previous next

Carlyle's “Iliad.”

The following is the entire contribution of Mr. Carlyle to Macmillan's Magazine:

Ilias (Americana) in Nuce.

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! You are going straight to hell, you----!”

Paul--“Good words, Peter! The risk is my own; I am willing to take the risk. Hire you your servants by the month or day, and get straight to heaven; leave me to my own method.”

Peter--“No, I won't. I will beat your brains out [18] first!” (And is trying dreadfully ever since, but cannot vet manage it.)

T. C.

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.

H. (an Englishman of great respectability, a member of the Carlton)--“My dear fellow, you know I wish perdition here and hereafter to all Yankees; but did you not begin this infernal row?”

S. (a Southern agent)--“Of course we did. Every thing was at stake. A scoundrel of the old country scattered books up and down the States against Gigmanity He preached the doctrine of the old Scotch ploughman, ‘A man's a man for a‘ that.’ He canted about a judgment of God which came upon the French nobles of the last century for denying that doctrine. Certain fools at the North fancied he was in earnest. They believed what he told them, and said that they should act upon it. Idiot parsons went so far as to say that the words we use on Sunday about a Person who was put to death as a slave being the corner-stone of the universe were true. What could we do? It was a matter of life and death. We raised the shout for Gigmanity. We affirmed that Slavery itself, not the Person who suffered the death of the slave, was the corner-stone of the universe. These are our watchwords. In this cause, and not, as some foolish friends of ours represent, to vindicate our right to hire our servants for life, we have drawn the sword and flung away the scabbard.”

H. (much affected)--“Brave and noble men! Champions of our interests as well as your own! You have not been exactly the friends of England, but we feel that we may embrace you as ours. Let us join solemnly in drinking the toast. ‘The Cause of Gigmanity and Slavery, civil and religious, all the world over.’ ”

[Hip, hip, hurrah, and exeunt.]

F. D. M.1

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.

[19] You were handcuffed, and off to twelve hours a day
     In a sweltering swamp, with a smart overseer,
Sure, if you do any thing — speak, think, or pray,
     But as master allows, for that crime to pay dear:
A beast — every right of a man set at naught--
     Every power chained down — every feeling defied--
To exist for the labor for which you were bought,
     Till the memory of manhood has out of you died.

And as you went off, looking rueful enough,
     I couldn't help thinking, my sage, in my dream,
You perhaps might be taught in a school rather rough,
     On “hirings for life” to have views less extreme,
That when you've tried slavery's hell for awhile,
     The misery of millions won't seem a good joke,
A grin from the dulness of fools to beguile--
     And thinking this, Thomas, thank heaven! I awoke.

1 Rev. F. D. Maurice, in the London Spectator.

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 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.
Paul (8)
Thomas Carlyle (7)
George H. Thomas (4)
Nuce (3)
West (1)
F. D. Maurice (1)
Eden (1)
W. C. Bennett (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
May, 1863 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: