James Russell Lowell Poems >>
Birdofredum Sawin; Esq., To Mr. Hosea Biglow (2)

I hed it on my min' las' time, when I to write ye started,
To tech the leadin' featurs o' my gittin' me convarted;
But, ez my letters hez to go clearn roun' by way o' Cuby,
'Twun't seem no staler now than then, by th' time it gits where you be.
You know up North, though secs an' things air plenty ez you please,
Ther' warn't nut one on 'em thet come jes' square with my idees:
They all on 'em wuz too much mixed with Covenants o' Works,
An' would hev answered jest ez wal for Afrikins an' Turks,
Fer where's a Christian's privilege an' his rewards eusuin',
Ef 'taint perfessin' right and eend 'thout nary need o' doin'?   
I dessay they suit workin'-folks thet ain't noways pertic'lar,
But nut your Southun gen'leman thet keeps his parpendic'lar;
I don't blame nary man thet casts his lot along o' _his_ folks,
But ef you cal'late to save _me_, 't must be with folks thet _is_ folks;
Cov'nants o' works go 'ginst my grain, but down here I've found out
The true fus'-fem'ly A plan,--here's how it come about.
When I fus' sot up with Miss S., sez she to me, sez she,
'Without you git religion, Sir, the thing can't never be;
Nut but wut I respeck,' sez she, 'your intellectle part,
But you wun't noways du for me athout a change o' heart;     
Nothun religion works wal North, but it's ez soft ez spruce,
Compared to ourn, for keepin' sound,' sez she, 'upon the goose;
A day's experunce 'd prove to ye, ez easy 'z pull a trigger.
It takes the Southun pint o' view to raise ten bales a nigger;
You'll fin' thet human natur', South, ain't wholesome more 'n skin-deep,
An' once 't a darkie's took with it, he wun't be wuth his keep,'
'How _shell_ I git it, Ma'am?'--sez I, 'Attend the nex' camp-meetin','
Sez she, 'an' it'll come to ye ez cheap ez onbleached sheetin'.'
Wal, so I went along an' hearn most an impressive sarmon
About besprinklin' Afriky with fourth-proof dew o' Harmon:    
He didn't put no weaknin' in, but gin it tu us hot,
'Z ef he an' Satan 'd ben two bulls in one five-acre lot:
I don't purtend to foller him, but give ye jes' the heads;
For pulpit ellerkence, you know, 'most ollers kin' o' spreads.
Ham's seed wuz gin to us in chairge, an' shouldn't we be li'ble
In Kingdom Come, ef we kep' back their priv'lege in the Bible?
The cusses an' the promerses make one gret chain, an' ef
You snake one link out here, one there, how much on 't ud be lef'?
All things wuz gin to man for 's use, his sarvice, an' delight;   
An' don't the Greek an' Hebrew words thet mean a Man mean White?
Ain't it belittlin' the Good Book in all its proudes' featurs
To think 'twuz wrote for black an' brown an' 'lasses-colored creaturs,
Thet couldn' read it, ef they would, nor ain't by lor allowed to,
But ough' to take wut we think suits their naturs, an' be proud to?
Warn't it more prof'table to bring your raw materil thru
Where you can work it inta grace an' inta cotton, tu,
Than sendin' missionaries out where fevers might defeat 'em,
An' ef the butcher didn' call, their p'rishioners might eat 'em?
An' then, agin, wut airthly use? Nor 'twarn't our fault, in so fur
Ez Yankee skippers would keep on atotin' on 'em over.      
'T improved the whites by savin' 'em from ary need o' workin',
An' kep' the blacks from bein' lost thru idleness an' shirkin';
We took to 'em ez nat'ral ez a barn-owl doos to mice,
An' hed our hull time on our hands to keep us out o' vice;
It made us feel ez pop'lar ez a hen doos with one chicken,
An' fill our place in Natur's scale by givin' 'em a lickin':
For why should Caesar git his dues more 'n Juno, Pomp, an' Cuffy?
It's justifyin' Ham to spare a nigger when he's stuffy.
Where'd their soles go tu, like to know, ef we should let 'em ketch
Freeknowledgism an' Fourierism an' Speritoolism an' sech?    
