
Of your revenge you should have made
An end with my decease."
"Hush, Mouldyshanks, and hear my moan:
I once, as you're aware,
Was eminent in letters--known
And honored everywhere.
"My splendor made all Berkeley bright
And Sacramento blind.
Men swore no writer e'er could write
Like me--if I'd a mind.
"With honors all insatiate,
With curst ambition smit,
Too far, alas! I tempted fate--
I _published_ what I'd writ!
"Good Heaven! with what a hunger wild
Oblivion swallows fame!
Men who have known me from a child
Forget my very name!
"Even creditors with searching looks
My face cannot recall;
My heaviest one--he prints my books--
Oblivious most of all.
"O I should feel a sweet content
If one poor dun his claim
Would bring to me for settlement,
And bully me by name.
"My dog is at my gate forlorn;
It howls through all the night,
And when I greet it in the morn
It answers with a bite!"
"O Poet, what in Satan's name
To me's all this ado?
Will snatching me restore the fame
That printing snatched from you?"
"Peace, dread Remains; I'm not about
To do a deed of sin.
I come not here to hale you out--
I'm trying to get in."
THE LAST MAN
I dreamed that Gabriel took his horn
On Resurrection's fateful morn,
And lighting upon Laurel Hill
Blew long, blew loud, blew high and shrill.
The houses compassing the ground
Rattled their windows at the sound.
But no one rose. "Alas!" said he,
"What lazy bones these mortals be!"
Again he plied the horn, again
Deflating both his lungs in vain;
Then stood astonished and chagrined
At raising nothing but the wind.
At last he caught the tranquil eye
Of an observer standing by--
Last of mankind, not doomed to die.
To him thus Gabriel: "Sir, I pray
This mystery you'll clear away.
Why do I sound my note in vain?
Why spring they not from out the plain?
Where's Luning, Blythe and Michael Reese,
Magee, who ran the _Golden Fleece?_
Where's Asa Fisk? Jim Phelan, who
Was thought to know a thing or two
Of land which rose but never sank?
Where's Con O'Conor of the Bank,
And all who consecrated lands
Of old by laying on of hands?
I ask of them because their worth
Was known in all they wished--the earth.
Brisk boomers once, alert and wise,
Why don't they rise, why don't they rise?"
The man replied: "Reburied long
With others of the shrouded throng
In San Mateo--carted there
And dumped promiscuous, anywhere,
In holes and trenches--all misfits--
Mixed up with one another's bits:
One's back-bone with another's shin,
A third one's skull with a fourth one's grin--
Your eye was never, never fixed
Upon a company so mixed!
Go now among them there and blow:
'Twill be as good as any show
To see them, when they hear the tones,
Compiling one another's bones!
But here 'tis vain to sound and wait:
Naught rises here but real estate.
I own it all and shan't disgorge.
Don't know me? I am Henry George."
Hasten, children, black and white--
Celebrate the yearly rite.
Every pupil plant a tree:
It will grow some day to be
Big and strong enough to bear
A School Director hanging there.
Unbeautiful is the Piute!
Howe'er bedecked with bravery,
His person is unsavory--
Of soap he's destitute.
He multiplies upon the earth
In spite of all admonishing;
All censure his astonishing
And versatile unworth.
Upon the Reservation wide
We give for his inhabiting
He goes a-jackass rabbiting
To furnish his inside.
The hopper singing in the grass
He seizes with avidity:
He loves its tart acidity,
And gobbles all that pass.
He penetrates the spider's veil,
The toads' defenseless villages,
And shadows home the snail.
He lightly runs to earth the quaint
Red worm and, deftly troweling,
He makes it with his boweling
He tracks the pine-nut to its lair,
Surrounds it with celerity,
Regards it with asperity--
Smiles, and it isn't there!
I wish he'd open up a grin
Of adequate vivacity
And carrying capacity
To take his Agent in.
He held a book in his knotty paws,
And its title grand read he:
"The Chronicles of the Kings" it was,
By the History Companee.
"I'm a monarch," he said
(But a tear he shed)
"And my picter here you see.
"Great and lasting is my renown,
However the wits may flout--
As wide almost as this blessed town"
(But he winced as if with gout).
"I paid 'em like sin
For to put me in,
But it's O, and O, to be out!"
ONE OF THE REDEEMED
Saint Peter, standing at the Gate, beheld
A soul whose body Death had lately felled.
A pleasant soul as ever was, he seemed:
His step was joyous and his visage beamed.
"Good morning, Peter." There was just a touch
Of foreign accent, but not overmuch.
The Saint bent gravely, like a stately tree,
And said: "You have the advantage, sir, of me."
"Renan of Paris," said the immortal part--
"A master of the literary art.
"I'm somewhat famous, too, I grieve to tell,
As controversialist and infidel."
"That's of no consequence," the Saint replied,
"Why, I myself my Master once denied.
"No one up here cares anything for that.
But is there nothing you were always at?
"It seems to me you were accused one day
Of _something_--what it was I can't just say."
"Quite likely," said the other; "but I swear
My life was irreproachable and fair."
Just then a soul appeared upon the wall,
Singing a hymn as loud as he could bawl.
About his head a golden halo gleamed,
As well befitted one of the redeemed.
A harp he bore and vigorously thumbed,
Strumming he sang, and, singing, ever strummed.
His countenance, suffused with holy pride,
Glowed like a pumpkin with a light inside.
"Ah! that's the chap," said Peter, "who declares:
'Renan's a rake and drunkard--smokes and swears.'
"Yes, that's the fellow--he's a preacher--came
From San Francisco. Mansfield was his name."
"Do you believe him?" said Renan. "Great Scott!
Believe? Believe the blackguard? Of course _not!_
"Just walk right in and make yourself at home.
And if he pecks at you I'll cut his comb.
