previous next

88. the Devil's visit to “old Abe.”

by Rev. E. P. Birch, of la Grange, Ga.
Written on the occasion of Lincoln's proclamation for prayer and fasting after the battle of Manassas. Revised and improved by the author.

Old Abe was sitting in his chair of state,
     With one foot on the mantel, and one on the grate,
Now smoking his pipe, and then scratching his pate;
     For he had heard some disastrous news of late,
As fearful as death, and as cruel as fate.
     In an old earthen jug, on a table near by,
Was a gallon of “Buckeye,” or “choice old rye,”
     To cheer up his hopes, which were ready to die,
Under whose potent charms old Abe would be able
     To lay all his griefs, like a bill, “on the table ;”
Or, shut up his woe, like a horse, in a stable.
     He sat in his chair,
With a woe-begone air,
     Gazing at nothing with a meaningless stare,
And looked like a wild beast just “skeered” in his lair.
     His cheek-bones were high, and his visage was rough,
Like a middling of bacon, all wrinkled and tough;
     His nose was as long, and as ugly and big,
As the snout of a half-starved Illinois pig;
     He was long in the legs, and long in the face,
A Longfellow born of a long-legged race,
     Yet longing through grace for a much longer space,
Till he'd finished his political wild-goose chase--
     Bringing wreck on his country, and endless disgrace
On the blockheads who'd placed him in “the very wrong place.”
     The news had just reached him of rout and defeat,
Of his “Grand Army” broken — of disastrous retreat ;
     His best men were slain on the field of the fight;
His legions were scattered with panic and flight;
     And his plans had all met with a ruinous blight;
His treasury was bankrupt, his finances smashed;
     His credit was gone, and his bills were uncashed;
His country with terrible foes still begirt,
     Was tumbling to ruin like a fabric of dirt;
“I'm afraid,” said Old Abe, “there's somebody hurt.”
     Thus sitting and thinking--
'Twixt smoking and drinking--
     His head on his bosom was gradually sinking,
When a sound met his ear,
     So sharp and so clear,
That he sprang to his feet — standing breathless to hear,
     With his mind full of dread, and his heart full of fear;
'Twas not like the roll of the hurricane's thunder,
     Nor the earthquake that cleaves the tall mountains asunder;
'Twas not like the storms which tumultuously sweep
     O'er the lone bending woods and the dark rolling deep;
But a sharp, angry crashing,
     A confusion and clashing,
Like things in general, promiscuously smashing.
     “It's the Devil!” thought Abe, in the sorest of frights,
Or a rebel “masked battery” on “Arlington Heights.”
     On the wings of the midnight winds it flew,
And nearer it came, and louder it grew,
     Till Washington City seemed all in a stew.
It paused just before
     The “White House” door,
And then died away with an explosive roar.
     “It's the devil!” said Lincoln; and sure he's right,
For just at that moment there gleamed on his sight
     The glare of a horrible sulphurous light,
Encircling a form so ghastly and grim,
     That his heart ceased to beat, and his eyes grew dim.
That form stood before him, majestic and dread,
     With large cloven feet, and huge horns on his head.
Mr. Lincoln was seized with a terrible quaking,
     And the bones in his skin were rattling and shaking,
Like the “dry bones” in the “Valley of Vision,”
     With such a dreadful collision
As threatened to make a “long division”
     Of his body and members, without “legal decision.”
“How's your health, Mr. Lincoln?” said Old Nick, with a grin;
     “I have only stepped in
To renew old acquaintance with your honor ag'in.
     How are Seward, and Scott, and good Mrs. L.?
I hope all your friends are still hearty and well.”
     Thus saying, he seated himself in a chair,
And gazed at Old Abe with an impudent stare;
     Took a drink of “hot lead” from a flaming skyrocket,
Which he drew from the depths of his overcoat pocket;
     Consulted his watch with a dandyish grace,
Said he'd make a quick trip through the regions of space,
     On the train of a comet, in a journey sublime
Over millions of miles in a moment of time.