When Satan sets himself to work to raise his very bes' muss,
He scatters roun' onscriptur'l views relatin' to Ones'mus.
You'd ough' to seen, though, how his facs an' argymunce an' figgers
Drawed tears o' real conviction from a lot o' pen'tent niggers!
It warn't like Wilbur's meetin', where you're shet up in a pew,
Your dickeys sorrin' off your ears, an' bilin' to be thru;
Ther' wuz a tent clost by thet hed a kag o' sunthin' in it,
Where you could go, ef you wuz dry, an' damp ye in a minute;
An' ef you did dror off a spell, ther' wuzn't no occasion
To lose the thread, because, ye see, he bellered like all Bashan.   
It's dry work follerin' argymunce an' so, 'twix' this an' thet,
I felt conviction weighin' down somehow inside my hat;
It growed an' growed like Jonah's gourd, a kin' o' whirlin' ketched me,
Ontil I fin'lly clean gin out an' owned up thet he'd fetched me;
An' when nine tenths o' th' perrish took to tumblin' roun' an' hollerin',
I didn' fin' no gret in th' way o' turnin' tu an' follerin'.
Soon ez Miss S. see thet, sez she, '_Thet_'s wut I call wuth seein'!
_Thet_'s actin' like a reas'nable an' intellectle bein'!'
An' so we fin'lly made it up, concluded to hitch hosses,
An' here I be 'n my ellermunt among creation's bosses;     
Arter I'd drawed sech heaps o' blanks, Fortin at last hez sent a prize,
An' chose me for a shinin' light o' missionary entaprise.

This leads me to another pint on which I've changed my plan
O' thinkin' so's't I might become a straight-out Southun man.
Miss S. (her maiden name wuz Higgs, o' the fus' fem'ly here)
On her Ma's side's all Juggernot, on Pa's all Cavileer,
An' sence I've merried into her an' stept into her shoes,
It ain't more 'n nateral thet I should modderfy my views:
I've ben a-readin' in Debow ontil I've fairly gut
So 'nlightened thet I'd full ez lives ha' ben a Dook ez nut;   
An' when we've laid ye all out stiff, an' Jeff hez gut his crown,
An' comes to pick his nobles out, _wun't_ this child be in town!
We'll hev an Age o' Chivverlry surpassin' Mister Burke's,
Where every fem'ly is fus'-best an' nary white man works:
Our system's sech, the thing'll root ez easy ez a tater;
For while your lords in furrin parts ain't noways marked by natur',
Nor sot apart from ornery folks in featurs nor in figgers,
Ef ourn'll keep their faces washed, you'll know 'em from their niggers.
Ain't _sech_ things wuth secedin' for, an' gittin' red o' you
Thet waller in your low idees, an' will tell all is blue?   
Fact is, we _air_ a diff'rent race, an' I, for one, don't see,
Sech havin' ollers ben the case, how w'ever _did_ agree.
It's sunthin' thet you lab'rin'-folks up North hed ough' to think on,
Thet Higgses can't bemean themselves to rulin' by a Lincoln,--
Thet men, (an' guv'nors, tu,) thet hez sech Normal names ez Pickens,
Accustomed to no kin' o' work, 'thout 'tis to givin' lickins,
Can't measure votes with folks thet get their living from their farms,
An' prob'ly think thet Law's ez good ez hevin' coats o' arms.
Sence I've ben here, I've hired a chap to look about for me
To git me a transplantable an' thrifty fem'ly-tree,       
An' he tells _me_ the Sawins is ez much o' Normal blood
Ez Pickens an' the rest on 'em, an' older 'n Noah's flood.
Your Normal schools wun't turn ye into Normals, for it's clear,
Ef eddykatin' done the thing, they'd be some skurcer here.
Pickenses, Boggses, Pettuses, Magoffins, Letchers, Polks,--
Where can you scare up names like them among your mudsill folks?