"He's only here because the Devil swore
He wouldn't have him, for the smile he wore."
Resting his eyes one moment on that proof
Of saving grace, the Frenchman turned aloof,
And stepping down from cloud to cloud, said he:
"Thank you, monsieur,--I'll see if he'll have _me_."
[Apparently the Cleveland _Leader_ is not a good judge of
poetry.--_The Morning Call_.]
That from _you_, neighbor! to whose vacant lot
Each rhyming literary knacker scourges
His cart-compelling Pegasus to trot,
As folly, fame or famine smartly urges?
Admonished by the stimulating goad,
How gaily, lo! the spavined crow-bait prances--
Its cart before it--eager to unload
The dead-dog sentiments and swill-tub fancies.
Gravely the sweating scavenger pulls out
The tail-board of his curst imagination,
Shoots all his rascal rubbish, and, no doubt,
Thanks Fortune for so good a dumping-station.
To improve your property, the vile cascade
Your thrift invites--to make a higher level.
In vain: with tons of garbage overlaid,
Your baseless bog sinks slowly to the devil.
"Rubbish may be shot here"--familiar sign!
I seem to see it in your every column.
You have your wishes, but if I had mine
'Twould to your editor mean something solemn.
A QUESTION OF ELIGIBILITY
It was a bruised and battered chap
The victim of some dire mishap,
Who sat upon a rock and spent
His breath in this ungay lament:
"Some wars--I've frequent heard of such--
Has beat the everlastin' Dutch!
But never fight was fit by man
To equal this which has began
In our (I'm in it, if you please)
Academy of Sciences.
For there is various gents belong
To it which go persistent wrong,
And loving the debates' delight
Calls one another names at sight.
Their disposition, too, accords
With fighting like they all was lords!
Sech impulses should be withstood:
'Tis scientific to be good.
"'Twas one of them, one night last week,
Rose up his figure for to speak:
'Please, Mr. Chair, I'm holding here
A resolution which, I fear,
Some ancient fossils that has bust
Their cases and shook off their dust
To sit as Members here will find
Unpleasant, not to say unkind.'
And then he read it every word,
And silence fell on all which heard.
That resolution, wild and strange,
Proposed a fundamental change,
Which was that idiots no more
Could join us as they had before!
"No sooner was he seated than
The members rose up, to a man.
Each chap was primed with a reply
And tried to snatch the Chairman's eye.
They stomped and shook their fists in air,
And, O, what words was uttered there!
"The Chair was silent, but at last
He hove up his proportions vast
And stilled them tumults with a look
By which the undauntedest was shook.
He smiled sarcastical and said:
'If Argus was the Chair, instead
Of me, he'd lack enough of eyes
Each orator to recognize!
And since, denied a hearing, you
Might maybe undertake to do
Each other harm before you cease,
I've took some steps to keep the peace:
I've ordered out--alas, alas,
That Science e'er to such a pass
Should come!--I've ordered out--the gas!'
"O if a tongue or pen of fire
Was mine I could not tell entire
What the ensuin' actions was.
When swollered up in darkness' jaws
We fit and fit and fit and fit,
And everything we felt we hit!
We gouged, we scratched and we pulled hair,
And O, what words was uttered there!
And when at last the day dawn came
Three hundred Scientists was lame;
Two hundred others couldn't stand,
They'd been so careless handled, and
One thousand at the very least
Was spread upon the floor deceased!
'Twere easy to exaggerate,
But lies is things I mortal hate.
"Such, friends, is the disaster sad
Which has befel the Cal. Acad.
And now the question is of more
Importance than it was before:
Shall vacancies among us be
To idiots threw open free?"
What! you were born, you animated doll,
Within the shadow of the Capitol?
'Twas always thought (and Bancroft so assures
His trusting readers) it was reared in yours.
CALIFORNIAN SUMMER PICTURES
THE FOOT-HILL RESORT
Assembled in the parlor
Of the place of last resort,
The smiler and the snarler
And the guests of every sort--
The elocution chap
With rhetoric on tap;
The mimic and the funny dog;
The social sponge; the money-hog;
Vulgarian and dude;
And the prude;
The adiposing dame
With pimply face aflame;
The kitten-playful virgin--
Vergin' on to fifty years;
The solemn-looking sturgeon
Of a firm of auctioneers;
The widower flirtatious;
The widow all too gracious;
The man with a proboscis and a sepulcher beneath.
One assassin picks the banjo, and another picks his teeth.
The soft asphaltum in the sun;
Betrays a tendency to run;
Whereas the dog that takes his way
Across its course concludes to stay.
THE IN-COMING CLIMATE
Now o' nights the ocean breeze
Makes the patient flinch,
For that zephyr bears a sneeze
In every cubic inch.
Lo! the lively population
Chorusing in sternutation
A catarrhal acclamation!
A LONG-FELT WANT
Dimly apparent, through the gloom
Of Market-street's opaque simoom,
A queue of people, parti-sexed,
Awaiting the command of "Next!"
A sidewalk booth, a dingy sign:
"Teeth dusted nice--five cents a shine."
TO THE HAPPY HUNTING GROUNDS
Wide windy reaches of high stubble field;
A long gray road, bordered with dusty pines;
A wagon moving in a "cloud by day."
Two city sportsmen with a dove between,
Breast-high upon a fence and fast asleep--
A solitary dove, the only dove
In twenty counties, and it sick, or else
It were not there. Two guns that fire as one,
With thunder simultaneous and loud;
Two shattered human wrecks of blood and bone!
And later, in the gloaming, comes a man--
The worthy local coroner is he,
Renowned all thereabout, and popular
With many a remain. All tenderly
Compiling in a game-bag the debris,
He glides into the gloom and fades from sight.
The dove, cured of its ailment by the shock,
Has flown, meantime, on pinions strong and fleet,
To die of age in some far foreign land.
"All vices you've exhausted, friend;
So all the papers say."
"Ah, what vile calumnies are penned!--
'Tis just the other way."
JAMES L. FLOOD
As oft it happens in the youth of day
That mists obscure the sun's imperfect ray,
Who, as he's mounting to the dome's extreme,
Smites and dispels them with a steeper beam,
So you the vapors that begirt your birth
Consumed, and manifested all your worth.
But still one early vice obstructs the light
And sullies all the visible and bright
Display of mind and character. You write.
FOUR CANDIDATES FOR SENATOR
To flatter your way to the goad of your hope,
O plausible Mr. Perkins,
You'll need ten tons of the softest soap
And butter a thousand firkins.
The soap you could put to a better use
In washing your hands of ambition
Ere the butter's used for cooking your goose
To a beautiful brown condition.
* * * * *
"The Railroad can't run Stanford." That is so--
The tail can't curl the pig; but then, you know,
Inside the vegetable-garden's pale
The pig will eat more cabbage than the tail.
* * * * *
When Sargent struts by all the lawmakers say:
"Right--left!" It is fair to infer
The right will get left, nor polar the day
When he makes that thing to occur.
Not so, not so, 'tis a joke, that cry--
Foolish and dull and small:
He so bores them for votes that they mean to imply
He's a drill-Sargent, that is all.
* * * * *
Gods! what a sight! Astride McClure's broad back
Estee jogs round the Senatorial track,
The crowd all undecided, as they pass,
Whether to cheer the man or cheer the ass.
They stop: the man to lower his feet is seen
And the tired beast, withdrawing from between,
Mounts, as they start again, the biped's neck,
And scarce the crowd can say which one's on deck.
Judge Shafter, you're an aged man, I know,
And learned too, I doubt not, in the law;
And a head white with many a winter's snow
(I wish, however that your heart would thaw)
Claims reverence and honor; but the jaw
That's always wagging with a word malign,
Nagging and scolding every one in sight
As harshly as a jaybird in a pine,
And with as little sense of wrong and right
As animates that irritable creature,
Is not a very venerable feature.
You damn all witnesses, all jurors too
(And swear at the attorneys, I suppose,
But _that's_ commendable) "till all is blue";
And what it's all about, the good Lord knows,
Not you; but all the hotter, fiercer glows
Your wrath for that--as dogs the louder howl
With only moonshine to incite their rage,
And bears with more ferocious menace growl,
Even when their food is flung into the cage.
Reform, your Honor, and forbear to curse us.
Lest all men, hearing you, cry: "_Ecce ursus_!"
Tut! Moody, do not try to show
To gentlemen and ladies
That if they have not "Faith," they'll go
Headlong to Hades.
Faith is belief; and how can I
Have that by being willing?
This dime I cannot, though I try,
Believe a shilling.
Perhaps you can. If so, pray do--
Believe you own it, also.
But what seems evidence to you
I may not call so.
Heaven knows I'd like the Faith to think
This little vessel's contents
Are liquid gold. I see 'tis ink
For writing nonsense.
Minds prone to Faith, however, may
Come now and then to sorrow:
They put their trust in truth to-day,
In lies to-morrow.
No doubt the happiness is great
To think as one would wish to;
But not to swallow every bait,
As certain fish do.
To think a snake a cord, I hope,
Would bolden and delight me;
But some day I might think a rope
Would chase and bite me.
"Curst Reason! Faith forever blest!"
You're crying all the season.
Well, who decides that Faith is best?
Why, Mr. Reason.
He's right or wrong; he answers you
According to your folly,
And says what you have taught him to,
Like any polly.
Hangman's hands laid in this tomb an
Imp of Satan's getting, whom an
Ancient legend says that woman
Never bore--he owed his birth
To Sin herself. From Hell to Earth
She brought the brat in secret state
And laid him at the Golden gate,
And they named him Henry Vrooman.
While with mortals here he stayed,
His father frequently he played.
Raised his birth-place and in other
Playful ways begot his mother.
[The spade that was used to turn the first sod in the
construction of the Central Pacific Railroad is to be
exhibited at the New Orleans Exposition.--_Press Telegram_.]
Precursor of our woes, historic spade,
What dismal records burn upon thy blade!
On thee I see the maculating stains
Of passengers' commingled blood and brains.
In this red rust a widow's curse appears,
And here an orphan tarnished thee with tears.
Upon thy handle sanguinary bands
Reveal the clutching of thine owner's hands
When first he wielded thee with vigor brave
To cut a sod and dig a people's grave--
(For they who are debauched are dead and ought,
In God's name, to be hid from sight and thought.)
Within thee, as within a magic glass,
I seem to see a foul procession pass--
Judges with ermine dragging in the mud
And spotted here and there with guiltless blood;
Gold-greedy legislators jingling bribes;
Kept editors and sycophantic scribes;
Liars in swarms and plunderers in tribes;
They fade away before the night's advance,
And fancy figures thee a devil's lance
Gleaming portentous through the misty shade,
While ghosts of murdered virtues shriek about my blade!
THE VAN NESSIAD
From end to end, thine avenue, Van Ness,
Rang with the cries of battle and distress!
Brave lungs were thundering with dreadful sound
And perspiration smoked along the ground!
Sing, heavenly muse, to ears of mortal clay,
The meaning, cause and finish of the fray.
Great Porter Ashe (invoking first the gods,
Who signed their favor with assenting nods
That snapped off half their heads--their necks grown dry
Since last the nectar cup went circling by)
Resolved to build a stable on his lot,
His neighbors fiercely swearing he should not.
Said he: "I build that stable!" "No, you don't,"
Said they. "I can!" "You can't!" "I will!" "You won't!"
