Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

A New Deal – In Silhouette

December 15, 2011


Of course you must have seen them. Either in your own house or in that of your grandparents or in the window of an antique shop or in books about the American Revolution. For a century and a half ago, silhouettes were as common as snapshots are today. Everybody, high and low, rich and poor, had himself silhouetted, and such mighty personages as George Washington and Marie Antoinette and Frederick the Great and Benjamin Franklin were silhouetted until they must have been as sick and tired of the own shadow-pictures as George Gershwin must be of his “Symphony in Blue.

The process was exceedingly simple. Everybody could make silhouettes. All he needed was a willing subject, a white screen, a candle, a piece of black paper and a pair of sharp scissors. The rest depended upon his native or acquired ability to catch the shadow of his victim and reduce it to the right proportions. for all I know, the craze for these fascinating shadow pictures may return tomorrow. For the stage is all set for a return of M. de Silhouette. No, he was not some sort of prehistoric photographer, a vague ancestor of that famous M. de Daguerre, who gave us the daguerreotype and modern photography. M. de Silhouette was a financier of great repute and the New Dealer of the reign of King Louis XV of France.

*     *     *

This is the way that amiable nobleman turned himself into one of the immortals. For when all is said and done, what a greater fame can a man achieve than to make his name part of the current vernacular?

It was during the middle of the Eighteenth Century, France, having been most thoroughly ruined by the dynastic wars of the Great King Louis (whose royal mansions in Versailles were so recently repaired by the generosity of our own Mr. Rockefeller), was about as bankrupt as any nation can be without ceasing to function altogether.

Even in Versailles, where nobody ever learned or forgot anything, a few of the brighter spirits discovered that 1,000,000,000 times zero still makes zero. Evidently, it was time that something be done and be done right away.

Looking around for a bright young man to swing on the dangerous trapeze of finance, the choice fell upon a certain Etienne de Silhouette, a native of Limoges, a former secretary of the Duke of Orleans and member of the royal commission that had settled the Franco-British difficulties in Acadia in 1749.

Young Etienne had been an industrious student of British financial affairs and had translated a good many English books on finance into French. In short, a sort of brain-trust all by himself.

In March, 1759, he was put at the head of the finances of France with unlimited power to do whatever he pleased, provided he go His Majesty’s kingdom out of its desperate difficulties. This appointment was made at the suggestion of the king’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour. The dear lady was not famous for her morals. But she had a good brain. If she and de Silhouette had been given free rein, they might, between them, have saved France from the Revolution.

*     *     *

But of course the poor New Dealer could accomplish absolutely nothing unless first of all he tackled the problem of the privileged classes. He did his best. He tried to reduce all pensions of all the hangers-on of the court. He proposed to tax the lands of the nobles. He suggested that everybody spend just about half of what he had done thus far, and that there be an end to the wasteful luxury of a court which benefitted nobody but the Versailles pastry-cooks, the Paris jewelers and the light ladies of both cities.

The idea struck the court as something so unusually funny that all of fashionable society began to do things “a la Silhouette,” which was a polite way for doing them “on the cheap.” Thus far, everybody had had his portrait painted by a regular painter. But now of course they could no longer afford to do so, and they had their pictures cut out of a piece of black paper. They had it done “on the cheap” or “a la Silhouette.”

And when the joke had lasted long enough, they booted poor Etienne de Silhouette out of his high office, and the good old times came back right away, and the New Deal went into discard, and Etienne de Silhouette died as the forgotten man, and Marie Antoinette and her boy and girl friends had a perfectly swell time laughing their pretty heads off over this pedantic bore with his everlasting howls about he coming disasters and calamities.

And then they all went to jail and made lovely little silhouettes of each other’s pretty little necks.

And then they had their pretty little necks cut off by the guillotine.

And that is the story of the New Deal of the year 1749 and of Monsieur Etienne de Silhouette.

Rochester Evening Journal (Rochester, New York) Dec 19, 1934

Meet the Commentator
Hendrik Willem

Van Loon wrote The Story of Mankind, a wonderful history book geared toward children:

Read online or download a free copy at this google link.

