Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MODERN MOSES, OR 'MY POLICY' MAN, by JAMES MADISON BELL

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

MODERN MOSES, OR 'MY POLICY' MAN, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: There is a tide in men's affairs
Last Line: And the wonderful star of a wonderful age!
Subject(s): Freedom; Johnson, Andrew (1808-1875); United States - Reconstruction (1865-1877); Liberty

There is a tide in men's affairs,
Leading to fame not wholly theirs --
Leading to high positions, won
Through noble deeds by others done.
And crowns there are, and not a few,
And royal robes and sceptres, too,
That have, in every age and land,
Been at the option and command
Of men as much unfit to rule,
As apes and monkeys are for school.

For seldom an assassin's blow
Has laid a benefactor low
Of any nation, age or clime,
In all the lengthened march of time,
That has not raised to power and might,
Some braggart knave or brainless wight,
Whose acts unseemly and unwise,
Have caused the people to despise
And curse the hours of his reign,
And brand him with the marks of Cain.
And yet to crown the mystery,
All these have had a Policy.

Though Cain was treach'rous and unjust,
And smote a brother to the dust --
'Tis not of him we wish to speak,
Nor of the wife he went to seek;
Nor of the blood his Nimrod spilt,
Or famous city which he built.

But choose we rather to discant,
On one whose swaggish boast and rant,
And vulgar jest, and pot-house slang,
Has grown the pest of every gang
Of debauchees wherever found,
From Baffin's Bay to Puget Sound.
And yet he occupies a sphere
And fills a more exalted chair,
(With arrogant unworthiness,
To his disgrace, I must confess),
Than any officer of State,
Or king, or princely magistrate
Of royal blood or noble birth,
Throughout the kingdoms of the earth.

But how he chance attain'd that hight,
Amid the splendor and the light,
The effulgent glory and the ray
Of this the nineteenth century,
May, to the superficial mind,
Seem much complexed and undefined;
But when the dark and shameless truth,
Is properly ascribed to Booth,
The strangeness vanishes in haste,
And we through murder stand disgraced.
Disgraced! Perhaps some other word,
Or milder term should be preferred;
And if preferred, that term might be
Exposed to My Policy.

But there's a legend much in vogue,
The act of some knave, wit or rogue,
A sort of fabled heresy,
Clothed in the garb of prophecy;
In which 'tis said that "in the day,
When kith and kindred shall array,
Their hostile armies and engage
In deadly contest, youth and age,
Lo! from the people shall arise,
One of the people in disguise;
A man loquacious in his way,
And greatly given to display;
A self-wrought garment he shall wear,
And beverage be his constant fare;
Akin his normal state shall be,
To a ship unballas'd and at sea.

And he shall favor all that's mean,
Or low, or vicious and obscene;
And pay to neither age nor youth,
A due regard, nor e'en to truth --
And he shall by his subtle vows,
Induce the people to arouse,
And bear him in their confidence,
Toward a lofty eminence.
Just here occurs a short hiatus,
And then concludes the legend thus --
And he shall owe to tragedy,
His zenith of felicity;
And unto gross apostacy,
The basis of My Policy."

But as for Mose, he has been
And is to-day as free from sin
As that fond friend who kissed his Lord,
In presence of a Roman horde.
'Tis true he did somewhat disguise
His real intentions, and surprise
The loyal voters of the North,
By feigning hatred to the South;
Through which he gained their confidence,
And won that lofty eminence.

'Tis said, and yet I know not why,
His fingers wear a crimson dye,
The which retraced, would likely lead
Aback to some unlawful deed,
And only back perhaps, alas,
To constant pressure of the glass --
Or to his deep intensity,
Of interest in My Policy.

Sumner he claims is much at fault,
And Stevens plotting a revolt
Of Congress 'gainst the President,
And 'gainst his noble sentiment --
With which e'en Davis doth agree,
And all his learned constituency;
Hence, Sumner must not there remain,
And Stevens' might we ought restrain,
And Phillips should not be allowed
To exercise before the crowd,
His foul bombastic heresy,
In variance to My Policy.