"By heaven!" he swore; "not only will I build,
But purchase donkeys till the place is filled!"
"Needless expense," they sneered in tones of ice--
"The owner's self, if lodged there, would suffice."
For three long months the awful war they waged:
With women, women, men with men engaged,
While roaring babes and shrilling poodles raged!
Jove, from Olympus, where he still maintains
His ancient session (with rheumatic pains
Touched by his long exposure) marked the strife,
Interminable but by loss of life;
For malediction soon exhausts the breath--
If not, old age itself is certain death.
Lo! he holds high in heaven the fatal beam;
A golden pan depends from each, extreme;
This feels of Porter's fate the downward stress,
That bears the destiny of all Van Ness.
Alas! the rusted scales, their life all gone,
Deliver judgment neither pro nor con:
The dooms hang level and the war goes on.
With a divine, contemptuous disesteem
Jove dropped the pans and kicked, himself, the beam:
Then, to decide the strife, with ready wit,
The nickel that he did not care for it
Twirled absently, remarking: "See it spin:
Head, Porter loses; tail, the others win."
The conscious nickel, charged with doom, spun round,
Portentously and made a ringing sound,
Then, staggering beneath its load of fate,
Sank rattling, died at last and lay in state.
Jove scanned the disk and then, as is his wont,
Raised his considering orbs, exclaiming: "Front!"
With leisurely alacrity approached
The herald god, to whom his mind he broached:
"In San Francisco two belligerent Powers,
Such as contended round great Ilion's towers,
Fight for a stable, though in either class
There's not a horse, and but a single ass.
Achilles Ashe, with formidable jaw
Assails a Trojan band with fierce hee-haw,
Firing the night with brilliant curses. They
With dark vituperation gloom the day.
Fate, against which nor gods nor men compete,
Decrees their victory and his defeat.
With haste, good Mercury, betake thee hence
And salivate him till he has no sense!"
Sheer downward shot the messenger afar,
Trailing a splendor like a falling star!
With dimming lustre through the air he burned,
Vanished, nor till another sun returned.
The sovereign of the gods superior smiled,
Beaming benignant, fatherly and mild:
"Is Destiny's decree performed, my lad?--
And has he now no sense?" "Ah, sire, he never had."
A FISH COMMISSIONER
Great Joseph D. Redding--illustrious name!--
Considered a fish-horn the trumpet of Fame.
That goddess was angry, and what do you think?
Her trumpet she filled with a gallon of ink,
And all through the Press, with a devilish glee,
She sputtered and spattered the name of J.D.
TO A STRAY DOG
Well, Towser (I'm thinking your name must be Towser),
You're a decentish puppy as puppy dogs go,
For you never, I'm sure, could have dined upon trowser,
And your tail's unimpeachably curled just so.
But, dear me! your name--if 'tis yours--is a "poser":
Its meaning I cannot get anywise at,
When spoken correctly perhaps it is Toser,
And means one who toses. Max Muller, how's that?
I ne'er was ingenious at all at divining
A word's prehistorical, primitive state,
Or finding its root, like a mole, by consigning
Its bloom to the turnep-top's sorrowful fate.
And, now that I think of it well, I'm no nearer
The riddle's solution than ever--for how's
My pretty invented word, "tose," any clearer
In point of its signification than "towse"?
So, Towser (or Toser), I mean to rename you
In honor of some good and eminent man,
In the light and the heat of whose quickening fame you
May grow to an eminent dog if you can.
In sunshine like his you'll not long be a croucher:
The Senate shall hear you--for that I will vouch.
Come here, sir. Stand up. I rechristen you Goucher.
But damn you! I'll shoot you if ever you gouch!
IN HIS HAND
De Young (in Chicago the story is told)
"Took his life in his hand," like a warrior bold,
And stood before Buckley--who thought him behind,
For Buckley, the man-eating monster is blind.
"Count fairly the ballots!" so rang the demand
Of the gallant De Young, with his life in his hand.
'Tis done, and the struggle is ended. No more
He havocs the battle-field, gilt with the gore
Of slain reputations. No more he defies
His "lying opponents" with deadlier lies.
His trumpet is hushed and his belt is unbound--
His enemies' characters cumber the ground.
They bloat on the war-plain with ink all asoak,
The fortunate candidates perching to croak.
No more he will charge, with a daring divine,
His foes with corruption, his friends by the line.
The thunders are stilled of the horrid campaign,
De Young is triumphant, and never again
Will he need, with his life in his hand, to roar:
"Count fair or, by G----, I will die on your floor!"
His life has been spared, for his sins to atone,
And the hand that he took it in washed with cologne.
"Yawp, yawp, yawp!
Under the moon and sun.
It's aye the rabble,
And I to gabble,
And hey! for the tale that is never done.
"Chant, chant, chant!
To woo the reluctant vote.
I would I were dead
And my say were said
And my song were sung to its ultimate note.
"Stab, stab, stab!
Ah! the weapon between my teeth--
I'm sick of the flash of it;
See how the slash of it
Misses the foeman to mangle the sheath!
"Boom, boom, boom!
I'm beating the mammoth drum.
My nethermost tripes
I blow into the pipes--
It's oh! for the honors that never come!"
'Twas the dolorous blab
Of a tramping "scab"--
'Twas the eloquent Swift
Of the marvelous gift--
The wild, weird, wonderful gift of gab!
Weep, weep, each loyal partisan,
For Buckley, king of hearts;
A most accomplished man; a man
Of parts--of foreign parts.
Long years he ruled with gentle sway,
Nor grew his glory dim;
And he would be with us to-day
If we were but with him.
Men wondered at his going off
In such a sudden way;
'Twas thought, as he had come to scoff
He would remain to prey.
