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46. song of a Sentinel.

Alas! there ne'er was time in human story,
     When fighting, killing, were not going on!
Conquest, plunder, mastery, and “glory,”
     By these the race has ever been undone.
And Christian men, with age and learning hoary,
     Have found a conscience even to smile upon
The “pride, pomp, and circumstance” of war--
     (The Juggernaut, who rolls his crunching car!)

And history is mostly a disastrous tale
     Of marches, battles, and that sort of thing;
Sometimes upon a large, and then a smaller scale,
     As prosers tell us, or as poets sing.
It seems that mankind at no time can fail
     Upon themselves war's miseries to bring.
Doubtless the rulers are to blame; but then,
     What could the rulers do without the men?

Suppose no soldier e'er could be enlisted,
     From worthier motive — or to fight for hire?
Suppose all men were Christians, and existed
     To do just what the Christian rules require?
Then our Constitution had not been resisted
     By Northern State laws! Then no frantic ire
Had e'er inflamed the Southern men, to tear
     From Sumter's walls our banner floating there.

For what has brought our land to this condition--
     So feeble now, and late so hale and hearty?
Not Christianity, but sinful superstition,
     Inspiring a politico-religious party
Yelept Republican, but really Abolition!
     When Garrison, its founder, took his start, he
Scarce could have hoped his English Yankee notion
     So soon would end in war's insane commotion.

But he had chosen well his field of labor!
     He knew the puritanic inclination
To regulate the doings of one's neighbor
     By one's own bigotry, for his salvation!
And now for ferule they do wield the sabre,
     Since schooled has been the later generation
To hate, to execrate, and to contemn
     Their countrymen, who ne'er had injured them!

Yes — well he chose! And well the people there
     Have been infused with heresy and hate;
Well taught and trained the sacred bond to tear
     That ought to bind each, to each other, State;
Brought step by step the Union to declare
     A “league with hell!” and yet profanely prate
Of their great love of country, while preparing
     To break it up, almost beyond repairing.

The Constitution was a covenant with death!
     Its obligations they might freely set aside!
They could no longer draw contented breath
     In such a Union--and so “let it slide!”
They were too free, too pure to live beneath
     The good old roof-tree! They could not abide
The laws “pursuant” to the Constitution:
     But claimed a “higher law” --and brought on revotion.

[45] They did all this; and sadly they defamed
     Their country in the ears of all mankind
“Barbarians” were their countrymen, who claimed
     The rights the Constitution had defined.
Resistance to the statutes was proclaimed
     The pious duty of a people so refined!
And all this madness, tending or intended,
     To rend the Union--as we've seen it rended.

But — Davis, Yancey, Keitt, and Beauregard,
     Slidell and Mason, Toombs and Benjamin,
Et id genus omne!--what reward
     Were match to your immeasurable sin
Against your God and country? 'Twere as hard
     To measure your offences, as it's been
To estimate the wretchedness abounding,
     Since Mars his brazen trumpet has been sounding.

What demon could possess you to abandon
     The Union--and your rights as Union men?
The Constitution was enough to stand on;
     And on it were arrayed a host of men,
Prepared to lay a strong, suppressing hand on
     The mad fanatics, who assailed you then.
But you in frenzy gave us battle's thunder--
     A monstrous crime, and worse — a monstrous blunder!

'Twas Talleyrand, French Secretary, said
     A blunder's worse than crime;--but never
Hath any one in earthly annals read
     Of blunder like your efforts to dissever
Our glorious country! Lucifer once made
     A similar but unprovoked endeavor!
But different his fate — perchance you know--
     When he “seceded,” they just let him go.

I know that Milton undertakes to prove,
     (But probabilities a good deal straining,)
That Lucifer, on falling from above,
     Enlisted armies, and had soldiers training,
And then in mad, rebellious fury drove
     Against angelic hosts, in rude campaigning!
So says the poet; and to human level,
     He thus brings down the conduct of the devil.

But sacred chronicle has nothing said
     Of Lucifer behaving in this way.
Some shabby tricks it seems that he had played,
     And so in Heaven could no longer stay.
But war, I'm satisfied, he never made,
     As Milton tells us. There was no display
Of spears and shields and other like “material,”
     And loud explosions from the guns ethereal.

No! Milton's epic's very far from true--
     (A stately story, but a sorry quiz,)
So, let the devil ever have his due,
     And do not paint him blacker than he is.
For he to “set a squadron” never knew,
     Nor ever heard a single bullet whiz.
No, he had failed to rule as he desired,
     And (may be with compulsion) he retired.

It was in fact secession, and no less,
     All quietly and peaceably out-acted.
The devil, jealous, was in some distress,
     Because his plottings had been counteracted;
The rule of others only would oppress,
     He said; and so to rule, himself, exacted;
But failing, took his leave, and sundry minions--
     Dropping headlong into his own dominions.

And this was all. So Milton's solemn song
     Belies the devil, (in angelic verse,)
For Lucifer is guiltless of the wrong
     Of armed rebellion! This is something worse
Than even he enacted, when on pinions strong
     The gulf to Erebus he did traverse.
No, no — he's bad enough; but men defame him,
     When for the crime of rebel war they blame him!