His life he deems quite insecure,
And such a thought long to endure,
Is torturous in the extreme,
And breeds full many a fitful dream.
He fears some hireling knave may prove
Recreant to pretended love,
And give for brandy, water instead,
And thus consign him to the dead,
With all his virtue on his head.

His friends have counseled 'gainst alarm,
And 'gainst all apprehended harm,
And well they might, since few are more
From hurt and violence secure.
For those who practice lawless deed,
And on the life of virtue feed,
Are not accounted with his foes,
But now and e'er have been of those
Who would through nameless years protract
His office and his life intact --
The dauntless sons of chivalry,
Who glory in My Policy.

'Tis said, that in the days agone,
He pledged himself to the forlorn;
He pledged himself the bondsman's friend,
And one on whom they might depend
For counsel, succor or redress,
In all their hours of wretchedness,
And swore that he would be their guide,
And lead them past the crimson tide,
And through the wilderness that lay
Between their night and that blest day
That shines forever on the rest
Of all the worthy, free and blest;
That he their Moses would become,
And lead them to a freeman's home
And swore that he would ne'er forsake
Them, nor his pledge or promise break,
Till every bondsman in the land
Should on the plains of freedom stand.

Pledged to the sacred cause of truth;
Pledged in the early days of youth;
Pledged by the summer, winter, spring,
And pledged by all the truth may bring;
With all these pledges on his soul,
And clothed with power to control
The future destiny of those,
His wards by all his recent oaths.

Mark well his action when for aid
Their suppliant prayer to him was made?
Witness an instance of his love,
And all your former doubts remove.
Mark when that bill for the supply
Of starving millions met his eye;
A breadless, clotheless, houseless throng,
Thus rendered by his nation's wrong.
Does he the bill in haste receive
And sign, their suff'rings to relieve?

Yes, if withholding of the cup
From parched lips, whereof one sup
Would quite allay an inward pain,
And quite restore to health again
A prostrate mortal, doomed to die,
Unless his needs met swift supply,
Can be accounted as relief --
Then he in their deep hour of grief,
Did them relieve and kept his vow;
When with a dark and wrinkled brow,
He stamped his veto on their prayer,
And doomed the suppliants to despair.

O, what a "Moses" he has been!
How strenuously against the sin
Of his fathers he has fought;
And how ingeniously besought
The nation in this trying hour,
To invest with all their wonted power
Our late rebellious, loving foes,
To whom for all our recent woes,
Our wasted treasure, wasted lives,
Our orphaned children, widowed wives,
Our prostrate cities, deserted farms,
And all the joys of wars alarms,
We are most deeply debtors all,
And in meek gratitude should fall
Prostrate before them in the dust,
And yield the nation to their trust:
And to enforce the reason why,
That we should not this boon deny,
Propounds with matchless dignity,
His ineffable -- My Policy.

School'd in his childhood to regard
Foul treason worthiest of reward,
And loyalty an empty name,
Meriting dark reproach and shame;
Therefore, he deems the rebels more
Worthy positions than before;
Before their nameless deeds of horror
Spread o'er our land the veil of sorrow;
And fain would from the very scurf,
E'en as from the rising surf
Of rebeldom, at once create
Grand officers of high estate,
And bring them to the nation's court,
His grave My Policy to support.

'Tis said the clergy everywhere,
Have held up holy hands in prayer
For his redemption from the thrall,
And pit of his apostate fall;
But recently by dream or word,
Have been most signally assured,
That there are no blest agencies
Of grace, outside the promises,
And in that almost boundless plan,
Salvation offered unto man,
Are no provisions that embrace
A proffered pardon in his case;
That it were madness to bewail,
Since all their efforts can but fail;
For he, to use a term uncivil,
Has long been mortgaged to the Devil;
But the fact which no one knows,
Is why the deuce he don't foreclose.
Perhaps he entertains a doubt,
And fears that Mose might turn him out;
Hence, His Satanic Majesty's
Endorsement of My Policy.

He claims that suffrage, if applied
To Negroes, should be qualified;
That they diplomacied, should hail
From Dartmouth, Harvard or from Yale,
Before entrusted for an hour
With manhood's great elective power.