Since he is gone we're all agreed
That he is what men call
A crook: his very steps, indeed,
Are bent--to Montreal.
So let our tears unhindered flow,
Our sighs and groans have way:
It matters not how much we Oh!--
The devil is to pay.
FROM TOP TO BOTTOM
[Japan has 73,759 Buddhist priests, "most of whom," says a
Christian missionary, "are grossly ignorant, and many of them
lead scandalous lives."]
O Buddha, had you but foreknown
The vices of your priesthood
It would have made you twist and moan
As any wounded beast would.
You would have damned the entire lot
And turned a Christian, would you not?
There were no Christians, I'll allow,
In your day; that would only
Have brought distinction. Even now
A Christian might feel lonely.
All take the name, but facts are things
As stubborn as the will of kings.
The priests were ignorant and low
When ridiculed by Lucian;
The records, could we read, might show
The same of times Confucian.
And yet the fact I can't disguise
That Deacon Rankin's good and wise.
'Tis true he is not quite a priest,
Nor more than half a preacher;
But he exhorts as loud at least
As any living creature.
And when the plate is passed about
He never takes a penny out.
From Buddha down to Rankin! There,--
I never did intend to.
This pen's a buzzard's quill, I swear,
Such subjects to descend to.
When from the humming-bird I've wrung
A plume I'll write of Mike de Young.
Who told Creed Haymond he was witty?--who
Had nothing better in this world to do?
Could no greased pig's appeal to his embrace
Kindle his ardor for the friendly chase?
Did no dead dog upon a vacant lot,
Bloated and bald, or curdled in a clot,
Stir his compassion and inspire his arms
To hide from human eyes its faded charms?
If not to works of piety inclined,
Then recreation might have claimed his mind.
The harmless game that shows the feline greed
To cinch the shorts and make the market bleed[A]
Is better sport than victimizing Creed;
And a far livelier satisfaction comes
Of knowing Simon, autocrat of thumbs.[B]
If neither worthy work nor play command
This gentleman of leisure's heart and hand,
Then Mammon might his idle spirit lift
By hope of profit to some deed of thrift.
Is there no cheese to pare, no flint to skin,
No tin to mend, no glass to be put in,
No housewife worthy of a morning visit,
Her rags and sacks and bottles to solicit?
Lo! the blind sow's precarious pursuit
Of the aspiring oak's familiar fruit!--
'Twould more advantage any man to steal
This easy victim's undefended meal
Than tell Creed Haymond he has wit, and so
Expose the state to his narcotic flow!
[Footnote A: "Pussy Wants a Corner."]
[Footnote B: "Simon Says Thumbs Up."]
THE DEAD KING
Hawaii's King resigned his breath--
Our Legislature guffawed.
The awful dignity of death
Not any single rough awed.
But when our Legislators die
All Kings, Queens, Jacks and Aces cry.
A PATTER SONG
There was a cranky Governor--
His name it wasn't Waterman.
For office he was hotter than
The love of any lover, nor
Was Boruck's threat of aiding him
Effective in dissuading him--
This pig-headed, big-headed, singularly self-conceited Governor Nonwaterman.
To citrus fairs, _et caetera_,
He went about philandering,
To pride of parish pandering.
He knew not any better--ah,
His early education had
Not taught the abnegation fad--
The wool-witted, bull-witted, fabulously feeble-minded king of gabble-gandering!
He conjured up, _ad libitum_,
With postures energetical,
One day (this is prophetical)
His graces, to exhibit 'em.
He straddled in each attitude,
Four parallels of latitude--
The slab-footed, crab-footed, galloping gregarian, of presence unaesthetical!
An ancient cow, perceiving that
His powers of agility
Transcended her ability
(A circumstance for grieving at)
Upon her horns engrafted him
And to the welkin wafted him--
The high-rolling, sky-rolling, hurtling hallelujah-lad of peerless volatility!
"Why, Goldenson, you're looking very well."
Said Death as, strolling through the County Jail,
He entered that serene assassin's cell
And hung his hat and coat upon a nail.
"I think that life in this secluded spot
Agrees with men of your trade, does it not?"
"Well, yes," said Goldenson, "I can't complain:
Life anywhere--provided it is mine--
Agrees with me; but I observe with pain
That still the people murmur and repine.
It hurts their sense of harmony, no doubt,
To see a persecuted man grow stout."
"O no, 'tis not your growing stout," said Death,
"Which makes these malcontents complain and scold--
They like you to be, somehow, scant of breath.
What they object to is your growing old.
And--though indifferent to lean or fat--
I don't myself entirely favor _that_."
With brows that met above the orbs beneath,
And nose that like a soaring hawk appeared,
And lifted lip, uncovering his teeth,
The Mamikellikiller coldly sneered:
"O, so you don't! Well, how will you assuage
Your spongy passion for the blood of age?"
Death with a clattering convulsion, drew
His coat on, hatted his unmeated pow,
Unbarred the door and, stepping partly through,
Turned and made answer: "I will _show_ you how.
I'm going to the Bench you call Supreme
And tap the old women who sit there and dream."
THE SHAFTER SHAFTED
Well, James McMillan Shafter, you're a Judge--
At least you were when last I knew of you;
And if the people since have made you budge
I did not notice it. I've much to do
Without endeavoring to follow, through
The miserable squabbles, dust and smudge,
The fate of even the veteran contenders
Who fight with flying colors and suspenders.
Being a Judge, 'tis natural and wrong
That you should villify the public press--
Save while you are a candidate. That song
Is easy quite to sing, and I confess
It wins applause from hearers who have less
Of spiritual graces than belong
To audiences of another kidney--
Men, for example, like Sir Philip Sidney.
Newspapers, so you say, don't always treat
The Judges with respect. That may be so
And still no harm done, for I swear I'll eat
My legs and in the long hereafter go,
Snake-like, upon my belly if you'll show
All Judges are respectable and sweet.