“You yourself,” said the fiend, with a wink of his eye,
     “Can travel ‘like blazes,’ when danger is nigh.
Your Grand Army, too, are distinguished for speed,
     And run, ‘ like the devil,’ in cases of need.
But all this aside — allow me to state,
     I have come here on business momentously great,
Which deeply involves your political fate.
     What means, Mr. Lincoln, this strange proclamation,
In which you've invited the whole Yankee nation
     To fasting and prayer, and to humiliation?
It is strange how a thrashing has altered your notions,
     And called into action your pious devotions;
It seems to me, sir, you're a whimsical set,
     Ever twisting and turning, like an eel in a net.
You flounder and flout,
     And turn in and turn out,
Till my wits are puzzled to know what you're about;
     And now, in all candor, I must call your attention
To the truths which at present you'll allow me to mention:
     You know, in the first place, you owe your election
To the aid and protection
     Of a demagogue crew who own my direction.
I invented your platform, and gave it éclat,
     About ‘niggers,’ and ‘ freedom,’ and the great ‘higher law;’
From the top of this platform — outstretching below,
     I showed you the kingdoms which I would bestow,
If you and your party would only agree
     To fall down in worship and homage to me;
Obey my directions, fulfil my commands,
     Spread carnage and death over all these lands,
By a horrible warfare, such as would win
     Success to my cause, and a triumph to sin.
To all of these terms you most promptly agreed,
     And made them your grounds of political creed;
I gave you my subjects — the best I have got,
     Such as Cameron, and Seward, and ‘Old Granny Scott;’ [69]
Assisted by Greeley, and Bennett, and Weed,
     As miserable scoundrels as Tophet could breed,
To fix up a plan for ‘ preserving the Union,’
     In the bonds of a happy fraternal communion,
By a terrible warfare of conquest and blood,
     Such as never was known since the day of the flood.
I gave you my minions from the purlieus of hell,
     The ranks of your fearful grand army to swell;
I stirred up the North with its vagabond crew,
     And set witch-burning Yankeedom all in a stew,
With its isms and schisms — fanatical trappings--
     Its free-loving humbugs, and spiritual rappings:
I called out its teachers,
     (Hypocritical preachers,)
And demagogue screechers,
     To martial your leaders to conquest and fame;
But, alas! to your shame,
     No victory came,
But reproach and disgrace on the whole
     Yankee name.
Your armies went forth, but not to the battle--
     They went forth to plunder the fields of their cattle;
To steal the young chickens, and capture the hens,
     (Like ‘William Come-Trimble-Too,’ ) and put 'em in pens.
In the pages of history, no loftier place
     Can be claimed for your thieving and cowardly race,
Than to tell they were valiant in stealing a hen,
     But ran in confusion from the presence of men.
When at last your Grand Army was forced to a fight,
     They were routed, defeated, and driven in flight,
Overwhelmed with confusion, from the plains of Manassas,
     Like a miserable pack of terrified asses.
Was't for this I labored with vigilant toil,
     To sow tares of contention all over your soil?--
To build up your party with lying pretensions,
     With demagogue tricks, and Chicago Conventions?
If this is the fruit of my labor and zeal,
     I am sure I deserve the remorse that I feel,
For becoming the tool
     Of a shallow-brained fool,
With the form of an ape, and the head of a calf;
     It is sowing the whirlwind, and reaping the chaff.”
“What say you to this?” cried Old Nick, waxing hot.
     Quoth President Lincoln, “You must ask General Scott.”
“Old Scott's an old ass, and Seward to boot;
     And as for yourself, you're a pitiful brute,
Too mean to let live, and too worthless to shoot.

“But to come to the point more directly in hand,
     Allow me once more in good faith to demand
The grounds of this pitiful, vile proclamation,
     For fasting and prayer by the whole Yankee nation.
Do you think that Jehovah will favor your cause,
     While you murder, and steal, and violate laws?
Will your prayers be heard when you ask the Eternal
     For help to accomplish your objects infernal?
No; this war, like yourself, is begotten in sin,
     And lose it or win,
You must now begin
     To fight with the spirit of ‘Seventy-six,
And abandon your pitiful Yankee tricks. “
     Quoth” Honest Old Abe, “” I'm in a very bad fix. “
” You are right now, for once, “said Old Nick, with a grin;
     ” But such are the fruits of transgression and sin.
Then where lies the blame? Not with me, I am sure;
     You made the disease: you must seek for the cure.
And now, in conclusion, your attention I call
     To a single fact more--'tis the saddest of all. “
(As he spoke, the hot tears came flush to his eyes.)
     ” The Gospel has made me the “father of lies;”
And the record is true. From the very beginning
     I have tutored the world in lying and sinning;
But it stirs up my soul with grief and vexation,
     To see your abominable Yankee nation
Outstripping me far in the depths of its shame,
     And heaping reproach on my kingdom and name.
I've one word to add; it's a terrible one!
     The race of your treachery is almost run;
Your political sky looks dark and dun;
     The fate-clouds are gathering o'er your setting sun;
You have ruined your nation — degraded its name,
     And hurled on its people a heritage of shame;
You have murdered its glory and pride at a blow,
     And filled its proud cities with wailing and woe.
The avenger is coming. O'er your dark future path
     Is brooding a storm of terrible wrath.
The wrongs of oppression, the blood of the slain,
     The pleadings of widows for their lost ones again,
The cries of the poor, all starving for bread,
     The curse of the nation, overwhelming with dread,
Shall break like an avalanche full on your head.

“Then woe to the day when Beauregard comes
     With his fiery legions from their Southern homes;
When the roar of their guns shall fill you with fright,
     And the flash of their sabres shall gleam on your sight.
Ah! then shall you sink to a merciless tomb,
     And the shouts of their triumph shall herald your doom.
Your fate is now writ by the “ hand on the wall:”
     O'er your “house on the sand” the bleak tempest shall fall,
And sweep you away in its ruins to hell;--
     I have finished my mission. Farewell-farewell! “

Thus saying, he left in a moment of time,
     And wound up his speech, where I wind up my rhyme;
He left General Scott in a passion and worry--
     Old Abe in a fit, and his wife in a flurry.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Abe Lincoln (6)
Old Granny Scott (4)
Seward (3)
Weed (1)
Trimble (1)
Greeley (1)
Cameron (1)
E. P. Birch (1)
Bennett (1)
Beauregard (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: