Franklin Pierce Adams
An Ode In Time Of Inauguration - Poem by Franklin Pierce Adams
(March 4, 1913)
Thine aid, O Muse, I consciously beseech;
I crave thy succour, ask for thine assistance
That men may cry: "Some little ode! A peach!"
O Muse, grant me the strength to go the distance!
For odes, I learn, are dithyrambs, and long;
Exalted feeling, dignity of theme
And complicated structure guide the song.
(All this from Webster's book of high esteem.)
Let complicated structures not becloud
My lucid lines, nor weight with overloading.
To Shelley, Keats, and Wordsworth and that crowd
I yield the bays for grand and lofty oding.
Mine but the task to trace a country's growth,
As evidenced by each innauguration
From Washington's to Wilson's primal oath--
In these U.S., the celebrated nation.
But stay! or ever that I start to sing,
Or e'er I loose my fine poetic forces,
I ought, I think, to do the decent thing,
Ti Wit: give credit to my many sources:
Barnes's "Brief History of the U.S.A.,"
Bryce, Ridpath, Scudder, Fiske, J.B. McMaster,
A book of odes, a Webster, a Roget--
The bibliography of this poetaster.
Flow, flow, my pen, as gently as sweet Afton ever flowed!
An thou dost ill, shall this be a poor thing, but mine ode.
G.W., initial prex,
Right down in Wall Street, New York City,
Took his first oath. Oh, multiplex
The whimsies quaint, the comments witty
One might evolve from that! I scorn
To mock the spot where he was sworn.
On next Inauguration Day
He took the avouchment sempiternal
Way down in Phil-a-delph-i-a,
Where rises now the L.H. Journal.
His farewell speech in '96
Said: "'Ware the Trusts and all their tricks!"
John Adams fell on darksome days:
March fourth was blustery and sleety;
The French behaved in horrid ways
Until John Jay drew up a treaty.
Came the Eleventh Amendment, too,
Providing that--but why tell you?
T. Jefferson, one history showed,
Held all display was vain and idle;
Alone, unpanoplied he rode;
Alone he hitched his horse's bridle.
No ball that night, no carouse,
But back to Conrad's boarding house.
He tied that bridle to the fence
The morning of inauguration;
John Davis saw him do it; whence
Arose his "simple" reputation.
The White House, though, with Thomas J.,
Had chefs--and parties every day.
THE MUSE INTERRUPTS THE ODIST
If I were you I think I'd change my medium;
I'm weary of your meter and your style.
The sameness of it sickens me to tedium;
I'll quit unless you switch it for a while.
THE ODIST REPLIES
I bow to thee, my Muse, most eloquent of pleaders;
But why embarras me in front of all these readers?
Was a lovely celebration.
In a suit of wool domestic
Rode he, stately and majestic,
Making it be manifest
Clothes American are best.
This has thundered through the ages.
(See our advertising pages.)
Lightly I pass along, and so
Come to the terms of James Monroe
Who framed the doctrine far too well
Known for the odist to retell.
His period of friendly dealing
Began The Era of Good Feeling.
John Quincy Adams followed him in Eighteen Twenty-Four;
Election was exciting--the details I shall ignore.
But his inauguration as our country's President
Was, take it from McMaster, some considerable event.
It was a brilliant function, and I think I ought to add
The Philadelphia "ledger" said a gorgeous time was had.
Old Andrew Jackson's pair of terms were terribly exciting;
That stern, intrepid warrior had little else than fighting.
A time of strife and turbulence, of politics and flurry.
But deadly dull for poem themes, so, Mawruss, I should worry!
In Washington did Martin Van
A stately custom then decree;
Old Hickory, the vetran,
Must ride with him, the people's man,
For all the world to see.
A pleasant custom, in a way,
And yet I should have laughed
To see the Sage of Oyster Bay
On Tuesday ride with Taft.
(Pardon me this
That sight you'll miss,
But it isn't my fault.)
William Henry Harrison came
Riding a horse of alabaster,
But the weather that day was a sin and a shame,
Take it from me and John McMaster.
Only a month--and Harrison died,
And V.P. Tyler began preside.
A far from popular prex was he,
And the next one was Polk from Tennessee.
There were two inaugural balls for him
But the rest of his record is rather dim.
