He stood upon the world’s
broad threshold; wide
The din of battle and of slaughter rose;
He saw God stand upon the weaker side,
That sank in seeming loss before its foes:
Many there were who made great haste and sold 5
Unto the cunning enemy their swords,
He scorned their gifts of fame, and power, and gold,
And, underneath their soft and flowery words,
Heard the cold serpent hiss; therefore he went
And humbly joined him to the weaker part, 10
Fanatic named, and fool, yet well content
So he could be the nearer to God’s heart,
And feel its solemn pulses sending blood
Through all the widespread veins of endless good.
MR. HOSEA BIGLOW TO THE EDITOR OF THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
[When the Mexican war was under discussion, Mr. Lowell began the publication in a Boston newspaper of satirical poems, written in the Yankee dialect, and purporting to come for the most part from one Hosea Biglow. The poems were the sharpest political darts that were fired at the time, and when the verses were collected and set forth, with a paraphernalia of introductions and notes professedly prepared by an old-fashioned, scholarly parson, Rev. Homer Wilbur, the book gave Mr. Lowell a distinct place as a wit and satirist, and was read with delight in England and America after the circumstance which called it out had become a matter of history and no longer of politics.
When the war for the Union broke out, Mr. Lowell took up the same strain and contributed to the Atlantic Monthly a second series of Biglow Papers, and just before the close of the war, published the poem that follows.]
letter come to han’
Requestin’ me to please be funny;
But I ain’t made upon a plan
Thet knows wut’s comin’, gall or honey:
Ther’ ’s times the world does look so queer, 5
Odd fancies come afore I call ’em;
An’ then agin, for half a year,
No preacher ’thout a call ’s more solemn.
You’re ‘n want
o’ sunthin’ light an’ cute,
Rattlin’ an’ shrewd an’ kin’ o’ jingleish, 10
An’ wish, pervidin’ it ’ould suit,
I’d take an’ citify my English.
I ken write long-tailed, ef I please,—
But when I’m jokin’, no, I thankee;
Then, ’fore I know it, my idees 15
Run helter-skelter into Yankee.
Sence I begun to scribble
I tell ye wut, I hain’t ben foolin’;
The parson’s books, life, death, an’ time
Hev took some trouble with my schoolin’; 20
Nor th’ airth don’t git put out with me,
Thet love her ’z though she wuz a woman;
Why, th’ ain’t a bird upon the tree
But half forgives my bein’ human.