Who is Santa Claus?

December 12, 2011


Tradition Answers With a Pretty Story.

It is frequently asked, “Who is Santa Claus?” Here is a story about him that lets light upon his real character. He was bishop of Myra and died about the year 326. Among his parishioners (so runs the story) there lived a certain nobleman who had three daughters. From being rich he became so poor that there seemed to him no means of obtaining food for his daughters buy by sacrificing them to a dishonorable life. Over and over again the thought came into his mind to tell them so, but shame and sorrow held him dumb.

Meanwhile the maidens wept continually, not knowing what to do and having no bread to eat, and their father became more and more desperate. When St. Nicholas heard of this, he thought it a shame that such a thing should happen in a Christian land. Therefore one night when the maidens were asleep and their father alone sat watching and weeping he took a handful of gold and tying it up in a handkerchief repaired to the nobleman’s dwelling. He considered who he might bestow it without making himself known, and while he stood irresolute the moon coming from behind a cloud showed him an open window. So he threw the gold, and it fell at the feet of the father, who, when he found it, returned thanks and presented it to his eldest daughter as her wedding portion. A second time St. Nicholas collected a similar sum, and again he three it in by night. So a wedding portion was provided for the second daughter.

But the curiosity of the old nobleman was now excited. He greatly desired to know who it was that came to his aid. Therefore he determined to watch. When the good saint came for the third time and prepared to throw in the third portion, he was discovered, for the nobleman seized him by the skirt of his robe and flung himself at his feet, saying, “Oh, Nicholas, servant of God, why seek to hid thyself?” and he kissed his feet and hands. But St. Nicholas made him promise that he would tell no man.

The Newark Advocate (Newark, Ohio) Dec 21, 1901

Appleton Post Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin) Dec 12, 1921

With Compliments of the Author

December 11, 2011

In a letter to the Marquis of Montrose long, long ago, Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun wrote:

“I knew a very wise man that believed that if a man were permitted to make all the ballads he need not care who should make the laws of a nation.”

That “very wise man,” understood the uses of propaganda, although he had never heard the word.

For songs ARE used for propaganda — and so are books!

Communist books are used very much that way, some of them as “supplementary reading” in some of our very best schools and colleges.
And in Hawaii and on the Pacific Coast, it has been revealed, Japan is using a textbook in our public schools to further Japanese propaganda among our children.

Nations like Russia and Japan do not care who builds our schoolhouses and endows our colleges and universities, if they — Russia and Japan — can only furnish the propaganda.

Rochester Evening Journal (Rochester, New York) Jun 18, 1935

Christmas Beef

December 6, 2011


In the good old days, in the spacious days, when the Christmas feast began,
There was good clean air between house and house, good faith between man and man;
To the lonely houses the men came home, and the doors were strong and stout
To shut the man and his friend-folk in, and to shut the foemen out.

*     *     *     *     *
Now the snow is trampled by million feet; the world is lighted and loud,
And Christmas comes to a hurried host of neighborless men in a crowd;
And round are the mince pies sold in the shops, and the holly and yew tree bough;
And the beef and the beer and the Christmas cheer are brought by the tradesfolk now.

The wind no more between the house and house blows free and freezing and sweet;
The houses are numbered all in a row and squeezed in a narrow street;
We know not the breed of our Christmas beef, nor the brew of our Christmas beer.
Yet we sit round our table and call our toast, though it come but once a year.

— E. Nesbit in December Pall Mall Magazine.

The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) Dec 3, 1898

The Daily Review (Decatur, Illinois) Dec 24, 1892

The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) Dec 23, 1925

Appleton Post Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin) Dec 6, 1921

Grandma’s Stocking

December 2, 2011


The supper is over, the hearth is swept,
And, in the wood-fire’s glow,
The children cluster to hear a tale
Of that time so long ago —

When grandmama’s hair was golden brown
And the warm blood came and went
O’er the face that could scarce have been sweeter then,
Than now in its rich content.