Ther's nothin' to compare with 'em, you'd fin', ef you should glance,
Among the tip-top femerlies in Englan', nor in France:
I've hearn frum 'sponsible men whose word wuz full ez good's their note,
Men thet can run their face for drinks, an' keep a Sunday coat,   
That they wuz all on 'em come down, an' come down pooty fur,
From folks thet, 'thout their crowns wuz on, ou' doors wouldn' never stir,
Nor thet ther' warn't a Southun man but wut wuz _primy fashy_
O' the bes' blood in Europe, yis, an' Afriky an' Ashy:
Sech bein' the case, is 't likely we should bend like cotton wickin',
Or set down under anythin' so low-lived ez a lickin'?
More 'n this,--hain't we the literatoor an science, tu, by gorry?
Hain't we them intellectle twins, them giants, Simms an' Maury,
Each with full twice the ushle brains, like nothin' thet I know,
'thout 'twuz a double-headed calf I see once to a show?     

For all thet, I warn't jest at fust in favor o' secedin';
I wuz for layin' low a spell to find out where 'twuz leadin',
For hevin' South-Carliny try her hand at sepritnationin',
She takin' resks an' findin' funds, an' we co-operationin',--
I mean a kin' o' hangin' roun' an' settin' on the fence,
Till Prov'dunce pinted how to jump an' save the most expense;
I recollected thet 'ere mine o' lead to Shiraz Centre
Thet bust up Jabez Pettibone, an' didn't want to ventur'
'Fore I wuz sartin wut come out ud pay for wut went in,
For swappin' silver off for lead ain't the sure way to win;   
(An', fact, it _doos_ look now ez though--but folks must live an' larn--
We should git lead, an' more 'n we want, out o' the Old Consarn
But when I see a man so wise an' honest ez Buchanan
A-lettin' us hev all the forts an' all the arms an' cannon,
Admittin' we wuz nat'lly right an' you wuz nat'lly wrong,
Coz you wuz lab'rin'-folks an' we wuz wut they call _bong-tong_,
An' coz there warn't no fight in ye more 'n in a mashed potater,
While two o' _us_ can't skurcely meet but wut we fight by natur',
An' th' ain't a bar-room here would pay for openin' on 't a night;
Without it giv the priverlege o' bein' shot at sight,      
Which proves we're Natur's noblemen, with whom it don't surprise
The British aristoxy should feel boun' to sympathize,--
Seein' all this, an' seein', tu, the thing wuz strikin' roots
While Uncle Sam sot still in hopes thet some one'd bring his boots,
I thought th' ole Union's hoops wuz off, an' let myself be sucked in
To rise a peg an' jine the crowd thet went for reconstructin',--
Thet is to hev the pardnership under th' ole name continner
Jest ez it wuz, we drorrin' pay, you findin' bone an' sinner,--
On'y to put it in the bond, an' enter 't in the journals,
Thet you're the nat'ral rank an' file, an' we the nat'ral kurnels.   

Now this I thought a fees'ble plan, thet 'ud work smooth ez grease,
Suitin' the Nineteenth Century an' Upper Ten idees,
An' there I meant to stick, an' so did most o' th' leaders, tu,
Coz we all thought the chance wuz good o' puttin' on it thru;
But Jeff he hit upon a way o' helpin' on us forrard
By bein' unannermous,--a trick you ain't quite up to, Norrard.
A Baldin hain't no more 'f a chance with them new apple-corers
Than folks's oppersition views aginst the Ringtail Roarers;
They'll take 'em out on him 'bout east,--one canter on a rail
Makes a man feel unannermous ez Jonah in the whale:       
Or ef he's a slow-moulded cuss thet can't seem quite t' 'gree,
He gits the noose by tellergraph upon the nighes' tree:
Their mission-work with Afrikins hez put 'em up, thet's sartin,
To all the mos' across-lot ways o' preachin' an' convartin';
I'll bet my hat th' ain't nary priest, nor all on 'em together;
Thet cairs conviction to the min' like Reveren' Taranfeather;
Why, he sot up with me one night, an' labored to sech purpose,
Thet (ez an owl by daylight 'mongst a flock o' teazin' chirpers
Sees clearer 'n mud the wickedness o' eatin' little birds)
I see my error an' agreed to shen it arterwurds;         
An' I should say, (to jedge our folks by facs in my possession,)
Thet three's Unannermous where one's a 'Riginal Secession;
So it's a thing you fellers North may safely bet your chink on,
Thet we're all water-proofed agin th' usurpin' reign o' Lincoln.

