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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)

A Letter from Mr. Ezekiel Biglow

From “The Biglow Papers”

THRASH away, you’ll hev to rattle

On them kittle-drums o’ yourn,

’Tain’t a knowin’ kind o’ cattle

Thet is ketched with moldy corn;

Put in stiff, you fifer feller,

Let folks see how spry you be—

Guess you’ll toot till you are yeller

’Fore you git a-hold o’ me!

Thet air flag’s a leetle rotten,

Hope it ain’t your Sunday’s best—

Fact! it takes a sight o’ cotton

To stuff out a soger’s chest;

Sence we farmers hev to pay fer’t,

Ef you must wear humps like these

S’posin’ you should try salt hay fer’t,

It would du ez slick ez grease.

’Twouldn’t suit them Southun fellers,

They’re a dreffle graspin’ set,

We must ollers blow the bellers

Wen they want their irons het;

Maybe it’s all right ez preachin’,

But my narves it kind o’ grates,

Wen I see the overreachin’

O’ them nigger-drivin’ States.

Them that rule us, them slave-traders,

Hain’t they cut a thunderin’ swath

(Helped by Yankee renegaders),

Thru the vartu o’ the North!

We begin to think it’s natur

To take sarse an’ not be riled—

Who’d expect to see a tater

All on eend at bein’ biled?

Ez fer war, I call it murder—

There you hev it plain an’ flat;

I don’t want to go no furder

Than my Testament fer that;

God hez sed so plump an’ fairly,

It’s ez long ez it is broad,

An’ you’ve gut to git up airly

Ef you want to take in God.

’Tain’t your eppyletts an’ feathers

Make the thing a grain more right;

Tain’t a-follerin’ your bell-wethers

Will excuse ye in His sight;

Ef you take a sword an’ dror it,

An’ go stick a feller thru,

Guv’ment ain’t to answer for it,

God’ll send the bill to you.

Wut’s the use o’ meetin’-goin’

Every Sabbath, wet or dry,

Ef it’s right to go a-mowin’

Feller-men like oats an’ rye?

I dunno but wut it’s pooty

Trainin’ round in bobtail coats—

But it’s curus Christian dooty

This ’ere cuttin’ folks’s throats.

They may talk o’ Freedom’s airy

Tell they’re pupple in the face—

It’s a grand gret cemetary

Fer the barthrights of our race;

They jest want this Californy

So’s to lug new slave States in

To abuse ye, an’ to scorn ye,

An’ to plunder ye like sin.

Ain’t it cute to see a Yankee

Take sech everlastin’ pains,

All to git the Devil’s thankee

Helpin’ on ’em weld their chains?

Wy, it’s jest ez clear ez figures,

Clear ez one an’ one make two,

Chaps thet make black slaves o’ niggers

Want to make wite slaves o’ you.

Tell ye jest the eend I’ve come to

Arter cipherin’ plaguy smart,

An’ it makes a handy sum, tu,

Any gump could larn by heart;

Laborin’ man an’ laborin’ woman

Hev one glory an’ one shame.

Ev’ythin’ thet’s done inhuman

Injers all on ’em the same.

’Tain’t by turnin’ out to hack folks

You’re agoin’ to git your rights,

Nor by lookin’ down on black folks

Coz you’re put upon by wite;

Slavery ain’t o’ nary color,

’Tain’t the hide thet makes it wus,

All it keers fer is a feller

’S jest to make him fill his pus.

Want to tackle me in, du ye?

I expect you’ll hev to wait;

Wen cold lead puts daylight thru ye

You’ll begin to kal’late;

S’pose the crows wun’t fall to pickin’

All the carkiss from your bones,

Coz you helped to give a lickin’

To them poor half-Spanish drones?

Jest go home an’ ask our Nancy

Wether I’d be sech a goose

Ez to jine ye—guess you’d fancy

The etarnal bung wuz loose!

She wants me fer home consumption,

Let alone the hay’s to mow—

Ef you’re arter folks o’ gumption,

You’ve a darned long row to hoe.

Take them editors thet’s crowin’

Like a cockerel three months old—

Don’t ketch any on ’em goin’,

Though they be so blasted bold;

Ain’t they a prime lot o’ fellers?

’Fore they think on’t they will sprout

(Like a peach that’s got the yellers),

With the meanness bustin’ out.

Wal, go ’long to help ’em stealin’

Bigger pens to cram with slaves,

Help the men thet’s ollers dealin’

Insults on your fathers’ graves;

Help the strong to grind the feeble,

Help the many agin the few,

Help the men that call your people

Witewashed slaves an’ peddlin’ crew?

Massachusetts, God forgive her,

She’s a-kneelin’ with the rest,

She, thet ough’ to ha’ clung ferever

In her grand old eagle-nest;

She thet ough’ to stand so fearless

Wile the wracks are round her hurled,

Holdin’ up a beacon peerless

To the oppressed of all the world!

Hain’t they sold your colored seamen?

Hain’t they made your env’ys wiz?

Wut’ll make ye act like freemen?

Wut’ll git your dander riz?

Come, I’ll tell ye wut I’m thinkin’

Is our dooty in this fix,

They’d ha’ done ’t ez quick ez winkin’

In the days o’ seventy-six.

Clang the bells in every steeple,

Call all true men to disown

The tradoocers of our people,

The enslavers o’ their own;

Let our dear old Bay State proudly

Put the trumpet to her mouth,

Let her ring this messidge loudly

In the ears of all the South—

“I’ll return ye good fer evil

Much ez we frail mortils can,

But I wun’t go help the Devil

Makin’ man the cuss o’ man;

Call me coward, call me traiter,

Jest ez suits your mean idees—

Here I stand a tyrant-hater,

An’ the friend o’ God an’ Peace!”

Ef I’d my way I hed ruther

We should go to work an’ part—

They take one way, we take t’other—

Guess it wouldn’t break my heart;

Man hed ought to put asunder

Them thet God has noways jined;

An’ I shouldn’t gretly wonder

Ef there’s thousands o’ my mind.