The face is wrinkled and care-worn now,
And the golden hair is gray;
But the light that shone in the young girl’s eyes
Has never gone away.

And her needles catch the fire’s light,
As in and out they go,
With the clicking music that grandma loves,
Shaping the stocking toe.

And the waking children love it, too,
For they know the stocking song
Brings many a tale to grandma’s mind,
Which they shall hear ere long.

But it brings no story of olden time
To grandma’s heart to-night —
Only a ditty, quaint and short,
Is sung by the needles bright.

“Life is a stocking,” grandma says,
“And yours is just begun;
But I am knitting the toe of mine,
And my work is almost done.

“With merry hearts we begin to knit,
And the ribbing is almost play;
Some are gay colored, and some are white,
And some are ashen gray.

“But most are made of many a hue,
With many a stitch set wrong,
And many a row to be sadly ripped
Ere the whole is fair and strong.

“There are long plain spaces without a break
That in your youth are hard to bear;
And many a weary tear is dropped
As we fashion the heel with care.

“But the saddest, happiest time is that
We court and yet would shun;
When our Heavenly Father breaks the thread,
And says our work is done.”

The children come to say good night,
With tears in their bright young eyes;
While in grandma’s lap, with a broken thread,
The finished stocking lies.

Cambridge City Tribune (Cambridge City, Indiana) Dec 5, 1872

Town’s Lure and the Landlubber’s Chantey

November 13, 2011

In 1921, James Stuart Montgomery, according to his passport application, was working for H.D. Senat Advertising in Pennsylvania. Evidently, advertising paid better than writing poetry.

Here are two more poems from Mr. Montgomery, aka – the Finger-Print Poet:

Town’s Lure

Ah, the country’s cruel quiet
And the biting gnawing pain
Of its tireless small voices,
As they hammer on my brain —
How they hammer, hammer, hammer
On my brain, brain, brain —
Oh, the cruel rustic quiet —
I am off for town again.

Oh, the restless restful music,
With its soothing peaceful beat
Of a human mill race rushing,
Foaming through a narrow street.
Hear the slither, slither, slither
Of their feet, feet, feet,
Sniff the Town’s sweet homely stenches,
While she’s basking in the heat.

What willow shaded streamlet’s
Half so beautiful to me
As this dirty, sluggish river,
Rolling sullenly to sea,
With the rusty red old trampers
Dropping down past Liberty,
and the stately, steady liners
Creeping silently to sea?

Oh, the laughing lotus seekers,
Of these mad Arabian Nights,
With their dainty silken houris,
And their everchanging sights —
A-jeweled and embeautied
By the lights, lights, lights,
That gaze on them, unwinking,
From the star encrusted heights.

I would seek Town’s wanton kisses,
Though behind them lurked the knife.
She’s as lovely as a dream girl,
Wicked as a faithless wife —
She’s a devil’s broth of vileness,
Hate and greed, deceit and strife —
She is good and she is evil,
But she’s life, life, life.

(Copyright, 1919, by Bell Syndicate, Inc.)

Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Oct 5, 1919

The Landlubber’s Chantey
(As he gazes from his office window at a ship clearing for the open sea.)

Here I drone in this human hive,
Blow, ye sirens, blow!
and three times eight are twenty-five
Blow, ye sirens, blow!
Blue Peter snaps the flutters wide,
The dripping hawser slaps her side,
She’s warping out on the turning tide!
Blow, ye sirens, blow.

Three and four and one make nine —
Roll, ye combers, roll.
The air is sharp with windswept brine,
Roll, ye combers, roll.
She’s dropped the last low line of shore,
The furrowed seas stretch out before —
Then thousand miles to Singapore!
Roll, ye combers, roll!

Lawless days and thirsty knives.
Roar, ye monsoons, roar!
Sudden ends to rum wrecked lives,
Roar, ye monsoons, roar!
On sunken reefs a gray sea moans
Of missing ships and dead men’s bones —
Oh, blast those jangling telephones!
Roar, ye monsoons, roar!