Jeff's _some_. He's gut another plan thet hez pertic'lar merits,
In givin' things a cheerfle look an' stiffnin' loose-hung sperits;
For while your million papers, wut with lyin' an' discussin',
Keep folks's tempers all on eend a-fumin' an' a-fussin',
A-wondrin' this an' guessin' thet, an' dreadin' every night
The breechin' o' the Univarse'll break afore it's light,    
Our papers don't purtend to print on'y wut Guv'ment choose,
An' thet insures us all to git the very best o' noose:
Jeff hez it of all sorts an' kines, an' sarves it out ez wanted,
So's't every man gits wut he likes an' nobody ain't scanted;
Sometimes it's vict'ries (they're 'bout all ther' is that's cheap down here,)
Sometimes it's France an' England on the jump to interfere.
Fact is, the less the people know o' wut ther' is a-doin',
The hendier 'tis for Guv'ment, sence it henders trouble brewin';
An' noose is like a shinplaster,--it's good, ef you believe it,
Or, wut's all same, the other man thet's goin' to receive it:  
Ef you've a son in th' army, wy, it's comfortin' to hear
He'll hev no gretter resk to run than seein' th' in'my's rear,
Coz, ef an F.F. looks at 'em, they ollers break an' run,
Or wilt right down ez debtors will thet stumble on a dun,
(An' this, ef an'thin', proves the wuth o' proper fem'ly pride,
Fer sech mean shucks ez creditors are all on Lincoln's side);
Ef I hev scrip thet wun't go off no more 'n a Belgin rifle,
An' read thet it's at par on 'Change, it makes me feel deli'fle;
It's cheerin', tu, where every man mus' fortify his bed,
To hear thet Freedom's the one thing our darkies mos'ly dread,   
An' thet experunce, time 'n' agin, to Dixie's Land hez shown
Ther' 's nothin' like a powder-cask fer a stiddy corner-stone;
Ain't it ez good ez nuts, when salt is sellin' by the ounce
For its own weight in Treash'ry-bons, (ef bought in small amounts,)
When even whiskey's gittin' skurce an' sugar can't be found,
To know thet all the ellerments o' luxury abound?
An' don't it glorify sal'-pork, to come to understand
It's wut the Richmon' editors call fatness o' the land!
Nex' thing to knowin' you're well off is _nut_ to know when y' ain't;
An' ef Jeff says all's goin' wal, who'll ventur' t' say it ain't?   

This cairn the Constitooshun roun' ez Jeff doos in his hat
Is hendier a dreffle sight, an' comes more kin' o' pat.
I tell ye wut, my jedgment is you're pooty sure to fail,
Ez long 'z the head keeps turnin' back for counsel to the tail:
Th' advantiges of our consarn for bein' prompt air gret,
While, 'long o' Congress, you can't strike, 'f you git an iron het;
They bother roun' with argooin', an' var'ous sorts o' foolin',
To make sure ef it's leg'lly het, an' all the while it's coolin',
So's't when you come to strike, it ain't no gret to wish ye j'y on,
An' hurts the hammer 'z much or more ez wut it doos the iron,   
Jeff don't allow no jawin'-sprees for three mouths at a stretch,
Knowin' the ears long speeches suits air mostly made to metch;
He jes' ropes in your tonguey chaps an' reg'lar ten-inch bores
An' lets 'em play at Congress, ef they'll du it with closed doors;
So they ain't no more bothersome than ef we'd took an' sunk 'em,
An' yit enj'y th' exclusive right to one another's Buncombe
'thout doin' nobody no hurt, an' 'thout its costin' nothin',
Their pay bein' jes' Confedrit funds, they findin' keep an' clothin';
They taste the sweets o' public life, an' plan their little jobs,
An' suck the Treash'ry (no gret harm, for it's ez dry ez cobs,)   
An' go thru all the motions jest ez safe ez in a prison,
An' hev their business to themselves, while Buregard hez hisn:
Ez long 'z he gives the Hessians fits, committees can't make bother
'bout whether 't's done the legle way or whether 't's done tother.
