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MR. HOSEA BIGLOW TO THE EDITOR OF THE ATLANTIC
Requestin' me to please be funny;
Thet knows wut's comin', gall or honey:
Odd fancies come afore I call 'em ;
No preacher 'thout a call's more solemn.
Rattlin' an' shrewd an' kin' o' jingleish,
I'd take an' citify my English.
But when I'm jokin', no, I thankee ;
Run 'helter-skelter into Yankee.
I tell ye wut, I ha’n’t ben foolin';
Hey took some trouble with my schoolin';
Thet love her'z though she wuz a woman;
But half forgives my bein' human.
Oľ farmers hed when I wuz younger ;
While book-froth seems to whet your hunger.
'Twixt Humbug's eyes, there's few can match it, An' then it helves my thoughts ez slick
Ez stret-grained hickory doos a hatchet.
For Natur' won't put up with gullin’;
Like a druv pig a'n't wuth a mullein ;
O'sense they pour an' resh ye onwards,
Feel thet the airth is wheelin' sunwards.
Ez office-seekers arter 'lection,
Without no bother nor objection ;
But sence the war my thoughts hang back
Ez though I wanted to enlist 'em, An' substitutes,-wal, they don't lack,
But then they'll slope afore you've mist 'em.
Nothin' don't seem like wut it wuz;
I can't see wut there is to hinder, An' yit my brains jes' go buzz, buzz,
Like bumblebees agin a winder. 'Fore these times come, in all airth's row,
There wuz one quiet place, my head in, Where I could hide an' think, --but now
It's all one teeter, hopin', dreadin'.
Where's Peace? I start, some clear-blown night,
When gaunt stone walls grow numb an' number, An', creakin' 'cross the snow-crust white,
Walk the col' starlight into summer; Up grows the moon, an' swell by swell
Thru the pale pasturs silvers dimmer Than the last smile thet strives to tell
O' love gone heavenward in its shimmer.
I hev been gladder o' sech things
Than cocks o' spring or bees o'clover ; They filled my heart with livin' springs, –
But now they seem to freeze 'em over ; Sights innercent ez babes on knee,
Peaceful ez eyes o' pastured cattle, Jes' coz they be so, seem to me
To rile me more with thoughtş o' battle.
In-doors an' out by spells I try;
Ma'am Natur' keeps her spin-wheel goin', But leaves my natur' stiff an' dry
Ez fiel's o'clover arter mowin'; An' her jes' keepin' on the same,
Calmer than clock-work, an' not carin', An' findin' nary thing to blame,
Is wus than ef she took to swearin'.
Snow-flakes come whisperin' on the pane
The charm makes blazin' logs so pleasant, But I can't hark to what they're say'n',
With Grant or Sherman ollers present ; The chimbleys shudder in the gale,
Thet lulls, then suddin takes to flappin' Like a shot hawk, but all's ez stale
To me ez so much sperit-rappin'.
Under the yaller-pines I house,
When sunshine makes 'em all sweet-scented, An' hear among their furry boughs
The baskin’ west-wind purr contented, While 'way o’erhead, ez sweet an' low
Ez distant bells thet ring for meetin', The wedged wil' geese their bugles blow,
Further an' further south retreatin'.
Or up the slippery knob I strain,
An' see a hunderd hills like islan's
Out o' the sea o' snowy silence ;
Slow thru the winter air a-shrinkin',
Of empty places set me thinkin'.
Beaver roars hoarse with meltin' snows,
An' rattles di'mon's from his granite ; Time wuz, he snatched away my prose,
An' into psalms or satires ran it; But he, nor all the rest thet once
Started my blood to country-dances, Can't set me goin' more'n a dunce
Thet ha'n't no use for dreams an' fancies.
Rat-tat-tat-tattle thru the street
I hear the drummers makin' riot, An' I set thinkin' o' the feet
Thet follered once an' now are quiet, White, feet ez snowdrops innercent,
Thet never knowed the paths o' Satan, Whose comin' step there's ears thet won't,
No, not lifelong, leave off awaitin'.
Why, ha'n't I held 'em on my knee?
