James Russell Lowell

(22 February 1819 – 12 August 1891 / Cambridge, Massachusetts)

A Third Letter From B. Sawin, Esq. - Poem by James Russell Lowell

I spose you recollect thet I explained my gennle views
In the last billet thet I writ, 'way down frum Veery Cruze,
Jest arter I'd a kin' o' ben spontanously sot up
To run unannermously fer the Preserdential cup;
O' course it worn't no wish o' mine, 'twuz ferflely distressin',
But poppiler enthusiasm gut so almighty pressin'
Thet, though like sixty all along I fumed an' fussed an' sorrered,
There didn't seem no ways to stop their bringin' on me forrerd:
Fact is, they udged the matter so, I couldn't help admittin'
The Father o' his Country's shoes no feet but mine 'ould fit in,
Besides the savin' o' the soles fer ages to succeed,
Seein' thet with one wannut foot, a pair'd be more 'n I need;
An', tell ye wut, them shoes'll want a thund'rin sight o' patchin',
Ef this ere fashion is to last we've gut into o' hatchin'
A pair o' second Washintons fer every new election,-
Though, fer ez number one's consarned, I don't make no objection.

I wuz agoin' on to say thet wen at fust I saw
The masses would stick to 't I wuz the Country's father-'n-law,
(They would ha' hed it _Father_, but I told 'em 'twouldn't du,
Coz thet wuz sutthin' of a sort they couldn't split in tu,
An' Washinton hed hed the thing laid fairly to his door,
Nor darsn't say 'tworn't his'n, much ez sixty year afore,)
But 'taint no matter ez to thet; wen I wuz nomernated,
'Tworn't natur but wut I should feel consid'able elated,
An' wile the hooraw o' the thing wuz kind o' noo an' fresh,
I thought our ticket would ha' caird the country with a resh.

Sence I've come hum, though, an' looked round, I think I seem to find
Strong argimunts ez thick ez fleas to make me change my mind;
It's clear to any one whose brain aint fur gone in a phthisis,
Thet hail Columby's happy land is goin' thru a crisis,
An' 'twouldn't noways du to hev the people's mind distracted
By bein' all to once by sev'ral pop'lar names attackted;
'Twould save holl haycartloads o' fuss an' three four months o' jaw,
Ef some illustrous paytriot should back out an' withdraw;
So, ez I aint a crooked stick, jest like-like ole (I swow,
I dunno ez I know his name)-I'll go back to my plough.
Wenever an Amerikin distinguished politishin
Begins to try et wut they call definin' his posishin,
Wal, I, fer one, feel sure he ain't gut nothin' to define;
It's so nine cases out o' ten, but jest thet tenth is mine;
An' 'taint no more 'n proper 'n' right in sech a sitooation
To hint the course you think'll be the savin' o' the nation;
To funk right out o' p'lit'cal strife aint thought to be the thing,
Without you deacon off the toon you want your folks should sing;
So I edvise the noomrous friends thet's in one boat with me
To jest up killick, jam right down their hellum hard alee,
Haul the sheets taut, an', layin' out upon the Suthun tack,
Make fer the safest port they can, wich, _I_ think, is Ole Zack.

Next thing you'll want to know, I spose, wut argimunts I seem
To see thet makes me think this ere'll be the strongest team;
Fust place, I've ben consid'ble round in bar-rooms an' saloons
Agetherin' public sentiment, 'mongst Demmercrats and Coons,
An' 'taint ve'y offen thet I meet a chap but wut goes in
Fer Rough an' Ready, fair an' square, hufs, taller, horns, an' skin;
I don't deny but wut, fer one, ez fur ez I could see,
I didn't like at fust the Pheladelphy nomernee:
I could ha' pinted to a man thet wuz, I guess, a peg
Higher than him,-a soger, tu, an' with a wooden leg;
But every day with more an' more o' Taylor zeal I'm burnin',
Seein' wich way the tide thet sets to office is aturnin';
Wy, into Bellers's we notched the votes down on three sticks,-
'Twuz Birdofredum _one_, Cass _aught_ an Taylor _twenty-six_,
An' bein' the on'y canderdate thet wuz upon the ground,
They said 'twuz no more 'n right thet I should pay the drinks all round;
Ef I'd expected sech a trick, I wouldn't ha' cut my foot
By goin' an' votin' fer myself like a consumed coot;
It didn't make no deff'rence, though; I wish I may be cust,
Ef Bellers wuzn't slim enough to say he wouldn't trust!

