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Centennial Poem

Read at Fourth of July Celebration
Fairbury, Nebraska July 4, 1876
Published in the Fairbury Gazette July 15, 1876

A glorious nation this of ours,
Unequaled now we know;
But how stood it 'mong other powers,
One hundred years ago?
'Twas but an embryo giant then,
Unconscious of his might;
Whose untrained sons, brave stalwart men,
Did battle for the right.

They fought, they bled, their cause they won,
And hence our glorious Fourth-
A gala day for flags and fun,
Especially in the North.
How freedom first her banner broad,
Triumphantly unfurled,
And kindred hearts responsive glowed,
Throughout the Christian world.

The bone and muscle, vim and skill,
Of foreign lands beside,
Were here transplanted, bloomed at will,
And swelled our honest pride;
The ringing ax, with steady stroke,
Mowed down the forest wild,
And towering pine and stately oak,
Were in huge winrows piled.

Then fire and fagot, plow and spade
Subdued the virgin soil,
And Mother Earth rejoicing paid
A just reward to toil;
The sickle with its ceaseless clip,
Went nibling o'er the vale;
Each straw went through the reaper's grip,
Each grain flew from the flail.

With trusty rifle, ready ax,
The young Republic grew;
And steadily reduced the tracts
Of bears and Indians too.
Each house-wife plied her spinning-wheel,
Constructing woofs and chains;
And then with thrifty loom and reel,
Produced the home-made jeans.

Their sturdy sons, with frames well knit,
Laid no particular stress
On quality, or make, or fit,
Save comfort in their dress.
Now mark each upstart-how he struts,
With tights inclined to crack;
His whole make-up but gab and guts,
His fortune on his back.

Their daughters, though inclined to flirt,
Could scrub and bake and sew,
And fit a dress, or make a shirt-
Such model wives you know;
But now with laces, silks, brocade,
Gay feathers, in fine array,
The morning comes-then dress-parade,
Fun, folly, and croquet.

Soon villages and cities sprung
Like magic o'er the land;
New States into the union swung,
And other schemes were planned;
But bold and restless spirits caged
Within a given space,
Freed from restraint, were soon engaged
With Indians and the chase.

Their narrow limits widened out,
Adventure fired the breast;
And pioneer and hardy scout,
Still drove the wigwams west.
Their household goods, their tender brood,
Far dearer still than life,
Though guarded well, in danger stood,
From tomahawk and knife.

The heart beats fast, the lips wax pale,
The blood fast curdling speeds,
To hear the maddening, ghastly tale,
That paints their hellish deeds.
And many a glistening bony bed
Marks where, with bated breath,
Th' Avenger lay, whose rifle sped
Th' unerring bolt of death.

The wonders and the powers of steam,
Were studied and applied;
The dangers of both gulf and stream,
Bridged over or defied;
The broad Atlantic's billowy breast,
Each storm lashed raging main,
And now by steamers daily pressed,
And scoured in quest of gain.

On land the steam fed iron horse,
Keeps thundering night and day,
Dispensing in its onward course,
The benefits that pay.
A network of diverging lines,
Extend from shore to shore,
Which from our coal and iron mines
Transport the needed ore.

And first and foremost of its kind,
In daring, pluck, and size,
All other projects lay behind,
The U.P. enterprise.
Our Uncle waved his magic wand,
Then let the Greenbacks fly,
And lo! the continent was spanned
With rail and bolt and tie.

A glittering highway for a time,
The longest and the best,
Where luxuries from every clime,
Are scattered East and West;
The Atlantic and the Pacific slopes
Linked in a long embrace,
Admiring nations nursed new hopes,
And watched th' exciting race.

And there amid the mountains grand,
Where all things bright should be,
We find the Mormon Promised Land,
Its Mecca, and Dead Sea.
There murder, bigotry and lust
Hold undisputed sway,
Although the vile lascivious crust
Shows symptoms of decay.

