A Temperance Poem
Inscribed To The Ladies
Mr. Lionel Lightfoot, a man, you must know,
Whose life had been upright and blameless,
To the capital's chamber came three years ago
From a county that here shall be nameless.
He was loyal at heart, but all tyranny spurned,
And, when comrades endeavored to prove him,
Allegiance to Alcohol's power he spurned,—
Neither jeers nor persuasions could move him.
Though at club-room or bar they would oftentimes meet,
He ne'er treated, nor could be entreated to treat.
And now 'twas mid-winter, —the question was up
To legally sanction or banish the cup.
The ladies had come, with their beauty and grace,
To cheer the desponding and brighten the place.
Discussions grew warm, but all pleading was vain,
For Alcohol triumphed, and Whisky again
Would desolate hearthstones, —bring Want and Despair
To dear ones once guarded with tenderest care.
And Lightfoot lamented, —his mother's calm smile
Seemed resting upon him, —her voice, too, the while,
Those soft, tender tones to remembrance so dear,
Sweet, earnest, and true, floated back to his ear :
' My son, if they sanction this blight of the soul,
Forget not my teachings —beware of the bowl !'
The day had departed, the twilight had fled,
At the still hour of midnight the Old Year lay dead.
The breeze sighed its requiem, the ocean its moan,
For the aged and mighty who perished alone ;
But the sun of the morning rose fair o'er the scene
Where, in night's fearful silence, the death-pall had been.
And now it was New Year, —'a happy New Year,'—
And young Lightfoot were guilty of treason
If he failed to the fair ones in person to pay
His dues, with the dues of the season.
So, calling on Fairface, an exquisite dandy,
An ardent believer in spirits —of brandy,
He found him perturbed —in a barbarous passion,—
His moustache had been trimmed quite too close for the fashion ;
His head, too —oh, shocking to add to the list !—
Two hairs on the left the Macassar had missed.
But Lightfoot restored him : ' The former,' he said,
'Looked so foreign —distangué '(a beautiful red
He fain would have added, but paused, lest the ire
Of his comrade might set his adornment on fire.)
Then, waiting till Fairface made smooth as a die
For the fiftieth time his ' miwaculous tie,'
With assurance his collar just touched his goatee
Without varying, in distance, the slightest degree,
With cane between gloves of invisible green,
They called on Miss Mabel —society's queen ;
And, listening the while to the lively narrations
Of her numerous calls and her morning libations,
' Your health !' cries ma belle; returns Lightfoot, ' Ex-cuse me,
I never indulge.' ' What ! on New Year's refuse me !
Politeness demands it; beside' (soft and low),
' Champagne is so perfectly harmless, you know.'
Ah, woman, fair temptress, thou knew'st not the while
The doom that was sealed by that innocent smile;
Or how fatal the spell in that voice, that was given
To lure man from vice And direct him to heaven.
Thou saw' st not the phantoms that clutched at the bowl,
Nor the serpents that fastened their fangs in his soul ;
Thou heardst not the clank of the chains that were wound
By fiends that kept mocking the spirit they bound.
So Lightfoot was tempted, and yielded at last,
Beguiled by this siren of beauty ;
And, quitting her presence, he carried away
Her smile of approval as booty.
A dangerous trophy, these smiles of the fair;
They melted his good resolutions to air ;
For though he had reasoned, 'I'll only partake
This once of the wine, for the fair charmer's sake,'
He was sadly mistaken, —the breach had been made,
The fortress surrendered, its inmates betrayed ;
The noble resolves that had guarded the tower
Where Faith held her torch in temptation's dark hour,
The purposes high that had stamped on his brow
The glory of manhood, oh, where were they now?
But why follow on with the twain as they flit
From bower to bower, partaking?
Or tell how the feeble resolves of the one
Were seized with an ague of shaking?
How, long before night-fall, he fancied his brain
Was dancing a reel on a circular plain ?
How houses inverted, in warlike array,
Wheeled backward and forth in an endless chasse ?
We pass these sad pictures, nor linger to tell
How, step after step, from true manhood he fell.
How at first he took naught but the choicest of wine,—
Some ancient Madeira, or rum superfine ;
How he drank but with gentlemen, such as would deign
To touch no cheap brandy nor third-rate champagne.
Behold him, at last, in some vice-crowded den,
Where skulk the crouched forms of what once ranked as men;
Where the pestilent fumes from each whisky-scorched throat
The pure air of heaven with plague-spots have smote ;
Where Malice, Pollution, and Wretchedness teem,
And Guilt stalks among them to mock and blaspheme.
There see him, the victim of Woman's soft smile,
Debauched and corrupted, degraded and vile.
Years pass, and again with our 'pillars of State'
Is the same question pending in earnest debate ;
The fair ones are listeners ; Miss Mabel has come
To hear of the darkness in many a home,—
Of the desolate hearthstones the rum-fiend has made,
Of promises broken and loved ones betrayed,
She listens —grows weary— departing, at last,
She hastes to her chamber to think of the Past.