Another pint thet influences the minds o' sober jedges
Is thet the Gin'ral hezn't gut tied hand an' foot with pledges;
He hezn't told ye wut he is, an' so there aint no knowin'
But wut he may turn out to be the best there is agoin';
This, at the on'y spot thet pinched, the shoe directly eases,
Coz every one is free to 'xpect percisely wut he pleases:
I want free-trade; you don't; the Gin'ral isn't bound to neither;-
I vote my way; you, yourn; an' both air sooted to a T there.
Ole Rough an' Ready, tu, 's a Wig, but without bein' ultry;
He's like a holsome hayin' day, thet's warm, but isn't sultry;
He's jest wut I should call myself, a kin' of _scratch_ ez 'tware,
Thet aint exacly all a wig nor wholly your own hair;
I 've ben a Wig three weeks myself, jest o' this mod'rate sort,
An' don't find them an' Demmercrats so defferent ez I thought;
They both act pooty much alike, an' push an' scrouge an' cus;
They're like two pickpockets in league fer Uncle Samwells pus;
Each takes a side, an' then they squeeze the ole man in between 'em,
Turn all his pockets wrong side out an' quick ez lightnin' clean 'em;
To nary one on 'em I'd trust a secon'-handed rail
No furder off 'an I could sling a bullock by the tail.

Webster sot matters right in thet air Mashfiel' speech o' his'n;
'Taylor,' sez he, 'aint nary ways the one thet I'd a chizzen,
Nor he aint fittin' fer the place, an' like ez not he aint
No more 'n a tough ole bullethead, an' no gret of a saint;
But then,' sez he, 'obsarve my pint, he's jest ez good to vote fer
Ez though the greasin' on him worn't a thing to hire Choate fer;
Aint it ez easy done to dropp a ballot in a box
Fer one ez 'tis fer t'other, fer the bull-dog ez the fox?'
It takes a mind like Dannel's, fact, ez big ez all ou' doors,
To find out thet it looks like rain arter it fairly pours;
I 'gree with him, it aint so dreffle troublesome to vote
Fer Taylor arter all,-it's jest to go an' change your coat;
Wen he's once greased, you'll swaller him an' never know on 't, scurce,
Unless he scratches, goin' down, with them 'ere Gin'ral's spurs.
I've ben a votin' Demmercrat, ez reg'lar as a clock,
But don't find goin' Taylor gives my narves no gret 'f a shock;
Truth is, the cutest leadin' Wigs, ever sence fust they found
Wich side the bread gut buttered on, hev kep' a edgin' round;
They kin' o' slipt the planks frum out th' ole platform one by one
An' made it gradooally noo, 'fore folks khow'd wut wuz done,
Till, fur 'z I know, there aint an inch thet I could lay my han' on,
But I, or any Demmercrat, feels comf'table to stan' on,
An' ole Wig doctrines act'lly look, their occ'pants bein' gone,
Lonesome ez steddies on a mash without no hayricks on.

I spose it's time now I should give my thoughts upon the plan,
Thet chipped the shell at Buffalo, o' settin' up ole Van.
I used to vote fer Martin, but, I swan, I'm clean disgusted,-
He aint the man thet I can say is fittin' to be trusted;
He aint half antislav'ry 'nough, nor I aint sure, ez some be,
He'd go in fer abolishin' the Deestrick o' Columby;
An', now I come to recollec', it kin' o' makes me sick 'z
A horse, to think o' wut he wuz in eighteen thirty-six.
An' then, another thing;-I guess, though mebby I am wrong,
This Buff'lo plaster aint agoin' to dror almighty strong;
Some folks, I know, hev gut th' idee thet No'thun dough'll rise,
Though, 'fore I see it riz an 'baked, I wouldn't trust my eyes;
'Twill take more emptins, a long chalk, than this noo party's gut,
To give sech heavy cakes ez them a start, I tell ye wut.
But even ef they caird the day, there wouldn't be no endurin'
To stan' upon a platform with sech critters ez Van Buren;-
An' his son John, tu, I can't think how thet 'ere chap should dare
To speak ez he doos; wy, they say he used to cuss an' swear!
I spose he never read the hymn thet tells how down the stairs
A feller with long legs wuz throwed thet wouldn't say his prayers.
This brings me to another pint: the leaders o' the party
Aint jest sech men ez I can act along with free an' hearty;
They aint not quite respectable, an' wen a feller's morrils
Don't toe the straightest kin' o' mark, wy, him an' me jest quarrils.
I went to a free soil meetin' once, an' wut d'ye think I see?
A feller was aspoutin' there thet act'lly come to me,
About two year ago last spring, ez nigh ez I can jedge,
An' axed me ef I didn't want to sign the Temprunce pledge!
He's one o' them that goes about an' sez you hedn't oughter
Drink nothin', mornin', noon, or night, stronger 'an Taunton water.
There's one rule I've ben guided by, in settlin' how to vote, ollers,-
I take the side thet _isn't_ took by them consarned teetotallers.