But 'twas a losing business; and the devil
     Often, doubtless, doth bemoan it well.
He gave up heaven; that wildly he might revel
     In all the dread magnificence of hell;
Where he's sole ruler, rising to the level
     Of “recognized” confederacy, as they tell.
But would it not have been more wise and winning
     For him, if he had kept from any sinning?

And so with you and yours. Oh! had you stood
     For right and justice — but not separation!
Then had you seen how every neighborhood
     Had echoed your demand for reparation.
Or had you made the sacrifice you should,
     By bringing your supplies from some far nation,
And not from mad New-England, you'd have made
     Her bigotry surrender to the laws of trade.

She would have given up her abolition
     For trade and profit. We have seen her scout
The Southern statesmen's wisest proposition
     To bring in territories round about;
But since she's profited by this condition
     In larger markets — they shall not go out!
So even abolition she'd have scouted,
     On finding it to be a loss undoubted.

Some fifty years ago, New-England thought
     The war with Britain was a grievous wrong.
It touched her pocket; and she said, “twas fraught
     With evil only.” Then in protest strong,
She threatened to secede, unless 'twere brought
     To prompt conclusions! She could get along,
An independent, pious, moral nation,
     Just by herself, and work her own salvation.

She boasts, New-England does, of her capacity
     For making money; and we grant the claim.
She grasps the profits with a rare sagacity,
     That puts poor Western hoosiers all to shame.
(And some do even use the term rapacity,
     In close connection, when they speak her name,)
For even War her pockets now is filling,
     While Western men heroic blood are spilling.

She makes the guns, the powder, clothing, shoes,
     And other articles an army needs:
She makes professions wondrously profuse
     Of patriotism, though she rarely bleeds.
She knoweth well her vaunted skill to use
     In arms — preparing them for others' deeds.
And so, while honest Western men are fighting,
     She's in the contract part of war delighting.

She loveth war, while to her mill is brought
     The profitable grist! Her pockets lined--
For blood and misery she careth not,
     So they to other people are confined.
Let others suffer as they will, 'tis naught
     To her and hers. And so the public mind
She poisons and embitters with infusion
     Of negro madness, to prolong confusion.

[46] 'Tis true, the poor lost negroes, who are “free”
     By means of war, she hopes may all do well!
But Governor Andrew, as we late did see,
     Can't entertain them for the briefest spell;
For when they claimed his hospitality,
     He virtually told them, “Go to----!”
No, no--New-England wants the negroes freed,
     But the poor darkies will not clothe and feed.

In several places there are “contrabands”
     In utter misery and destitution,
Poor Cuffee! he now understands
     The blessings brought on him, by revolution.
And honest white men, in our own and other lands,
     Lament his losses, when we lost the Constitution.
Adown in Cairo there are sorry sights--
     Negroes more wretched, even, than poor whites!

The “old plantation!” How doth Cuffee mourn
     For home, and “massa;” and the jolly days,
When he was “fat and saucy,” and could turn
     His back on want! He sang his simple lays--
Minstrel of nature! nor did he ever learn
     That he was all “down-trodden.” In the maze
Of negro dance, with Dinah vis-a-vis,
     What monarch ever happier than he?

For Africa's barbarians, once brought
     In middle passages o'er ocean's tide,
Have left descendants, who have haply caught
     Some sparks of Christianity, beside
A race superior. And you would have sought
     In vain, through all of earth's dominions wide,
For laboring people happier than they,
     While meddling disturbers could be kept away.

It could not last. New-England's pseudo saints
     Must rectify affairs to suit their notion.
They spurned all constitutional restraints
     To aid the “fugitives” in locomotion.
They gave foundation to the South's complaints,
     And thus arose this terrible commotion.
'Twas ignorance and madness that incited them,
     And--God of Heaven! the upshot has delighted them.

For war, they say, is better than “aggression”
     Of “slavery” upon the Northern rights!
And Pharisees in pulpit, make profession
     Of Christian gifts — applauding deadly fights!
O'er battle-fields they gloat! the sad procession
     Of killed and mangled are refreshing sights!
For vacant hearth-stones, ruin, desolation,
     They say, are tokens of the land's salvation!

But what aggression ever yet was made
     Upon a single Northern law or right?
Did Southern people ever yet invade
     The soil of any State, for spoil or fight?
Did any John Brown, at his felon's trade,
     A single Northern heart e'er wound or blight?
(I mean of course, before we had secession--
     The remedy, ill chosen, for the North's aggression.)

“Oh! yes!” we're told, “they labored to expand
     The country's bounds! They years ago did vex us
With Louisiana, (which turned out a grand
     Affair enough;) then Florida, then Texas
Were taken in; enlarging thus the land
     Against the Northern protest; did perplex us
With California, and some other slices
     Of Mexico, against our sage advices.”