For some of them are rogues and the world's laughter's
Directed at some others, for they're Shafters.
THE TWO CAVEES
FITCH _a Pelter of Railrogues_
PICKERING _his Partner, an Enemy to Sin_
OLD NICK _a General Blackwasher_
DEAD CAT _a Missile_
ANTIQUE EGG _Another_
RAILROGUES, DUMP-CARTERS. NAVVIES and Unassorted SHOVELRY in the Lower Distance
_Scene_--The Brink of a Railway Cut, a Mile Deep.
Gods! what a steep declivity! Below
I see the lazy dump-carts come and go,
Creeping like beetles and about as big.
The delving Paddies--
Case of _infra dig._
Loring, light-minded and unmeaning quips
Come with but scant propriety from lips
Fringed with the blue-black evidence of age.
'Twere well to cultivate a style more sage,
For men will fancy, hearing how you pun,
Our foulest missiles are but thrown in fun.
(_Enter Dead Cat._)
Here's one that thoughtfully has come to hand;
Slant your fine eye below and see it land.
(_Seizes Dead Cat by the tail and swings it in act to throw._)
DEAD CAT (_singing_):
Merrily, merrily, round I go--
Over and under and at.
Swing wide and free, swing high and low
The anti-monopoly cat!
O, who wouldn't be in the place of me,
The anti-monopoly cat?
Designed to admonish,
Persuade and astonish
The capitalist and--
FITCH _(letting go):_
_(Exit Dead Cat.)_
Huzza! good Deacon, well and truly flung!
Pat Stanford it has grassed, and Mike de Young.
Mike drives a dump-cart for the villains, though
'Twere fitter that he pull it. Well, we owe
The traitor one for leaving us!--some day
We'll get, if not his place, his cart away.
Meantime fling missiles--any kind will do.
_(Enter Antique Egg.)_
Ha! we can give them an _ovation_, too!
In the valley of the Nile,
Where the Holy Crocodile
Of immeasurable smile
Blossoms like the early rose,
And the Sacred Onion grows--
When the Pyramids were new
And the Sphinx possessed a nose,
By a storkess I was laid
In the cool papyrus shade,
Where the rushes later grew,
That concealed the little Jew,
Straining very hard to hatch,
I disrupted there my yolk;
And I felt my yellow streaming
Through my white;
And the dream that I was dreaming
Of posterity was broke
In a night.
Then from the papyrus-patch
By the rising waters rolled,
Passing many a temple old,
I proceeded to the sea.
Memnon sang, one morn, to me,
And I heard Cambyses sass
The tomb of Ozymandias!
O, venerablest orb of all the earth,
God rest the lady fowl that gave thee birth!
Fit missile for the vilest hand to throw--
I freely tender thee mine own. Although
As a bad egg I am myself no slouch,
Thy riper years thy ranker worth avouch.
Now, Pickering, please expose your eye and say
I've got the range.
A grand good shot, and Teddy Colton's down:
It burst in thunderbolts upon his crown!
Larry O'Crocker drops his pick and flies,
And deafening odors scream along the skies!
Pelt 'em some more.
There's nothing left but tar--
wish I were a Yahoo.
Well, you are.
But keep the tar. How well I recollect,
When Mike was in with us--proud, strong, erect--
_Mens conscia recti_--flinging mud, he stood,
Austerely brave, incomparably good,
Ere yet for filthy lucre he began
To drive a cart as Stanford's hired man,
That pitch-pot bearing in his hand, Old Nick
Appeared and tarred us all with the same stick.
_(Enter Old Nick)_.
I hope he won't return and use his arts
To make us part with our immortal parts.
Make yourself easy on that score my lamb;
For both your souls I wouldn't give a damn!
I want my tar-pot--hello! where's the stick?
Don't look at _me_ that fashion!--look at Pick.
Forgive me, father--pity my remorse!
Truth is--Mike took that stick to spank his horse.
It fills my pericardium with grief
That I kept company with such a thief.
(_Endeavoring to get his handkerchief, he opens his coat and
the tar-stick falls out. Nick picks it up, looks at the culprit
reproachfully and withdraws in tears._)
O Pickering, come hither to the brink--
There's something going on down there, I think!
With many an upward smile and meaning wink
The navvies all are running from the cut
Like lunatics, to right and left--
'Tis only some poor sport or boisterous joke.
Let us sit down and have a quiet smoke.
(_They sit and light cigars._)
When first I met Miss Toughie
I smoked a fine cigyar,
An' I was on de dummy
And she was in de cyar.
An' I was on de dummy
And she was in de cyar.
I couldn't go to her,
An' she wouldn't come to me;
An' I was as oneasy
As a gander on a tree.
An' I was as oneasy
As a gander on a tree.
But purty soon I weakened
An' lef' de dummy's bench,
An' frew away a ten-cent weed
To win a five-cent wench!
An' frew away a ten-cent weed
To win a five-cent wench!
Is there not now a certain substance sold
Under the name of fulminate of gold,
A high explosive, popular for blasting,
Producing an effect immense and lasting?
Nay, that's mere superstition. Rocks are rent
And excavations made by argument.
Explosives all have had their day and season;
The modern engineer relies on reason.
He'll talk a tunnel through a mountain's flank
And by fair speech cave down the tallest bank.
(_The earth trembles, a deep subterranean explosion is heard
and a section of the bank as big as El Capitan starts away and
plunges thunderously into the cut. A part of it strikes De
Young's dumpcart abaft the axletree and flings him, hurtling,
skyward, a thing of legs and arms, to descend on the distant
mountains, where it is cold. Fitch and Pickering pull themselves
out of the debris and stand ungraveling their eyes and
Well, since I'm down here I will help to grade,
And do dirt-throwing henceforth with a spade.