Ez fer the niggers, I've ben South, an' thet hez changed my min';
A lazier, more ongrateful set you couldn't nowers fin',
You know I mentioned in my last thet I should buy a nigger,
Ef I could make a purchase at a pooty mod'rate figger;
So, ez there's nothin' in the world I'm fonder of 'an gunnin',
I closed a bargain finally to take a feller runnin'.
I shou'dered queen's-arm an' stumped out, an' wen I come t' th' swamp,
'Tworn't very long afore I gut upon the nest o' Pomp;
I come acrost a kin' o' hut, an', playin' round the door,
Some little woolly-headed cubs, ez many 'z six or more.
At fust I thought o' firin', but _think twice_ is safest ollers;
There aint, thinks I, not one on 'em but's wuth his twenty dollars,
Or would be, ef I hed 'em back into a Christian land,-
How temptin' all on 'em would look upon an auction-stand!
(Not but wut _I_ hate Slavery, in th' abstract, stem to starn,-
I leave it ware our fathers did, a privit State consarn.)
Soon 'z they see me, they yelled an' run, but Pomp wuz out ahoein'
A leetle patch o' corn he hed, or else there aint no knowin'
He wouldn't ha' took a pop at me; but I hed gut the start,
An' wen he looked, I vow he groaned ez though he'd broke his heart;
He done it like a wite man, tu, ez nat'ral ez a pictur,
The imp'dunt, pis'nous hypocrite! wus 'an a boy constrictur.
'You can't gum _me_, I tell ye now, an' so you needn't try,
I 'xpect my eye-teeth every mail, so jest shet up,' sez I.
'Don't go to actin' ugly now, or else I'll let her strip,
You'd best draw kindly, seein' 'z how I've gut ye on the hip;
Besides, you darned ole fool, it aint no gret of a disaster
To be benev'lently druv back to a contented master,
Ware you hed Christian priv'ledges you don't seem quite aware on,
Or you'd ha' never run away from bein' well took care on;
Ez fer kin' treatment, wy, he wuz so fond on ye, he said,
He'd give a fifty spot right out, to git ye, 'live or dead;
Wite folks aint sot by half ez much; 'member I run away,
Wen I wuz bound to Cap'n Jakes, to Mattysqumscot Bay;
Don' know him, likely? Spose not; wal, the mean old codger went
An' offered-wut reward, think? Wal, it worn't no _less_ 'n a cent.'

Wal, I jest gut 'em into line, an' druv 'em on afore me;
The pis'nous brutes, I'd no idee o' the ill-will they bore me;
We walked till som'ers about noon, an' then it grew so hot
I thought it best to camp awile, so I chose out a spot
Jest under a magnoly tree, an' there right down I sot;
Then I unstrapped my wooden leg, coz it begun to chafe,
An' laid it down 'longside o' me, supposin' all wuz safe;
I made my darkies all set down around me in a ring,
An' sot an' kin' o' ciphered up how much the lot would bring;
But, wile I drinked the peaceful cup of a pure heart an' min'
(Mixed with some wiskey, now an' then), Pomp he snaked up behin',
An' creepin' grad'lly close tu, ez quiet ez a mink,
Jest grabbed my leg, an' then pulled foot, quicker 'an you could wink,
An', come to look, they each on' em hed gut behin' a tree,
An' Pomp poked out the leg a piece, jest so ez I could see,
An' yelled to me to throw away my pistils an' my gun,
Or else thet they'd cair off the leg, an' fairly cut an' run.
I vow I didn't b'lieve there wuz a decent alligatur
Thet hed a heart so destitoot o' common human natur;
However, ez there worn't no help, I finally give in
An' heft my arms away to git my leg safe back agin.

Pomp gethered all the weapins up, an' then he come an' grinned,
He showed his ivory some, I guess, an' sez, 'You're fairly pinned;
Jest buckle on your leg agin, an' git right up an' come,
'T wun't du fer fammerly men like me to be so long frum hum.'
At fust I put my foot right down an' swore I wouldn't budge.
'Jest ez you choose,' sez he, quite cool, 'either be shot or trudge.'
So this black-hearted monster took an' act'lly druv me back
Along the very feetmarks o' my happy mornin' track,
An' kep' me pris'ner 'bout six months, an' worked me, tu, like sin,
Till I hed gut his corn an' his Carliny taters in;
He made me larn him readin', tu (although the crittur saw
How much it hut my morril sense to act agin the law),
So'st he could read a Bible he'd gut; an' axed ef I could pint
The North Star out; but there I put his nose some out o' jint,
Fer I weeled roun' about sou'west, an', lookin' up a bit,
Picked out a middlin' shiny one an' tole him thet wuz it.
Fin'lly he took me to the door, an' givin' me a kick,
Sez, 'Ef you know wut's best fer ye, be off, now, double-quick;
The winter-time's a comin' on, an' though I gut ye cheap,
You're so darned lazy, I don't think you're hardly woth your keep;
Besides, the childrin's growin' up, an' you aint jest the model
I'd like to hev 'em immertate, an' so you'd better toddle!'

Now is there anythin' on airth'll ever prove to me
Thet renegader slaves like him air fit fer bein' free?
D' you think they'll suck me in to jine the Buff'lo chaps, an' them
Rank infidels thet go agin the Scriptur'l cus o' Shem?
Not by a jugfull! sooner 'n thet, I'd go thru fire an' water;
Wen I hev once made up my mind, a meet'nhus aint sotter;
No, not though all the crows thet flies to pick my bones wuz cawin',-
I guess we're in a Christian land,-
Yourn,
BIRDOFREDUM SAWIN.


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, May 10, 2012



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