Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > American
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vols. I–V: American
 
A Letter from Mr. Ezekiel Biglow
By James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)
 
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,        5
  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—        10
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,        15
  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;        20
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,        25
  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—        30
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        35
  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.        40
 
’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,        45
  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,        50
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        55
  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;        60
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        65
  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,        70
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,        75
  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.        80
 
’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,        85
  ’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;        90
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’        95
  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!        100
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’        105
  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        110
(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’        115
  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?        120
 
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        125
  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?        130
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’        135
  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;        140
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        145
  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—        150
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—        155
  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.        160
 
 
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