God bless my soul! it gave me quit a start.
Well, fate is fate--I guess I'll drive this cart.
ST. JOHN _a Presidential Candidate_
MCDONALD _a Defeated Aspirant_
MRS. HAYES _an Ex-President_
PITTS-STEVENS _a Water Nymph_
_Scene_--A Small Lake in the Alleghany Mountains.
Hours I've immersed my muzzle in this tarn
And, quaffing copious potations, tried
To suck it dry; but ever as I pumped
Its waters into my distended skin
The labor of my zeal extruded them
In perspiration from my pores; and so,
Rilling the marginal declivity,
They fell again into their source. Ah, me!
Could I but find within these ancient hills
Some long extinct volcano, by the rains
Of countless ages in its crater brimmed
Like a full goblet, I would lay me down
Prone on the outer slope, and o'er its edge
Arching my neck, I'd siphon out its store
And flood the valleys with my sweat for aye.
So should I be accounted as a god,
Even as Father Nilus is. What's that?
Methought I heard some sawyer draw his file
With jarring, stridulous cacophany
Across his notchy blade, to set its teeth
And mine on edge. Ha! there it goes again!
Cold water's the milk of the mountains,
And Nature's our wet-nurse. O then,
Glue thou thy blue lips to her fountains
Forever and ever, amen!
Why surely there's congenial company
Aloof--the spirit, I suppose, that guards
This sacred spot; perchance some water-nymph
Who laving in the crystal flood her limbs
Has taken cold, and so, with raucous voice
Afflicts the sensitive membrane of mine ear
The while she sings my sentiments.
What fiend is this?
'Tis I, be not afraid.
And who, thou antiquated crone, art thou?
I ne'er forget a face, but names I can't
So well remember. I have seen thee oft.
When in the middle season of the night,
Curved with a cucumber, or knotted hard
With an eclectic pie, I've striven to keep
My head and heels asunder, thou has come,
With sociable familiarity,
Into my dream, but not, alas, to bless.
My name's Pitts-Stevens, age just seventeen years;
Talking teetotaler, professional
What dost them here?
I'm come, fair sir,
With paint and brush to blazon on these rocks
The merits of my master's nostrum--so:
"McDonald's Vinegar Bitters!"
What are they?
A woman suffering from widowhood
Took a full bottle and was cured. A man
There was--a murderer; the doctors all
Had given him up--he'd but an hour to live.
He swallowed half a glassful. He is dead,
But not of Vinegar Bitters. A wee babe
Lay sick and cried for it. The mother gave
That innocent a spoonful and it smoothed
Its pathway to the tomb. 'Tis warranted
To cause a boy to strike his father, make
A pig squeal, start the hair upon a stone,
Or play the fiddle for a country dance.
_(Enter McDonald, reading a Sunday-school book.)_
Good morrow, sir; I trust you're well.
Observe, good friends, I have a volume here
Myself am author of--a noble book
To train the infant mind (delightful task!)
It tells how one Samantha Brown, age, six,
A gutter-bunking slave to rum, was saved
By Vinegar Bitters, went to church and now
Has an account at the Pacific Bank.
I'll read the whole work to you.
I've elsewhere an engagement.
I am deaf.
MCDONALD _(reading regardless):_
"Once on a time there lived"----
_(Enter Mrs. Hayes.)_
Behold our queen!
Her eyes upon the ground
Before her feet she low'rs,
Walking, in thought profound,
As 'twere, upon all fours.
Her visage is austere,
Her gait a high parade;
At every step you hear
The sloshing lemonade!
MRS. HAYES _(to herself):_
Once, sitting in the White House, hard at work
Signing State papers (Rutherford was there,
Knitting some hose) a sudden glory fell
Upon my paper. I looked up and saw
An angel, holding in his hand a rod
Wherewith he struck me. Smarting with the blow
I rose and (cuffing Rutherford) inquired:
"Wherefore this chastisement?" The angel said:
"Four years you have been President, and still
There's rum!"--then flew to Heaven. Contrite, I swore
Such oath as lady Methodist might take,
My second term should medicine my first.
The people would not have it that way; so
I seek some candidate who'll take my soul--
My spirit of reform, fresh from my breast,
And give me his instead; and thus equipped
With my imperious and fiery essence,
Drive the Drink-Demon from the land and fill
The people up with water till their teeth
Are all afloat.
(_St. John discovers himself_.)
Aye, Madam, I'll
Swap souls with you and lead the cold sea-green
Amphibians of Prohibition on,
Pallid of nose and webbed of foot, swim-bladdered,
Gifted with gills, invincible!
Stand forth and consummate the interchange.
(_While McDonald and Pitts-Stevens modestly turn their
backs, the latter blushing a delicate shrimp-pink, St. John and
Mrs. Hayes effect an exchange of immortal parts. When the
transfer is complete McDonald turns and advances, uncorking
a bottle of Vinegar Bitters_.)
Nectar compounded of simples
Cocted in Stygian shades--
Acids of wrinkles and pimples
From faces of ancient maids--
Acrid precipitates sunken
From tempers of scolding wives
Whose husbands, uncommonly drunken,
Are commonly found in dives,--
With this I baptize and appoint thee
(_to St. John_.)
To marshal the vinophobe ranks.
In the name of Dambosh I anoint thee
(_pours the liquid down St. John's back_.)
As King of aquatical cranks!
(_The liquid blisters the royal back, and His Majesty starts
on a dead run, energetically exclaiming. Exit St. John_.)
My soul! My soul! I'll never get it back
Unless I follow nimbly on his track.
(_Exit Mrs. Hayes_.)
O my! he's such a beautiful young man!
I'll follow, too, and catch him if I can.
He scarce is visible, his dust so great!