But every rebel in the land,
From Maine to Georgia's distant strand;
Though dark their minds as rayless night,
Should exercise this manly right,
Though destitute of reason's force
As Balaam's ancient riding horse:
On these the boon he would confer,
Without a scruple or demur,
Because these gentlemen, quoth he,
Are members of My Policy.

His vetoes -- gracious! what a list!
Never in time did there exist
Such an array of negative,
Bombastic and explanative;
'Tis said their reasons are profound,
Their logic almost passing sound;
And that such lucid rays they shed,
They're understood before they're read.

The Bureau Bill is deemed the first
Of numerous acts, by him reversed;
The power that bill sought to confer
On him, provoked his just demur,
And for this strange, unlikely fault,
His meekness rose in fierce revolt,
And flamed with wrath and power to kill,
He hurled his veto at the bill;
For actions of humanity,
Accord not with My Policy.

He next reversed the bill of rights,
Lest all the girls -- that is the whites --
Should Desdemonia's become,
And fly each one her cherished home,
And take to heart some sooty moor,
As Fathers did in days before.
If but the legal right were given,
He fears that six in every seven
Of all the maids in all the land,
Would give the matrimonial hand
Unto some swarthy son or other,
And some, perhaps, might wed a brother.

This horrid thought his wrath excites,
And swearing 'gainst all "woman's rights,"
He grasped the veto in his ire,
And doomed the bill to endless fire;
For all such reciprocity,
Was foreign to My Policy.
This ghost-like thought preyed on his soul,
And robbed him of all self control,
Till from his fears, lest they obtain,
He got the veto on the brain;
The inflated type, the very worst,
With which a mortal e'er was cursed.

And hence, when e'er an act is brought,
For which is signature is sought,
How plain soever the device,
He fancies that he "smells a mice,"
And forthwith runs the trap to bring
My Policy, and sets the spring,
And waits with pain-suspended cough,
To see the curious thing go off.

The little giant of the West --
His labor done, was laid to rest,
And to eternalize his fame,
And thus immortalize his name,
Moses, with vassals of renown,
Comes swinging past from town to town;
And makes a quite imposing tour,
Save that he proves himself a boor
At divers times in divers ways,
All through his eagerness for praise,
For e'en despite the peerless Grant,
And monument he came to plant,
All those that were not wholly blind,
Could see he had an axe to grind;

The monument was but a ruse,
A subtle means to introduce
My liege of graceless dignity,
The author of My Policy.
'Tis said that he at times would come
To cities which were not "to home,"
From which long ere the pageant closed.
The peerless Grant grew indisposed,
And to the banks of Erie's Lake,
Repaired for reputation's sake.

But be this statement false or true,
It has the smallest part to do
With the matter of fact at hand,
Which is this, when through the land
He'd gone and played the knave and clown,
In every city, village, town,
And felt My Policy was sure
To win by virtue of the tour,
The people rise in mass and vote,
And thus must signally denote
By their vote and by their voice,
And by the subjects of their choice,
That they had blindly failed to see
The beauties of My Policy.

O, were I but a dramatist,
What stores of thought I would enlist,
What telling words I would indite,
And what a play my pen should write;
I'd hie me to the nation's dome;
Amid its splendors I would roam,
Discant on palace, hall and court,
And on the nation's grave support,
Until I placed upon the stage
The grandest burlesque of the age;

"Moses! Moses!" should be my theme;
Not He that through the crimson stream
Led out from Egypt Israel's host;
But "our Mose" of rant and boast,
Who from the nation's balcony,
Cajoled a drunken revelry,
In telling words of pothouse lore,
The which had ne'er been heard before,
Since Kidd, the terror of the wave,
Placed men's life-chart within the grave.

Oh, Demosthenes! in silence rest,
Henceforth "our Mose" shall be the test
Of all oratorical display,
And for a sample, by the way,
Witness his chaste and classic art,
In his description of sweetheart,
And Penny nibbling at his heels,
And then how graphic he reveals
His wond'rous buncombe, and his pluck,
In that grave story of the duck.
And when you have read, O think of the stage,
And the wonderful star of a wonderful age!

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