Debit Smith and credit Ross —
Sigh, ye Southern seas.
Brightly burns the starry cross —
Sigh, ye Southern seas.
A breeze with spices laden down;
A Venus done in ivory brown
Gleams through her sketchy cotton gown.
Sigh, ye Southern seas.

Where Christians loaf and heathens sweat,
Heave, ye rollers, heave!
There’s life to live and gold to get.
Heave, ye rollers, heave!
Under the ocean’s sunlit green
Are pearls to grace an Eastern queen —
And eight and nine are seventeen.
Heave, ye rollers, heave!

(Copyright, 1919, by Bell Syndicate, Inc.)

Oakland Tribune, (Oakland, California) Oct 5, 1919

The Finger-Print Poet

November 12, 2011


A MURDER in the tenderloin,
An eminent statesman’s views,
A scandal breaks in the avenue,
It’s news, all news, big news!
A hurried dash for a subway train,
Some feverish pencil jots—
The public must have its morning thrill
Over its coffee pots.

A lone man battling Russian snows,
Another, the desert’s thirst—
Each fired by thoughts of a record “beat”
If he gets on the wire first,
With a story the harried cable clerk
Shall hurl on—dot by dash—
The public reads of the wide, wide world
Along with its breakfast hash.

Battle of typewriters, driven hard,
And crash of the linotypes,
Maddening click of the telegraph,
And the fog from the reeking pipes!
The grueling race by flesh and blood
‘Gainst Time’s unflagging legs—
The public must have its news served hot
And fresh as its breakfast eggs.

One last wild rush, and the presses start
Their rumble and roar overhead;
A stretch, a yawn and a heartfelt sigh—
The paper’s been “put to bed.”
Few of us know what each line has cost,
Nor ask how the price is paid—
We only know that the public wants
Its news with its marmalade.

(Copyright, 1919, by Bell Syndicate, Inc.)

Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Nov 2, 1919

The Mysterious Poet

James Stuart Montgomery!! He is the poet of the finger-prints. He revealed his identity to New York publishers simultaneously with an effort to trace his finger-prints in the War Department at Washington.

The mysterious Finger-Print poet was born in Rome, Ga., in 1890. He was educated at the University of Georgia and the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1911. In 1917 he attended the first officers’ training camp at Fort Niagara, N.Y., and was commissioned a first lieutenant. After being assigned to the 316th Infantry, 79th Division, he was promoted to captain and appointed personnel officer and assistant to the regimental adjutant.

On September 30, 1918, he was wounded while serving with his regiment at Montafuson, where some of the fiercest fighting of the famous Meuse-Argonne offensive took place. After some time in a base hospital he was invalided home.

Before entering the army Captain Montgomery wrote verses occasonally merely for his own amusement. In France it helped to while away the time.

Some of his best verse, including “Je Ne Me Fiche” and Her Glove,” was written while he was in a military hospital in France. He is now living in Strafford, Pa.

Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Nov 2, 1919

Her Glove

It was a waltz — a wild Hungarian air,
A mad, uprushing storm of vivid tone,
That on its own exulting passion seemed to bear
Us up to Paradise — us two alone.
That waltz. ‘Twas one that cried aloud and throbbed
Of loves in their own fires purified,
And rose and fell and laughed and sighed and sobbed
It self to amorous dreaminess — and died.

Still through our veins that molten music rain,
Bathing each sense in rosy, leaping flame;
And I was man as Adam was a man,
She, woman, without reticence or shame.
The star sewn purple of the night above —
Her softness yet a presence on my arm —
With eager fingers stripped she off her glove,
That I might kiss the rose leaf of her palm.

For one eternal instant I have known
The heights and depths of all-consuming love.
She was his promised bride — and he, mine own
Familiar friend. And this — it is a glove.

(Copyright, 1919, by Bell Syndicate, Inc.)

Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Oct 26, 1919

Je Ne Me Fiche (I Should Worry)

If you should raise the dander of
The highest high commander of
Your outfit by some petty little sin,
He may fret and cuss and shout,
As he bawls you inside out —
Just wait until he bawls you outside in —
Quite neatly and completely outside in.

