May, 1863. A New American Iliad. Let us attempt an “Ilias Americana in Nuce,” after the manner of Mr. Carlyle. Peter of the South to Paul of the North--“You miserable Yankee, you, why don't you defend your soil? Why not take Vicksburg? You have no courage, I shall burn, and slay, and lay waste, and--” Paul--“Suppose you try it.” [Gettysburg and Vicksburg ad interim.] Peter--“You miserable Yankee, you have money, but you have no courage. You are rich, but you are a coward; I shall fight to the last, I shall--” Paul--“We shall see.” --Philadelphia Press. an episode in the “Ilias (Americana) in Nuce.” dialogue.
my dream. to Thomas Carlyle.
Peter of the North to Paul of the South--“Paul, you unaccountable scoundrel, I find you hire your servants for life, not by the month or year, as I do.” --[Thomas Carlyle's “American Iliad in a nutshell,” Macmillan's Magazine, August.]Thomas of Chelsea! I've dreamed such a dream!
I've been reading that dialogue, more smart than grave,
In which you've so settled the case, as you deem,
Of North against South, and of Whip versus Slave.
Excuse me — I wandered — I nodded — I dozed,
And straight to your Eden of fetters I flew,
And scenes I saw stranger than you'd have supposed;
Bless your stars, brother Thomas, those scenes were not true!
Yes, 'twas South-Carolina--'twas Charleston, no doubt--
But changed — why has quite from my memory slipped--
For the whites now were “hired,” as it straightway turned out,
“For life,” by the blacks, to be labored and whipped.
I've never been given, like you, to regard
Men treated as beasts as a comical sight;
In the case, as it had been, of blacks, it seemed hard,
And as hard it seemed now that the niggers were white.
But a negro, your namesake, was luckily by,
And this sablest of sages, oh! how he did grin,
As I uttered my doubtings. “They men like us! why
The chattels! had they any black in their skin?
Were they not white all over? What, had I no eyes?
They fitted for freedom!--why, where was their wool?”
He couldn't help sneering out lofty surprise
That my brain could of such silly nonsense be full.
“To be worked, to be walloped for nothing,” he said,
“The eternities sent forth all whites--'twas their doom.”
Just then an old graybeard was livelily led
To the block — for an auction went on in the room;
And think how I stared! why, the chattel, alack!
Yes, 'twas you — no mistake!--you put up there to sell!
You grumbled — whack! down came the thong on your back;
Good lord! how you, Thomas, did wriggle and yell!
My black sage looked on with a sneering disdain,
Stepped up to the block and examined your mouth;
Poked your ribs with his stick; you objected in vain--
“Whites were made to be sarved so by blacks in the South.”
A lively discussion around you arose,
On the strength of your legs — on your age; thump on thump.
Tried to straighten you upright; one would tweak your nose;
One hustled you down, just to see how you'd jump.
'Twas fun to their blackships, but Thomas, I've fears
Your temper that moment was none of the best;
There was rage in your scowl; in your old eyes were tears;
For it seems Mrs. Carlyle had just been sold West;
And what might, too, put some hard words in your mouth--
Though it did not affect your black namesake the least--
Master Carlyle was “hired for life,” right down South--
Miss Carlyle had been ditto right away East.
So you didn't jump lively, and laugh as you ought,
Though, cursed in a whisper, you tried to look gay,
But at last for a rice-swamp you, Thomas, were bought,
Or “hired for life,” as your sageship would say;
Rather “hired for death” --so I dared to suggest;
But then, that's all right, as the world must have rice,
If lives of old whites raise the whitest and best,
Why, we must have our crop, and we must pay the price.