Thus we have briefly told “what was the matter;”
     Thus the “aggression” of the South we see!
But more than this, they even sought to scatter
     Themselves o'er these new lands, as well as we;
And equal rights they claimed, while we did flatter
     Ourselves we were superiors to be!
And this was all; no right they e'er denied us,
     Except, that when we threatened, they defied us.

They did what born Americans must do,
     When wronged; they swore to seek redress!
They to the Union had been firm and true--
     Made for their safety and their happiness;
They clung to rights by Constitution due
     To free white men, who only them possess.
But they did err in choice of modes for righting
     All wrongs; they chose secession, and then fighting!

But view the case reversed. Suppose the North
     Denied the rights, essential to existence;
Suppose her people styled “barbarians,” and so forth;
     Their “chattels” stolen, with insane persistence?
Suppose the Constitution of so little worth,
     That plain provisions met with mad resistance?
Suppose the South a “higher law” thus claiming,
     To wound the North, and all her sons defaming?

How long would Yankees bear such imposition?
     O shades of Otis, Adams, Warren! Ye
Have left but craven sons, if such condition
     Could e'er be theirs, and borne all patiently!
No! in their self-defence they'd take position,
     Stand on their rights! and swear fidelity
To their own section; and defend it ever,
     Even if the strife the Union should dissever!

For have not Yankees struggled for their right?
     Ask Concord, Lexington, Ticonderoga!
Ask Bunker Hill, and many a lesser fight!
     Ask old Burgoyne, him “bagged” at Saratoga!
Or ask the Indian files at night
     In Boston Bay, when “tea” was all in vogue — eh?
Oh! these are names on history's gilt-edged paper!
     Which men will read while Time can hold his taper!

But they, whose sires for right could thus contend,
     Have caught their spirit somewhere in extreme;
And not content their own rights to defend,
     To quelch the rights of others is their dream!
All — all — to them must basely bow and bend,
     Howe'er degrading such submission seem.
The South to madness goaded, now they'd take
     The little profit that the West can make!

The tariff — fixed precisely as they want it,
     The markets to secure, sans competition--
May drain our pockets; but they only vaunt it
     A happy trick, and laugh at our position.
Though poverty the Western home may haunt, it
     May not invade the home of Abolition!
The land in other parts howe'er distrest--
     New-England yet will “feather her own nest.”
But they did err in choice of modes for righting
     All wrongs; they chose secession and then fighting!

But Shakspeare, prince of poets, hap'ly says
     “Vaulting ambition doth o'erleap itself,”
And even New-England may see other days,
     When ruined hopes another tale will tell.
“Curses come home to roost” --and wicked ways
     Have retribution, when deserved so well. [47]
She's gloating now o'er distant desolation,
     But yet may sadly mourn a ruined nation.

She madly fanned the fires that glow in war,
     She “bravoed” when a negro used his legs;
But blind in bigotry — the South to mar,
     She kills the hen that laid her golden eggs!
For when the cotton fields in ruin are,
     Where then her trade? If Western labor begs
All vainly, freedom from unequal tax,
     Will we still kiss the rod that smarts our backs?

Like boy on bladder, sporting on a river,
     She's floating now, all buoyant on the stream;
But war's fat contracts cannot last forever,
     And when they're over, ended is her dream!
Her bladders all collapsed — how can she ever
     Her prestige and prosperity redeem?
Domestic trade let down — then foreign trade a-courting,
     She'll find that paper prices don't permit exporting!

Of honesty she'll then give some example--
     In honest hearty curses on herself,
And those who led her on the laws to trample--
     Laying her Sumners quiet on the shelf!
For vain regrets her time will then be ample,
     Her idle spindles gathering no pelf.
Inevitable fate! and then, when non est
     Her profit, she'll in wrath, at least, be honest.

Pompeii sported — eating, drinking, making love, in
     House, hall, or chamber, to the latest hour;
The baker, jocund, putting in his oven
     The neatest little loaves of four ace flour;
And not a soul suspecting that above, in
     Laden darkness came volcanic shower!
And yet it came! Vesuvius, 'midst the flashes
     Of lurid gloom, sent up a world of ashes!

And so the world (except of ashes) ended
     For proud old Pompeii and all her people.
They would no doubt have gallantly defended
     Themselves, if possible; but 'neath a heap, all
Ash and cinders, they in vain contended
     With fate — when ashes buried even the steeple.
Sad lot, Pompeii I was for you selected,
     And came, besides, so very unexpected.

All hail, New-England! We have heard your cry
     For Pompey, till the matter's rather stale;
And now 'tis time you'd think of Pompeii
     And her distressing and suggestive tale.
A grand eruption may come, by and by,
     Of Western passion, and it may not fail
To ‘whelm your interests. So, do think again
     Of Pompeii, or of the “cities of the plain.”

Those “cities of the plain” went down in sorrow,
     Because of sin and shame — perhaps you know;
But from their sorry fate can you not borrow
     A hint to mend your ways, and better grow?
Suppose that you, like Sodom and Gomorrah,
     Were brought to judgment. Could you show
A record clear of malice, avarice, and pride,
     Bigotry, intolerance, and grievous things beside?

--Missouri Republican.

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