That moral power-the Gentile Press-
Has just begun to squeeze,
And Elder, Prophet, Prophetess,
Are weakening in the knees.
With ready tact their great high-priest
Foresees in shadowy form,
The prelude of that Scripture Beast,
And dreads the coming storm.

But should these plucking times prevail,
And food and clothing go
Beyond his reach, his crops should fail,
Or clouds of locusts blow,
I think if then he understood
The price too high for fun,
The muchly-married Mormon would
Be quite content with one.

A Franklin from his early youth,
In ------ science poured,
And snatched from Nature gems of truth
'Mong her aroma stored.
'Mid vast research he reached on high;
And gained a just renown,
With daring hand and watchful eye,
He drew the lightnng down.

Th' electric fluid in our veins,
The flaming bolt of heaven,
Alike controlled by curb and reins,
Are in man's interest driven.
Well viewed in hieroglyphic skill,
The Operator sits,
And tidings of both good and ill,
By Telegraph transmits.

And down upon its briny bed,
The Cable talks unseen,
And shoves important news ahead,
Though oceans lie between.
And round the world and back again,
The swift dispatches fly,
On this mysterious endless chain,
This new fraternal tie.

Throughout the South with rapid stride,
There raged a rank disease,
The mushroom growth of sloth and pride,
Self-styled the F.F.Vs.
The malady, at first though slight,
Continued to grow worse;
And finally became a blight,
A ruin and a curse.

Their corner stone, their prop and stay,
On human slavery reared,
The faults that in the system lay,
Unerringly appeared.
Tobacco, rice, and sugar cane,
Immense returns would bring,
Whichever way they turned was gain,
For Cotton then was King.

'Mid kicks and cuffs and vile abuse,
The nigger multiplied,
And stranger still, without excuse,
Grew whiter in the hide.
They sold at auction for the cash,
Their flesh and blood and name;
Their boy mulattoes to the lash,
Their daughters into shame.

And still they nursed the festering blot
With each concession given,
And 'mid the traffic foul forgot
The kindling wrath of heaven,
Contempt for labor was sucked in
And gobbled up, until
The very heavens threw back the din,
Clodhopper and mudwill.

The soil itself was petering out,
Just scratched from year to year,
Their prestige too went up the spout,
And pverty looked near.
The dubious game of politics
Came ready to their hands,
And bar-room brawls and gambling tricks
Just trained them to command.

Their system must have room to grow
And be well hedged by law,
Their chattels claimed where'er they go,
Or option to withdraw.
The States Rights heresy was fed,
In this new fangled school,
Whose special traits and tenets led
To ruin or to rule.

Opposed to this in every form,
The Puritanic stock
Waked up and Abolition storm,
And nerved them for the shock.
With bosoms bared they met their foes,
In many a deadly bout,
And right and left they dealt their blows,
Straight from the shoulder out.

With pen and tongue and loud debate,
In forum and on field,
The struggle but increased their hate,
For neither side would yield.
Within our Nation's Capitol,
In corridor and hall,
Each sympathizer left his hole,
His treason loud to bawl.

Our vessels all were sent away,
Our guns hid in the South,
And nearly every fortress lay
Within their canon's mouth;
But when the overt act was done,
The nation sprung to life,
And 'mid the smoke of Sumpter's gun,
Came rushing to the strife.

The conflict raged, on either side
Were battles lost and won,
The Rebels fired with worthy pride
Were victors at Bull Run.
But why disturb the honored dead,
Each hero has a name
In golden letters proudly spread
Upon the scroll of fame.

The negro burst his iron yoke,
When Sherman reached the sea,
The great Rebellion's back was broke,
When Grant had cornered Lee.
We may be better than we were,
I know at least we should,
And though quite liable to err,
Let's try again for good.

And let us with redoubled zeal,
And faith both firm and fast,
Work henceforth for our country's good,
And emulate the past.

The present -- let us in God's name
Forever blot from sight,
And hang our guilty heads in shame!
See what a scorching blight
Has shriveled up our stocks in trade!
What Industry has not
Been paralyzed this last decade,
Or stricken with dry rot!