When the Q.M. commissary,
In its waggish way and merry,
Announces that the grub has given out,
You are saved, beyond all question,
From the pangs of indigestion,
You never will be troubled with the gout —
The illfulness and pillfulness of gout.

If you lose an ear or arm, sir,
You’ve another. What’s the harm, sir?
And even if they amputate your pegs,
Why, they’re making ’em of cork, sir —
That can dance and walk, sir —
Oh, quite the very latest thing in legs —
The raciest and paciest of legs.

You may even lose your head, sir;
Yet, when all is don and said, sir,
There wasn’t so much in it, let us hope.
If a shell should come and spill you,
Or the gentle Fritzies kill you,
They can’t do more than make you into soap —
The jelliest and smelliest of soap.

(Copyright, 1919, by Bell Syndicate, Inc.)

Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Oct 11, 1919

Uncle Smiley’s Boys

August 21, 2011

From The Adventures of Tom Sawyer



“WHAT’S the matter, Bob?” asked the kind old gentleman, as my brother came in, looking both angry and ashamed.

“Got whipped at school, and I don’t like it,” growled Bob, rubbing his right hand, the palm of which was still red and tingling.

“I’m sorry, but I guess you deserved it,” said uncle, soberly.

“Don’t care if I did; it’s a mean shame; ought not to be allowed;” answered Bob, indignantly.

“I don’t like it, either, and when I was keeping school I never tried but once.”

“Tell about that, uncle; I like to hear your stories,” said Bob, brightening up a little.

“Well, I was a young man, and I took a country school to begin with. It was winter time, and a good many boys came. You know I’m a mild man, naturally. I was very mild, then, and the boys thought they could do as they liked with the new master.

“I bore their tricks and disrespect as long as I could, hoping to conquer by kindness, but they didn’t understand that sort of discipline, and I soon found that the order of the whole school would be destroyed, if I did not assert my authority and subdue these fellows.

“So I made up my mind to punish the worst boy of the set, as an example to the rest. I didn’t like the task, and put it off as long as I could, but this boy soon gave me a chance which I could not pass by, and I whipped him.

“He was almost as large as myself, and resisted stoutly, so we had a regular tussle; for when I once began, I was bent on finishing the job. I did finish it, and the boy went home entirely subdued.

“The others appeared to be deeply impressed, and treated me with more respect after conquering the biggest and worst boy in the school.

“It seemed to have a good effect, but I was not satisfied with myself. I felt ashamed when I recalled that scene, and saw myself fighting with the boy. It wasn’t dignified, and, worse still, it wasn’t kind. Something must be wanting in me if I couldn’t sway the lad by gentler means, but had to set an example of brute force and unlovely anger.

“Well, I turned the matter over in my mind and resolved to try some other way if I was called upon to punish any more of my pupils.

“For some time they behaved very well, and I hoped there never would be any need of another scene. But one day two of the middle-sized boys behaved very badly, so badly that I could not let it pass, and decided to try my new punishment.

“So I bade all the scholars put down their books and listen to me. The two unruly lads were called up. and looking at them as kindly and sorrowfully as I felt, I said:

“Boys, I’ve tried to be patient with you; tried to remind you of the rules and help you to keep them; but you won’t be good, and I can’t let you disturb the whole school, so I must punish you. I can’t bear to whip you; it hurts me more than it does you, and I’ve thought it might help you to remember better if you feruled me, instead of my feruling you.

“There was dead silence as I paused, then a stir of excitement all through the room. The girls looked half-scared, half-indignant, for they all loved me and did their best to be good. Most of the boys looked sober — all much surprised, and a few rather amused.

“Bill, the elder culprit, laughed, as if he thought it would be a good joke to whip the master. Charley, the younger, a boy who was naughty from thoughtlessness more than from the love of evil, looked much distressed, and seemed covered with shame at the idea.