Methinks for so obscure a candidate
He runs quite well. But as for Prohibition--
I mean myself to hold the first position.
(_Produces a pocket flask, topes a cruel quantity of double-distilled
thunder-and-lightning out of it, smiles so grimly as to
darken all the stage and sings_):
Though fortunes vary let all be merry,
And then if e'er a disaster befall,
At Styx's ferry is Charon's wherry
In easy call.
Upon a ripple of golden tipple
That tipsy ship'll convey you best.
To king and cripple, the bottle's the nipple
Of Nature's breast!
HAYSEED _a Granger_
NOZZLE _a Miner_
RINGDIVVY _a Statesman_
FEEGOBBLE _a Lawyer_
JUNKET _a Committee_
_Feegobble, Ringdivvy, Nozzle_.
My friends, since '51 I have pursued
The evil tenor of my watery way,
Removing hills as by an act of faith--
Just so; the steadfast faith of those who hold,
In foreign lands beyond the Eastern sea,
The shares in your concern--a simple, blind,
Unreasoning belief in dividends,
Still stimulated by assessments which,
When the skies fall, ensnaring all the larks,
Will bring, no doubt, a very great return.
O the beautiful assessment,
The exquisite assessment,
The regular assessment,
That makes the water flow.
The murderous assessment!
The glorious assessment
That makes my mare to go!
But, Nozzle, you, I think, were on the point
Of making a remark about some rights--
Some certain vested rights you have acquired
By long immunity; for still the law
Holds that if one do evil undisturbed
His right to do so ripens with the years;
And one may be a villain long enough
To make himself an honest gentleman.
Hail, holy law,
The soul with awe
Bows to thy dispensation.
It breaks my jaw!
It qualms my maw!
It feeds my jaw,
It crams my maw,
It is my soul's salvation!
Why, yes, I've floated mountains to the sea
For lo! these many years; though some, they say,
Do strand themselves along the bottom lands
And cover up a village here and there,
And here and there a ranch. 'Tis said, indeed,
The granger with his female and his young
Do not infrequently go to the dickens
By premature burial in slickens.
Could slickens forever
Choke up the river,
And slime's endeavor
Be tried on grain,
How small the measure
Of granger's treasure,
How keen his pain!
"A consummation devoutly to be wished!"
These rascal grangers would long since have been
Submerged in slimes, to the last man of them,
But for the fact that all their wicked tribes
Affect our legislation with their bribes.
O bribery's great--
'Tis a pillar of State,
And the people they are free.
It smashes my slate!
It is thievery straight!
But it's been the making of me!
I judge by certain shrewd sensations here
In these callosities I call my thumbs--
thrilling sense as of ten thousand pins,
Red-hot and penetrant, transpiercing all
The cuticle and tickling through the nerves--
That some malign and awful thing draws near.
Good Lord! here are the ghosts and spooks of all
The grangers I have decently interred,
Rolled into one!
You've the floor.
From the margin of the river
(Bitter Creek, they sometimes call it)
Where I cherished once the pumpkin,
And the summer squash promoted,
Harvested the sweet potato,
Dallied with the fatal melon
And subdued the fierce cucumber,
I've been driven by the slickens,
Driven by the slimes and tailings!
All my family--my Polly
Ann and all my sons and daughters,
Dog and baby both included--
All were swamped in seas of slickens,
Buried fifty fathoms under,
Where they lie, prepared to play their
Gentle prank on geologic
Gents that shall exhume them later,
In the dim and distant future,
Taking them for melancholy
Relics antedating Adam.
I alone got up and dusted.
Avaunt! you horrid and infernal cuss!
What dire distress have you prepared for us?
Were I a buzzard stooping from the sky
My craw with filth to fill,
Into your honorable body I
Would introduce a bill.
Defendant, hence, or, by the gods, I'll brain thee!--
Unless you saved some turneps to retain me.
As I was saying, I got up and dusted,
My ranch a graveyard and my business busted!
But hearing that a fellow from the City,
Who calls himself a Citizens' Committee,
Was coming up to play the very dickens,
With those who cover up our farms with slickens,
And make himself--unless I am in error--
To all such miscreants a holy terror,
I thought if I would join the dialogue
I maybe might get payment for my dog.
O the dog is the head of Creation,
Prime work of the Master's hand;
He hasn't a known occupation,
Yet lives on the fat of the land.
Adipose, indolent, sleek and orbicular,
Sun-soaken, door matted, cross and particular,
Men, women, children, all coddle and wait on him,
Then, accidentally shutting the gate on him,
Miss from their calves, ever after, the rifted out
Mouthful of tendons that doggy has lifted out!
Well met, my hearties! I must trouble you
Jointly and severally to provide
A comfortable carriage, with relays
Of hardy horses. This Committee means
To move in state about the country here.
I shall expect at every place I stop
Good beds, of course, and everything that's nice,
With bountiful repast of meat and wine.
For this Committee comes to sea and mark
And inwardly digest.
Digest my dog!
First square my claim for damages: the gold
Escaping with the slickens keeps me poor!
I merely would remark that if you'd grease
My itching palm it would more glibly glide
Into the public pocket.
Sir, the wheels
Of justice move but slowly till they're oiled.
I have some certain writs and warrants here,
Prepared against your advent. You recall
The tale of Zaccheus, who did climb a tree,
And Jesus said: "Come down"?
Why, bless your souls!
I've got no money; I but came to see
What all this noisy babble is about,
Make a report and file the same away.
NOZZLE, RINGDIVVY, FEEGOBBLE, HAYSEED:
How'll that help _us_? Reports are not our style
Well, you can gnaw the file.
MOUNTWAVE _a Politician_
HARDHAND _a Workingman_
TOK BAK _a Chinaman_
SATAN _a Friend to Mountwave_
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