Denton Jaques Snider.

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IN THE •■•* : * : ; v «


An Epos of the Northwest





(For Sale by A. C. M'Clu?" CB. Co., Booksellers, Chicago, Ills.)




Canto I 5

Captain Abraham Lincoln.

Canto II 41

The Conflict of Races.

Canto III 73

Lincoln at New Salem.

Canto IV 107

Black Hawk and Keokuk.

Canto V 146

Lincoln's March

Canto VI 194

Black Hawk's March




Canto VII 229

Lincoln's Double Oath.

Canto VIII 263

The Indian Tragedy.

Canto IX 297

Lincoln's Return.

Canto X 339

Home Again.

Historic Intimations 362

Canto jfiv&t.


Sunshiny little April showers

Would whirl from Heaven's cloudy towers,

A slanting coverlet of rain

Down on the grassy bed of plain,

Which seemed each water-drop to flatter

And answer with a kiss the patter;

Afar the feathery greenery

Filled full of love the scenery,

Which in the longing heart would stir

Sweet fancy to a tender whirr.

Then Spring would prime her watering pot

Up in the skies where every dot

Of fog she gathered to her store,

When she again began to pour



Her glossy globules in long lines down dash-
And on the face of the pedestrian splashing.
Thus intermittent vernal showers
Kept playing up and down the hours,
Building the day of cloud and sheen,
With rainbows arching them between,
On which the troubled human sight
Could glance its way from dark to bright.
The muffled trumpeter on high
Whose peal is thunder out the sky
Would downward hurl his sudden blast —
Of earth it seemed the very last,
As if he tried on his trump to play
The signal of the judgment day.

Now through this elemental war

Eesounding o'er him from afar,

Young Abraham Lincoln you may see

Walking alone, unstrung his form,

Thinking about what is to be,

Unmindful of the shine or storm.

He dreams, too, of New Salem, whence he

Where he has quit his splitting rails,
Has flung down axe and wedge and maul,
For he has heard another call —
Where, too, he is a candidate
To be lawgiver to the State,
And where runs singing Sangamon


Which he in soul oft floats upon.

Thither he will be soon returning

When the war-cloud passes over,

It is the very heart of all his yearning,

For Lincoln, too, is lover;

Awake, adream, he cannot help but render

Unto that town and stream a service tender.

But now he moves the other way,

Although not very long may be his stay;

He goes the proclamation to obey,

In which the Governor demands,

Some troops to quell the Indian bands

Of Black Hawk in their fierce foray,

Whose bloody hope dares all whites slay

And blooming farms in ashes lay.

So Lincoln starts on his new path

To bring to the red slayer scath,

And yet a deep recoil he hath.

Noiseless the brooding mist from Heaven fell

Around him, and a far foreboding spell

Awoke, and heaved with throbbings of his

Which slowly seemed atwain to part
And with itself by turns to talk,
Wooing the way by misty walk.
Two souls within him face each other,
Yet he to both is the one brother.
At last the cleaving of the cloud
Bids him let fall his inner shroud,


A little prairie run he fords,

And there breaks into spoken words:

"My gift has been still to forgive,

In mercy I my days would live ;

And yet within I feel a strife

Which stabs me at the source of life;

My father's father I can see

Drop dead beside a giant tree

Which he was felling in a wood,

Where he, of harm unconscious, stood;

The enemy not far away

Secreted in the bushes lay,

And treacherous took a deadly aim

At him from whom I bear my name.

That bullet, by an Indian shot

Is shaping now my earthly lot ;

I feel it plowing in my brain,

And slaying still afresh the slain;

To-day I am impelled to fight

By that transmitted bullet's might

My father, Thomas Lincoln, stood

Beside his father gurgling blood,

A little lad of soft six years

Shedding his hapless, hopeless tears ;

A tomahawk was whizzing round his head

When the redskin there reeled over dead,

Shot by the quick-eyed brother who was

Who from the near-by cabin pulled the trig-


But fatherless became the home

On the frontier, where wild men roam,

Beady for any bloody deed

To sate their vengeance or their greed.

This story have I often heard

Told at the fireside, till upstirred

I felt to retribution of my blood,

When I grew up a man, and could

From my own tracks give back the blow

Dealt at me by the stoutest foe.

And yet shall I my blood deny?