Though languid, she wooes a calm slumber in vain,
For the sleep that should soothe her but frenzies her brain.
She dreams —'tis of Lightfoot : she tempts him to drink.
He quaffs at her bidding, then ceases to shrink
From frequent indulgence of evils the worst;
His hopes are all blasted, his life is accurst ;
She sees him descending from honor —renown—
And sinking to ruin —down— hopelessly down.
There, wrestling with rum-fiends, in fury he raves,
Like a soul reft of reason, on life's maddening waves.
Half palsied with fright, 'mid the demons he stands,
And wards off their blows with his skeleton hands.
His eyes start with horror, and fearfully gloat
On blades, newly whetted, that point at his throat.
He shudders and cringes from serpents that hiss
And dart their forked tongues from their slimy abyss ;
And, reeling from terror, he howls in his pains,
As devils incarnate stand welding his chains;
While one, a' pale imp, the grim valet of Death,
With fagots of sulphur is firing his breath.
O horror ! it blazes ! it seethes to his brain !
His heart-strings have cracked —the blood boils in each vein !
A shudder —a gasp— a wild effort to speak—
And Miss Mabel awakes with a hideous shriek.
O ladies ! dear ladies ! when next round the wine
Your delicate fingers caressingly twine,
When, like a soft blessing, the breath of your lips
Floats over and hallows the juice ere he sips,
Just call the crouched form of poor Lightfoot to view,
And know that the dream of Miss Mabel was true.
Then, by your allurements, teach man to refrain,
And prove that your charms were bestowed not in vain ;
Let your spotless example illustrate the plan
That woman was made as a help-meet for man,
To warn him from treading the pathway of sin
By the beautiful love-light that glows from within.
And, oh ! as ye muse oti that Eden above,
Whence spirits departed are gazing in love,
And guarding their kindred, who, chained by the clay,
Are prone by the tempter to wander astray,
A father's fond blessing may greet you, the while,
A sister bend over your couch with a smile,
A mother, in accents of rapturous joy,
May sing how your warnings have rescued her boy.
Then woman, O woman ! thy mission fulfill !
Know man is the subject —the slave to thy will!
Thou wast given to guide him, —his beacon and star
To cheer when beside him and gleam from afar.
Then keep thy soul white, for one shadow of sin
May dim the bright taper that burneth within ;
And vain are his struggles life's billows above,
When the beacon goes out in the light-house of love.
Iowa's Centennial Poem
A hundred years ago to-day
A barren wild our borders lay;
Our stately forests grandly stood
Wrapped in majestic solitude.
Our rivers, coursing to the sea,
Felt not the chain of tyranny;
Nor yet above their glittering sheen
Could Freedom's stripes and stars be seen.
The red man. moored his birch canoe
Where sweet wild-flowers luxuriant grew;
Where sumachs, o'er the pebbly brink,
Bent down their crimson lips to drink;
And violets, with their tender eyes,
Looked up in wondering surprise
At Indian maid, who, by the wave,
Waited to greet her warrior brave.
A hundred years ! Gone like a dream,
All, save our t woods and noble stream;
The red man, with his bended bow,
No longer fells the bounding doe.
The camp-fire's curling smoke no more
Is seen beside the chieftain's door,
As Black Hawk talks, in whispers grave,
To Gitchie Manito the Brave.
But on this broad, luxuriant plain
Wave golden fields of ripening grain;
Our pastures, with their gurgling rills,
Feed cattle on a thousand hills,
While giant steamers plow our streams,
From which our starry banner gleams.
The mansions on our prairies wide,
Oft with a rude cot by their side,
Show how, by years of patient toil,
The lordly tillers of our soil
Have reared such homes as freemen may
With all their shackles torn away.
The flying shuttle, whirling wheel,
Invention's mighty power reveal.
We sweep, by steam, o'er earth's broad track,
And lightning sends our whispers back.
We share the nation's glory, too,
By holding to the world's broad view
Our men of mark, of genius rare,
Scattered, like sunbeams, everywhere.
On history's page will shine most bright
Such names as Belknap, Kirkwood, Wright,
Howell, McCreary, Mason, Hall,
Dodge, faithful to his country's call,
And warriors who, through war's wild shock,
Anchored our ship on Union rock.
The call that rose at Lexington,
There Freedom's struggle was begun,
Reached not these shores, yet still we claim
This priceless heritage the same.
They were our ancestors who fought
When liberty with blood was bought.
And Concord, with her patriot band,
Whose sons to-day rejoicing stand,
Deserves no more the honors won
Than we, so near the setting sun.
Could our hearts bound with wilder thrill
If we had met on Bunker's Hill?
Are patriots truer on the sod
Whence those br^ave souls went up to God?
Not if, with loyal heart and hand,.
We held the heritage they planned;
Not if, along this verdant track,
When Dissolution's cloud hung black,
Our soldiers poured their blood like rain,—
Deluged our sod with crimson stain,—
And flung our starry banner out
With glad, prolonged victorious shout,
Proclaiming where its bright folds waved
Our fathers' boon—the Union—saved.