Didn't I love to see 'em growin'; Three likely lads ez wal could be,
Handsome an' brave an' not tu knowin'? I set an' look into the blaze
Whose natur', jes' like their’n, keeps climbin', Ez long’z it lives, in shinin’ ways,
An' half despise myself for rhymin’. Wut's words to them whose faith an' truth
On War's red techstone rang true metal, Who ventered life an’ love an' youth
For the gret prize o' death in battle?
To him who, deadly hurt, agen
Flashed on afore the charge's thunder, Tippin' with fire the bolt of men
Thet rived the Rebel line asunder? 'Ta'n't right to hev the young go fust,
All throbbin' full o' gifts an' graces, Leavin' life's paupers dry ez dust
To try an' make b'lieve fill their places : Nothin' but tells us wut we miss,
There's gaps our lives can't never fay in, An' thet world seems so fur from this
Lef' for us loafers to grow grey in ! My eyes cloud up for rain ; my mouth
Will take to twitchin' roun' the corners ; I pity mothers, tu, down South,
For all they sot among the scorners: I'd sooner take my chance to stan'
At Jedgment where your meanest slave is Than at God's bar hol' up a han'
Ez drippin' red ez your'n, Jeff Davis ! Come, Peace! not like a mourner bowed
For honour lost an' dear ones wasted, But proud, to meet a people proud,
With eyes that tell o triumph tasted ! Come, with han' grippin' on the hilt,
An' step that proves ye Victory's daughter! Longin' for you, our sperits wilt
Like shipwrecked men's on raf's for water ! Come, while our country feels the lift
Of a gret instinct shoutin' forwards, An' knows thet freedom a'n't a gift
Thet tarries long in han's o' cowards! Come, sech ez mothers prayed for when
They kissed their cross with lips thet quivered, An' bring fair wages for brave men,
A nation sayed, a race delivered l..
WALT WHITMAN. [Born on 31st May 1819, at West Hills, Long Island, in the State of New York. Mr. Whitman appears to me to be by far the greatest poel that America has produced, and great among the poets of any age or country. This, however, would not be an apposite place in which to enlarge upon his powers or his career, and I shall therefore confine myself to a few words regarding his relation to the Humorous in poetry: In this respect there is little to be said, save in a negative sense : the only piece of his that can in any way be termed humorous is the one here extracted, and even this has more of a grim grotesque suggestiveness than of humour properly so called. In fact, the absence of humour from the writings of Whitman--treating as he does of every possible aspect of life, work, scene, and association, in America-is a noticeable point, and may even be said to argue one limitation in his enormously capacious and sympathetic mind, and in his faculty for expressing the actualities (to which in other regards he is so intensely responsive) of modern life. And it may be added that the Americans generally-- whether writers or others-have a peculiar readiness in seizing, and in realizing in words, anything amenable to the faculties of humour, wit, or (perhaps more especially) whim and ridicule. The reason for Whitman's deficiency may be that to him nothing is “common or unclean.". Accepting as he does every fact of life and of circumstance, oddity is not to him so odd as to be worth “showing up from that point of view, nor absurdity deserving of castigation or introspection, but simply of notice and appraisement: he observes these among a myriad of other phenomena, understands them for what they are worth to him, and passes. He does not turn-on (if I may use such an expression) any special part of his mind to take cognizance of these special qualities and appearances in man: but he rates them, along with all other matériel, by his perceptive power as a whole. They have their place in the show, and he has his place as spectator of it, and does not care to change that place for the sake of observing these particulars more closely, or with a greater amount of either fellow-feeling or distaste. Whatever may be the true explanation of the want of humorous turn in Whitman, this deficiency is, I think, one of the reasons why his writings raise so much dislike and opposition. He says a number of things that people consider out-of-the-way; and, finding that he either does not consider them out-of-the-way at all, or has not a humorous relish for them as such, readers detect a certain lack of rapprochement between the author and themselves, and resent it accordingly).
A BOSTON BALLAD.
(1854). To get betimes in Boston town, I rose this morning early ; Here's a good place at the corner-I must stand and see the show. Clear the way there, Jonathan ! Way for the President's marshal! Way for the government cannon! Way for the Federal foot and dragoons—and the apparitions
copiously tumbling. I love to look on the stars and stripes—I hope the fifes will play
How bright shine the cutlasses of the foremost troops !