Another voice bids me defy

The surging of the vengeful strains

Which trickle down ancestral veins,

And turn to a red battle-field my brains. ' '

While thus his musings to him spoke,
At once his weaving fancy broke
Its fine-spun thread and stopped his talk
With self ; he hardly dared to walk
Ahead in usual striding gait,
Although he knew 'twas getting late,
And the muster might not for him wait.
Eight on his path a cloud throws down
In wrath a sunless savage frown,
And stutters doom in clashing claps of thun-
Which its black bosom tear asunder,
And overturn the contents all
Into one woful waterfall


Swirling him in its swashing sheet,
So that he scarce can keep his feet.
The forked lightning fiercely stabs
His eyesight with a dozen jabs,
And fain would break into his brain
As if to sear it of a stain,
Leaving an inward blank of pain
Which blinds him to the light of day,
So that he cannot see his way.
He wondered at the white-hot levin
Which flung a bolt at him from Heaven,
And listened in his halted breath
To hear the messenger of death.
Bnt when he had regained his eye
And looked anew up to the sky,
How changed the tide of circumstance !
A cataract of radiance
Falls slanting to him from the sun
Through gorges deep of cloudland dun,
And racing down the sunbeam's slope
Eoll the bright caravans of Hope.

Lincoln resumed his former stride,
Yet floated on an inward tide
Which flooded to the brim his soul,
As he read in the future 's scroll :
" And still I would not hate a man,
Let his skin be a coppered tan ;
I hate the hate of race,
Little it hath of grace ;


But still I feel that blob of lead

Burrowing Abraham Lincoln's head

Before I ever saw the light

Which lifted these two eyelids out of night.

Grandfather mine, Oh, Abraham,

Thy fate my brain must still embalm,

With thee I interlink in name,

And in the blood from which I came.

But a yet deeper tie I feel,

On mine thy death has set its seal,

In me thy dark foreshadow I descry :

By bullet in the brain I, too, shall die. ' '

The sentence scarcely had he uttered

When all the empyrean muttered

In louder-growing growls around him,

Which seemed in forecast to confound him;

Down Heaven's hills of clouded zones

Zeus bowls his heaviest thunder-stones,

Cracks the huge reservoir of storm

Above that solitary form;

The deluge falls together in a crash,

And on the patient earth doth ply its lash

Plaited of million million rain-drawn strands

Which whip from skiey dome the lowly lands.

The thunder seemed to punctuate

What that one man would state,

And wrote down in its dripping ink

Whatever he might think,

And the quick letters of the lightning's writ


Stirred in him a prophetic wit,

While Heaven's deep reverberating chords

Found echo in his words.

Soon to a drizzle swooned the sheeted rain,
The dark demoniac clouds took wings,
No more was felt their heavy watery chain,
Which thralled the earth's aspiring under-
Lincoln picked up his mind again
Just where the thunderbolt shot it atwain,
By mighty claps of cannonade
Eoaring as if the globe must be unmade,
And in its cosmic graveyard laid.
But now he muses, once more whirled
From the wild outer to his inner world,
Calls up afresh the image gory
Which reddens his ancestral story:
"My father's tale it was, his only tale,
And he rehearsing it would tremble pale,
The terror of the child reveal
Which I, a child, would also feel.
It ne'er grew stale to me, a boy,
Who found in story all my joy;
I heard the feats of border fights
Between the Indians and the Whites,
Eecounted in heroic way
By heroes who had led the fray.
Of these one far surpassed the rest
E'en though they did their very best —


The frontier hero of the West

He rose, enduring every test ;

And still my heart thrills to the rune

Which chants the deeds of Daniel Boone."

Here Lincoln whirled around to see

What now the judgment of the skies might be ;

Then picked he up the fallen thread,

Still talking to himself, he said:

"Our Governor a call to arms

Has sent to all these scattered farms

To meet with like the red man 's harms ;

I shall pay back my Indian debt

Inherited, but paid not yet.

There 's not a man on this frontier

Who has not felt what I feel here

And with it dropped the trickling tear —

Who could not tell my story's counterpart

Oft with a fiercer frenzy of the heart,

And fiercer flashes of the eye

From burning wells of memory,

Which now burst up along the ways

And set the prairies all ablaze.

The borderers rise, and on the run

They mass themselves with shouldered gun,

To turn back on the savage

His self-same bloody ravage.

For generations back my kin

Eight on this battle-line have been —

This battle-line 'tween white and red


Which will be drawn till one be dead ;

Yet this my own reproach I have to face :

How can you help destroy a race ! ' '

So Lincoln strode along the way

And let the rain strive with the ray,

He fought all in himself a fray;

He was both sides, was joy and rue,

Was victor and the vanquished too,

Was right and wrong, was good and bad,

An inward civil war he had,

He overjoyed in gladness,

He over sighed in sadness,

When his embattled hosts of brain would meet

In triumph and defeat.


He came unto a meadow brook

On which a willow drew his look.

Its wattled head seemed bowed in prayer,

As shrouded in a holy hood,

And breathed an introverted mood

Along the silent gloaming air ;

Each twig drooped earthward in devotion

And stilled its every petty motion ;

Each little leaf was bended down

Before high Heaven's throned frown;

It wept in drops as if in pain,

The tears were furnished by the rain.