Yes, side by side with those who sped
Where'er the gallant Putnam led,
With those whose forms grew cold and still
Upon the brow of Bunker's Hill,
We proudly write, on History's page,
The heroes of the present age;
Our dauntless braves, who did not quail
Beneath the storm of iron hail,
But who, like valiant Warren, fell
Guarding the land they loved so well.
Mills, Baker, Torrence, Worthington,
Martyrs to Freedom dearly won,
Beside their tombs our patriots cry,
'As much of valor as could die!'
Ask ye if Woman shrinking stood,
When rang War's cry o'er field and flood?
Did mothers, racked by dire alarms,
Prison their sons with clinging arms?
No ; worthy of the patriot sires
That lit the Revolution fires,
They forced the tears, that needs must start.
Backward, to trickle through the heart,
And said, in accents firm and low,
' Our prayers will follow, —go, boys, go!'
So when ye boast, as boast ye will,
Of the green slopes of Bunker's Hill,
And vow that ne'er shall be forgot
How Shiloh and Pea Ridge were fought;
When, with fond pride, you teach your son
How Tuttle's men took Donelson;
When to Alltoona you refer,
And tell how Corse defended her;
Or when you link with Archer's name
The sword his son will proudly claim,
Forget not Woman, who, through tears,
Read how the form that other years
Had seen soft-pillowed on her breast,—
The lips her own* so fondly pressed
Had murmured forth their dying moan—
Had paled and chilled, unsoothed —alone,—
Remember, every gallant one
Who fell was some fond mother's son.
I stood beneath our State's proud dome,
And saw the dear old Flag* come home.
Weary and worn and well-nigh spent,
To you, O statesmen ! it was sent,
To hold as a more priceless gem
Than England's royal diadem.
On shattered staff the wounded bars
Held feebly up the golden stars,
While the scarred veteran seemed to say,
'E'en death is sweet in Iowa.'
I fancied, as they bore it by,
Its red stripes glowed with deeper dye,
Since it had cheered each patriot one
Whose life-blood crimsoned Donelson.
Purer its lines of spotless white
Since trusting mothers knelt at night,
Lifting their yearning souls above
On the white wings of Faith and Love,
Pleading His arm might be the stay
Of valiant hearts from Iowa.
Deeper its blue since dimming eyes
Had faintly smiled in sweet surprise
Upon the silken folds that spread
Their pitying shadows o'er the dead,—
The loyal dead, for whom 'twas meet
Their Flag should be their winding-sheet.
Brighter its stars of deathless sheen
Since it had waved o'er fields of green,
Floated where giant steamers sailed,
Swayed —trembled —reeled— yet never trailed.
Well may we celebrate this day
With glad, triumphant shout;
Well may we bid dull care 'Away,'
And fling our banners out.
E'en Nature joins the welcome sounds
By grateful hearts begun,
Till from our rocks and vales rebounds
The name of Washington.
England her Wellington may claim;
France of Napoleon boast;
Scotia extol the deathless fame
Of Wallace and his host;
But more ecstatic is the thrill
That fires Columbia's son,
When lip and voice grow strangely still
At thought of Washington.
Perchance e'en now the shades of those
Who first in battle led
Have left their Eden of repose
To hover o'er our head.
They were the sowers of the seed
That made our country free,
And we, the reapers, loud indeed
May shout forth ' Victory !'
Nor to the arm of flesh alone
Attribute our success;
But to the One who led us on—
The God who deigned to bless.
And while, to-day, our banners wave
For battles dearly won,
We bless the power that victory gave
To our own Washington.
Bought with the life-blood of the brave,
Held through dissension's shock,
The heritage our fathers gave
Stands firm on Freedom's rock.
Then send your welcomes near and far,
Let party discord cease;
And learn of him who, first in War,
Was first alike in Peace.
Yes, patriot brothers, awaken!
Leave the red field of carnage behind;
Be former contentions forsaken,
And thus prove all brave hearts are kind.
Would ye make this, our glorious Centennial,
A type of the Union above?
Then join in our earthly millennial,
And crown it with brotherly love.
Oh, be not by prejudice blinded!
Our wanderers had something to learn;
And by parable all are reminded
That e'en prodigal sons may return.
Then let generous welcomes be proffered;
Give them robes of a right royal hue;
Let the rings that restore them be offered
By victors who honor the Blue.
They have desolate hearthstones among them,
And hearts that still moan in their pain,
When the thought of the anguish that wrung them
Floats over remembrance again.
Then when come your tear-drops, upstarting,
For friends who passed over the tide,
Forget not that many a parting
Brought woe on the Southern side.
In the names of our patriots ascended;
In the names of our heroes who bled; .
By the cause they so nobly defended;
By the Rachels who moaned o'er our dead;
We ask you to pledge them, true-hearted,
A covenant-promise anew;
Remembering 'mong patriots departed
No line parts the Gray from the Blue.