An' _I_ tell _you_ you've gut to larn thet War ain't one long teeter
Betwixt _I wan' to_ an' _'Twun't du_, debatin' like a skeetur
Afore he lights,--all is, to give the other side a millin',
An' arter thet's done, th' ain't no resk but wut the lor'll be willin';
No metter wut the guv'ment is, ez nigh ez I can hit it,
A lickin' 's constitooshunal, pervidin' _We_ don't git it.  
Jeff don't stan' dilly-dallyin', afore he takes a fort,
(With no one in,) to git the leave o' the nex' Soopreme Court,
Nor don't want forty-'leven weeks o' jawin' an' expoundin',
To prove a nigger hez a right to save him, ef he's drowndin';
Whereas ole Abe 'ud sink afore he'd let a darkie boost him,
Ef Taney shouldn't come along an' hedn't interdooced him.
It ain't your twenty millions thet'll ever block Jeff's game,
But one Man thet wun't let 'em jog jest ez he's takin' aim:
Your numbers they may strengthen ye or weaken ye, ez 't heppens
They're willin' to be helpin' hands or wuss-'n-nothin' cap'ns.  

I've chose my side, an' 'tain't no odds ef I wuz drawed with magnets,
Or ef I thought it prudenter to jine the nighes' bagnets;
I've made my ch'ice, an' ciphered out, from all I see an' heard,
Th' ole Constitooshun never'd git her decks for action cleared,
Long 'z you elect for Congressmen poor shotes thet want to go
Coz they can't seem to git their grub no otherways than so,
An' let your bes' men stay to home coz they wun't show ez talkers,
Nor can't be hired to fool ye an' sof'-soap ye at a caucus,--
Long 'z ye set by Rotashun more 'n ye do by folks's merits,   
Ez though experunce thriv by change o' sile, like corn an' kerrits,--
Long 'z you allow a critter's 'claims' coz, spite o' shoves an' tippins,
He's kep' his private pan jest where 'twould ketch mos' public
 drippin's,--
Long 'z A.'ll turn tu an' grin' B.'s exe, ef B.'ll help him grin' hisn,
(An' thet's the main idee by which your leadin' men hev risen,)--
Long 'z you let _ary_ exe be groun', 'less 'tis to cut the weasan'
O' sneaks thet dunno till they're told wut is an' wut ain't Treason,--
Long 'z ye give out commissions to a lot o' peddlin' drones
Thet trade in whiskey with their men an' skin 'em to their bones,--
Long 'z ye sift out 'safe' canderdates thet no one ain't afeared on
Coz they're so thund'rin' eminent for bein' never heard on,   
An' hain't no record, ez it's called, for folks to pick a hole in,
Ez ef it hurt a man to hev a body with a soul in,
An' it wuz ostentashun to be showin' on 't about,
When half his feller-citizens contrive to du without,--
Long 'z you suppose your votes can turn biled kebbage into brain,
An' ary man thet's pop'lar's fit to drive a lightnin'-train,--
Long 'z you believe democracy means _I'm ez good ez you be,_
An' that a feller from the ranks can't be a knave or booby,--
Long 'z Congress seems purvided, like yer street-cars an' yer 'busses,
With ollers room for jes' one more o' your spiled-in-bakin'
 cusses,   
Dough 'thout the emptins of a soul, an' yit with means about 'em
(Like essence-peddlers) thet'll make folks long to be without 'em,
Jes heavy 'nough to turn a scale thet's doubtfle the wrong way,
An' make their nat'ral arsenal o' bein' nasty pay.--
Long 'z them things last, (an' _I_ don't see no gret signs of improvin',)
I sha'n't up stakes, not hardly yit, nor 'twouldn't pay for movin':
For, 'fore you lick us, it'll be the long'st day ever _you_ see.
Yourn, (ez I 'xpec' to be nex' spring,)
                   B., MARKISS O' BIG BOOSY.