Had I the pen of a Pope or a Thackeray,
Had I the wisdom of Hegel or Kant,
Then might I sing as I'd like to of Zachary,
Then might I sing a Taylorian chant.
Oh, for the lyrical art of a Tennyson!
Oh, for the skill of Macaulay or Burke!
None of these mine; so I give him my benison,
Turning reluctantly back to my work.
O Millard Fillmore! when a man refers
To thee, what direful, awful thing occurs?
Though in name itself thy name have nought of wit,
Yet--and this doth confound me to admit
When I do hear it, I do smile; nay, more--
I laugh, I scream, I cachinnate, I roar
As Wearied Business Men do shake with glee
At mimes that say "Dubuque" or "Kankakee";
As basement-brows that laugh at New Rochelle;
As lackwits laugh when actors mention Hell.
Perhaps--it may be so--I am not sure--
Perhaps it is that thou wast so obscure,
And that one seldom hears a single word of thee;
I know a lot of girls that never heard of thee.
Hence did I smile, perhaps. . . . How very near
The careless laughing to the thoughtful tear!
O Fillmore, let me sheathe my mocking pen.
God rest thee! I'll not laugh at thee again!
I heard it remarked that to Pierce's election
There wasn't a soul had the slightest objection.
I have also been told, by some caustical wit,
That no one said 'nay' when he wanted to quit.
Yet Franklin Pierce, forgotten man,
I celebrate your fame.
I'm doing just the best I can
To keep alive your name,
Though as President, F.P.,
You didn't do as much for me.
Of James Buchanan things a score
I might recite. I'll say that he was
The only White House bachelor--
The only one, that's what J.B. was.
For he was a bachelor--
For he might have been a bigamist,
A Mormon, A polygamist,
And had thirty wives or more;
But this be his memorial:
He was ever unuxorial,
And he remained a bachelor--
He re-mai-ai-ai-ai-ai-ai-ai-ai-ai-ained a bachelor .
Lincoln! I falter, feeling it to be
As if all words of mine in praise of him
Were as the veriest dolt that saw the sun;
And God had spoken him and said to him:
"I bid you tell me what you think of it."
And he should answer: "Oh, the sun is very nice."
So sadly fitted I to speak in praise
Now during Andrew Johnson's term the currency grew stable;
We bought Alaska and we laid the great Atlantic cable;
And then there came eight years of Grant; thereafter four of Hayes;
And in his time the parties fell on fierce and parlous days;
And Garfield came, and Arthur too, And Congress shoes were worn,
And Brooklyn Bridge was built and I, your gifted bard, was born.
Cleveland and Harrison came along then;
Followed an era of Cleveland again.
Came then McKinley and--light me a pipe--
Hey there, composing room, get some new type!
I sing him now as I shall sing him again;
I sing him now as I have sung before.
How fluently his name comes off my pen!
Bless you and keep you, T.R.!
Fixed and particular star,
Theodore, Teddy, the Colonel.
Energy tireless, eternal;
Hater of grafters and crooks!
Theodore, Teddy, the Colonel,
Writer and lover of books.
Hater of grafters and crooks,
Forceful, adroit, and expressive,
Writer and lover of books,
Nevertheless a progressive.
Forceful, adroit, and expressive,
Often asserting the trite;
Nevertheless a progressive;
Errant, but generally right.
Often asserting the trite;
Stubborn, and no one can force you.
Errant, but generally right--
Yet, on the whole, I indorse you.
Stubborn, and no one can force you,
Fixed and particular star,
Yet, on the whole, I indorse you,
Bless you and keep you T.R.!
It blew, it rained, it snowed, it stormed, it froze, it hailed, it sleeted
The day that William Howard Taft upon the chair was seated.
The four long years that followed--ah, that I should make a rhyme of it!
For Mr. taft assures me that he had an awful time of it.
And yet meseems he did his best; and as we bid good-bye,
I'll add he did a better job than you'd have done--or I.
Welcome to thee! I shake thy hand,
New prexy of our well-known land.
May what we merit, and no less,
Descend to give us happiness!
May what we merit, and no more,
Descend on us in measured store!
Give us but peace when we shall earn
The right to such a rich return!
Give us but plenty when we show
That we deserve to have it so!
Mine ode is finished! Tut! It is a slight one,
But blame me not; I do as I am bid.
The editors of COLLIER'S said to write one,
And I did.
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