“Handing the ferule to Bill, I said, gravely, as I held out my hand:

“Give me half-a-dozen strokes, and if it pains you to do it to me as it does me to do it to you, I think you will try not to forget the rules again.

“Bill was a poor, neglected lad, who had never had home care and love, and so was bad because he thought no one cared what he did. He took the rule, struck three blows, then paused suddenly and glanced around the room, as a sob was heard. Several girls were crying, and all the boys looked ashamed of him.

“‘Go on,’ I said, and he hurriedly added three much lighter strokes, then dropped the rule as if it burnt him, and thrust both hands in his pockets, trying to look unconcerned.

“‘Now, Charley,’ I said, still kindly and sorrowfully.

“The poor little fellow looked from my reddened palm to my face several times, but couldn’t do it, and throwing the rule away from him, he caught my hand in both his, saying, with the tears running down his cheeks:

“‘Oh! sir, I can’t hit you! Don’t ask me to! I deserve a whipping, and I’d rather have two than strike you once.'”

“Good for Charley, he was a regular trump,” cried Bob, much excited.

Uncle smiled at his forgetfulness of his own tingling palm and went on:

“Well, that touched us all, of course. It was just what I wanted; and it did more good than a dozen whippings.

“I just took both the lads by the hand and said:

“‘My dear boys, I think this is punishment enough, so let us forgive, and try to do better for the future. Only remember one thing — I don’t want to be nothing but a master to you; I want to be a friend; to help you, and make not only good scholars, but good and happy boys. Come, shake hands, and promise me you will try.’

“I got two hearty squeezes, two muttered ‘thanks sirs’ and the boys went back to their seats perfectly subdued and very penitent. Charley never gave me any more trouble, and Bill tried his very best. I knew how much he had to fight against, so I did my best to make things easy for him, and interested the scholars in him by telling how rich they were compared to him, and how much they could do for the poor fellow.”

“They all had kind hearts, and all lent a hand, to Bill’s great surprise and gratitude, and by spring he was a different boy.”

Youths’ Companion.

The Portsmouth Times (Portsmouth, Ohio) Apr 23, 1870

Charlotte Bronte – A Little Rhymed Story

July 11, 2011

Image from John Gushue … Dot Dot Dot

(A Little Rhymed Story.)

The wind was blowing over the moors,
And the sun shone upon heather and ‘  whin,
On the grave stones hoary and gray with age
Which stand about Haworth vicarage,
And it streamed through a window in.

There, by herself, in a lonely room —
A lonely room which once held three —
Sat a woman at work with a busy pen,
‘Twas the woman all England praised just then
But what for its praise cared she?

Fame can not dazzle or flattery charm
One who goes lonely day by day
On the lonely moors, where the plovers cry,
And the sobbing wind as it hurries by
Has no comforting word to say.

So, famous and lonely and and she sat,
And steadily wrote the morning through;
Then, at stroke of twelve, laid her task aside
And out to the kitchen swiftly hied.
Now what was she going to do?

Why, Tabby, the servant, was “past her work,”
And her eyes had failed as her strength ran low,
And the toils once easy, had one by one
Become too hard or were left half done
By the aged hands and slow.

So, every day, without saying a word,
Her famous mistress laid down the pen,
Re kneaded the bread, or silently stole
The potatoes away in their wooden bowl
And pared them all over again.

She did not say, as she might have done,
“The less to the larger must give way,
These things are little, while I am great;
And the world will not always stand and wait
For the words that I have to say.”

No; the clever fingers that wrought so well,
And the eyes that could pierce to the heart’s intent,
She lent to the humble task and small;
Nor counted the time as lost at all,
So Tabby were but content!

Ah, genius burns like a blazing star,
And Fame has an honeyed urn to fill;
But the good deed done for love, not fame,
Like the water-cut in the Master’s name,
Is something more precious still.

Susan Coolidge, in St. Nicholas.

Edwardsville Intelligencer (Edwardsville, Illinois) Dec 26, 1888

Charge of the Black Brigade.