Each furnace, forge and busy shop,
Each factory and mill,
Have all in turn been forced to stop,
Their busy hum is still;
And twice ten thousand willing hands,
Today are begging bread,
Nor can we shirk their stern demands,
Their families must be fed.

Or they with common thieves will lurk,
In haunts of guilt and slime;
In woe, and want, and want of work,
Starvation leads to crime.
A land of plenty and of fools,
The slaves of money sharks,
Base hounds who echo party rules,
Just as their leader barks.

Bankers, brokers, lawyers, snobs,
Some shuffling low priced cuss,
The pliant tools of set-up jobs,
They legislate for us;
And we, poor simple-minded drones,
Just stand supinely by,
Or pick the marrow from such bones
As round their eirie lie.

Petitions by the rod and mile,
On Congress have been poured,
And yet by every trick and wile
Our wishes are ignored;
Dead issues of the dead and past,
Are slung around like dirt,
And o'er the sickening holocaust
They wave the bloody shirt.

The war, its causes and effects,
Were settled long ago,
And shall we yet harass and vex,
And kick a fallen foe?
'Twere better far like mice and rats,
When party feuds arise,
Just watch the two Kilkenny cats
Tear out each other's eyes!

Old Party names are but a blind
To cover base designs;
A few old stagers lurk behind,
To manage hooks and lines,
And many a gudgeon gulps the bait,
Unmindful though it kills;
Then feels the barb, alas! too late,
When tugging at his gills.

Democracy with Douglas died,
The other might as well;
For all our ills have multiplied
Since martyr'd Lincoln fell.
The money power behind the throne,
Our office-seekers too,
Have now to vast proportions grown,
A mixed and motley crew.

How many stateman's wives today,
Bedecked with gem and gaud,
Owe all their dash and grand display
To jobbery and fraud?
See how corruption rules the hour,
And taints each place of trust,
And villainly joins hands with power,
To grind us in the dust.

But day approaches-yonder gleams
The first faint streaks of dawn,
Whose brightly, brilliant, burning beams
Will scorch the cursed spawn;
The laboring classes would at length,
With firm and measured tread,
Move forward in resistless strength,
By dauntless Grangers led.

And honest men will yet be found
To plead the people's cause,
And faithful officers abound
To execute our laws.
Unbounded faith in what is right
Inculcates what will be,
And thirty million bondmen white
Will rise and yet be free.

The future! What a glorious view
Meets my prophetic gaze,
The world progressing, all things new,
How bright the gladsome days!
What different changes will be rung!
Are all our teachers dumb?
Nay, science tells with ready tongue,
A hundred years to come.

America will then include
The Isthmus and the Pole,
And live in love and brotherhood
One grand united whole.
Impelled by steam on silken wing,
With valves that close and fill,
Impatient man will upward spring
And cleave the air at will.

And like the goose or radiant swan
Migrate in single file,
The average speed of caravan
Three minutes to the mile.
Steam engines, with self-acting rails,
Will draw their dozen plows,
And rubber men, with rubber pails,
Milk all the kicking cows.

The future Harvester! I see
A thrasher fixed within,
The chaff and straw drop on the lea,
The grain goes to the bin.
The coming rake and baling press,
A new combined machine,
In half the time, and maybe less,
Will sweep our meadows clean!

Electric stations here and there
Will dot these western plains,
And from the circumambient air
Draw down refreshing rains.
Artesian wells will tap the streams
That seethe and rush below,
And blessings far beyond our dreams
Will with their waters flow.

Our desert wastes, those belts of sand,
That stretch like inland seas,
Will yet become a favor'd land,
All peopled with Chinese,
Whose garden plots, hotbeds and care,
New beauties will disclose,
Exotic plants and herbage rare
Will blossom like the rose.

A second Eden will arise,
Each Adam have his Eve,
To make his home a Paradise-
Bear witness and believe.

Published: 26-Apr-2004