June 30, 2011

Charge of the Black Brigade.
MAY 27, 1863.
Dark as the clouds of even,
Ranked in the western heaven,
Waiting the breath that lifts
All the dead mass, and drifts
Tempest and falling brand
Over a ruined land;—
So still and orderly,
Arm to arm, knee to knee,
Waiting the great event,
Stands the black regiment.

Down the long dusky line
Teeth gleam and eyeballs shine;
And the bright bayonet,
Bristling and firmly set,
Flashed with a purpose grand,
Long ere the sharp command
Of the fierce rolling drum
Told them their time had come,
Told them what work was sent
For the black regiment.

“Now,” the flag-sergeant cried,
“Though death and hell betide,
Let the whole nation see
If we are fit to be
Free in this land; or bound
Down, like the whining hound —
Bound with red stripes of pain
In our old chains again!”
Oh! what a shout there went
From the black regiment.
” Charge!” Trump and drum awoke;
Onward the bondmen broke;
Bayonet and saber-stroke
Vainly opposed their rush.
Through the wild battle’s crush,
With but one thought aflush,
Driving their lords like chaff,
In the guns’ mouths they laugh;
Or at the slippery brands,
Leaping with open hands,
Down they tear man and horse,
Down in their awful course;
Trampling with bloody heel
Over the crashing steel,
All their eyes forward bent,
Rushed the black regiment.

“Freedom!” their battle-cry —
“Freedom! or leave to die!”
Ah! and they meant the word,
Not as with us ’tis heard,
Not a mere party shout:
They gave their spirits out;
Trusted the end to God,
And on the gory sod
Rolled in triumphant blood.
Glad to strike one free blow,
Whether for weal or woe;
Glad to breathe one free breath,
Though on the lips of death.
Praying,—alas! in vain!—
That they might fall again,
So they could once more see
That burst to liberty!
This was what “freedom” lent
To the black regiment.

Hundreds on hundreds fell;
But they are resting well;
Scourges and shackles strong
Never shall do them wrong.
Oh, to the living few,
Soldiers, be just and true!
Hail them as comrades tried;
Fight with them side by side;
Never, in field or tent,
Scorn the black regiment!


Janesville Daily Gazette (Janesville, Wisconsin) Jun 17, 1863

Read more about the Black Brigade:

Written in Glory
Letters from the Soldiers and Officers of the 54th Massachusetts

the ROOT
Revising the Civil War Record
The 54th Massachusetts Regiment, featured in the film Glory, was not the first black unit to fight.


Death in Philadelphia of a Man Famous in Many Ways.

Mr. George H. Boker, whose death took place recently at Philadelphia, combined two rare gifts seldom found in one person. He was both poet and diplomat. His verses were of sufficient merit to attract the attention of no less a literary light than Leigh Hunt, and as a diplomat he once succeeded in averting a war between the United States and Spain.

George Henry Boker was born at Philadelphia in 1823. His family, originally French, removed to Holland, and thence to England. There becoming identified with the “Quakers,” they emigrated to America and settled in the City of Brotherly Love. Mr. Boker was educated at Princeton college, where he was graduated at 19, and soon after married and went abroad. He had written verses at college, and while abroad wrote more, publishing a volume in 1847, on his return. In 1848 he published “Calayno,” a tragedy. It was the first marked success he attained, and was played to admiring audiences in England and the United States. Then came “The Betrothal,” “Francesca da Rimini” and “Anne Boleyn.” He also wrote many short pieces. Leigh Hunt regarded him as the best sonnet writer of his time.

In 1852 Boker dined one day with Daniel Webster at a dinner party given by the later in Washington. Webster had been speaking to his guests on the relations then existing between the United States and England. Suddenly turning to young Boker he said: “I think you have expressed the true sentiment concerning this subject in that admirable sonnet of yours.” He then recited the lines referred to to the party much to Boker’s surprise, who sat listening to the splendid performance in elocution doubtless with great delight:

Lear and Cordelia!  ‘Twas an ancient tale
Before thy Shakespeare gave it deathless fame;
The times have changed, the moral is the same,
So like an outcast, dowerless and pale,
Thy daughter went; and in a foreign gale
Spread her young banner, till its sway became
A wonder to the nations. Days of shame
Are close upon thee; prophets raise their wail,
When the rude Cossack, with an outstretched hand,
Points his long spear across the narrow sea —
“Lo, there is England!” when thy destiny
Storms on thy straw crowned head, and thou dost stand
Weak, helpless, mad, a byword in the land —
God grant thy daughter a Cordelia be!

Mr. Boker wrote very prettily in the way of light love verses. Here is a dainty bit which reminds one of some of Leigh Hunt‘s work:


This slip of paper touched thy gentle hand,
Doubtless was sunned beneath thy radiant eye;
Perhaps had clearer honor, and did lie
Upon thy bosom, or was proudly fanned
Within thy fragrant breath. At my command
A thousand fancies, growing as they fly,
To maddening sweetness, flit my vision by,
And mingle golden vapors with the sand,
That times my idle being. Senseless things
Start into dignity beneath thy touch,
Mount from the earth on love’s ecstatic wings,
And to my eyes seem scared, If from such
I draw such rapture, who may say how much,
Wert thou the theme of my imaginings?

But Mr. Boker’s main work was in diplomacy. During the civil war he was an indefatigable worker in the Union cause being one of the organizers of the Union League club, of Philadelphia, for the purpose of standing by the government. Besides this he devoted his pen to the service of the Union. When Grant became president he made Mr. Boker minister to Turkey. He soon showed great talent for the work before him, and left Turkey with the approval of the United States government and the good will of the sultan. From this mission he was promoted to St. Petersberg.

While minister to Russia, the Virginius affair occurred. A wanton outrage on a United States ship had been perpetrated by the officers of a Spanish vessel. President Grant was very much opposed to going to war with Spain, but the case demanded either war or an apology from the Spanish government.

From Washington instructions were sent to United States ministers abroad to endeavor to gain the influence of foreign governments to the cause of the United States. All the efforts of those who followed these instructions failed, except in Mr. Boker’s case. The work required great delicacy, and the Spanish minister at St. Petersberg sought to thwart the Americans efforts. However, he succeeded in inducing Prince Gortschakoff to send instructions to the Russian minister at Madrid taking ground in favor of the United States. This settled the question; Spain apologized for the Virginius affair and was was averted.

Mr. Boker was doubtless aided by the friendly relations between Russia and America, which sprang from Russia’s pronounced declaration in favor of the Union in sending a fleet of war vessels to New York during the civil war. But he unquestionably gained a great ascendency over the Czar Alexander and his minister of state. Both requested that his term as minister to Russia might be prolonged. When his successor arrived at St. Petersberg it is related that Gortschakoff said to him:

“I cannot say that I am glad to see you. In fact, I’m not sure that I see you at all, for the tears that are in my eyes on account of the departure of our friend Boker.”

For many years Mr. Boker was a conspicuous light in Philadelphia, and it is due to his efforts that Egypt, Turkey and Russia were led to take an interest in the Centennial exhibition of 1876. He had a fine library, to which he devoted himself during his later days. His house was decorated with many articles of vertu, obtained during his residence abroad.

Newark Daily Advocate (Newark, Ohio) Jan 15, 1890

Image from the Old Pictures website.

Poets Are Not Like Birds.

The late George H. Boker wrote to his friend, R.H. Stoddard: “Read used to tell a story of some Yankee poet who resolved to wait for an impulse from the Muse. He waited thirty years, and at the end of that time concluded himself no poet, although his youthful poems gave promise of great things. That man perhaps wanted but industry to make him immortal. I hold that there is a labor connected with all great literary achievements sufficient to drive any but a man of genius stark mad. This the world will never believe. It has an idea that poets write as birds sing, and it is this very false idea which robs us of half our honors. Were poetry forged upon the anvil, cut out with the ax or spun in the mill, my heaven! how men would wonder at the process! What power, what toil, what ingenuity!”

Woodland Daily Democrat (Woodland, California) Aug 8, 1890