A man beneath the willow stood,


A stranger in the neighborhood,

But somehow of that prayerful tree,

The human counterpart he seemed to be,

Brothered in universal sympathy ;

Out of a mild benignant face

He threw a gleam of God's own grace.

His old straw hat was badly shattered

His coat was round his body scattered,

And pantaloons in places tattered,

While out his windowed shoes

Would peep two lines of toes.

He held in hand a sack of seeds,

Which he would plant as his good deeds,

That others could enjoy the fruit

When he, the giver, might be mute.

No recompense he gained for good,

Little he recked of gratitude,

Planting a seed alone he stood.

He asked no man for aid,

On Heaven and himself was stayed.

Lincoln came up to him and thought :
1 ' Somewhere that favor I have caught ;
But I can't tell exactly how,
That character I've known ere now;"
But he could not the when or where awake
From sleeping memory, and so he spake ;
" What are you doing here, good friend!
A helping hand I'll gladly lend."
* * This by-way nook I seek to plant


That it may serve some human want."
"But say for whom such toil out here
Upon this wild frontier?"
' ' I never can turn back
Till I get round;
The world wheels in my track
Upon this very ground;
Here you with me now stand in line,
You need not seek a better sign. ' '
Young Lincoln wondered at the mystic speech
Yet felt a meaning in it out of reach,
As if it came some whence above him
Voiced by a presence that did love him.
And so he pressed the point anew :
"What purpose have you here in view —
What purpose good as you?"
The stranger straightened up to his full stat-
And seemed to concentrate all human nature
Into an outlook of the all- seeing soul
Which views untimed the aeons forward roll ;
It was as if beneath that willow portal
A God came down and spoke unto a mortal :

"I plant for all the races

To dwell hereafter in these places ;

I plant for black, for white — for you —

For red, perchance for yellow too.

I am not limited by space,

I make no difference of race,


In every moment of my life

I solve the universe 's strife,

And though I live in this small speck of years,

All time to me in it appears.

And now I hand thee here a little book,

Upon the march thou oft in it can'st look,

It will thee to thy higher self recall

When there is danger of a fall.

Let man be minded of the fact

His life must Adam's re-enact.

In this breast pocket of thy blouse,

Next to thy heart let it be laid,

To help thee keep thy holiest vows,

Fulfilled they should be, e'en if not prayed;

This book of only forty pages,

Entitled the New Testament,

Is now to thee from Heaven sent,

The library of all the Sages,

The key-stone of God's firmament,

The overtone of coming ages —

This now it is thy task to hear

In this campaign of just this year."

Staid Lincoln listened there amazed,
At first he thought the fellow crazed,
Perchance a social vagabond,
Who seeks somehow to get beyond
The civil order he feels cramping,
And so he turns his life to tramping ;
A citizen of everywhere,


Who of the All-in- All plays heir,

A wandering cosmopolite

Who suns himself in his own light.

But when the youth got to divine

The sudden whirl of that last line,

Which whizzed itself into his heart,

He felt the barb of a prophetic dart

Him soothing in its very smart.

He scanned anew the stranger's face,

Bespake him in a kindly tone :

"I've seen you in some other place

Which will not let itself be known. ' '

The man wheeled on his heel to go,

And dryly said: "I guess that's so."

But then as if he caught a sudden gleam

His countenance rayed out its sunniest beam

As he to Lincoln voiced a whispered dream :

"Me thou shalt see another day

More now to thee I cannot say. ' '

At once the stranger swiftly sped

And vanished in the silvery billows

Along a shore of waving willows,

He trod an airy winged tread,

His footsteps tipped the ground in their sure

He hardly seemed the solid earth to need,
Bearing along his bag of seed.



When out of sight had fled that form,

And far away had rolled the storm,

This younger newer Abraham

Had soothed the lion and the lamb,

Which crouching lay within his breast,

For each of them had there its nest,

Though both just now be medicined to rest.

In mind he bore a lighter load,

Trudging along the muddy road,

To Eichland where the warriors planned

To choose the captain of their band ;

The election was at hand.

Some others met him on the way,

And soon they had his brain at play

With story, fable, anecdote

Which tickled laughter in each throat,

And tuned the time to merry note ;

Then more yet joined at the cross-road,

A little human river flowed

Toward Eichland, when a voice cried out

Eaised vehemently to a shout :

* ' Abe Lincoln, you the captain be

Of this our prairie company.' '.

When thunderous vociferation

Had noised the people 's approbation,

That same stout voice cried Halt to the whole

Then spoke to Lincoln there before the troop :


"You have a roaring rival in the field,

Your tonguey turns Kirkpatrick cannot wield ;

Although he runs a water mill,

Your clapper is a better still ;

He owns indeed a well-tilled farm,

But yours is much the brawnier arm.

He has, they say, a slave, a nigger,

But that out here makes him no bigger,

An old cocked hat and regimentals

He dons with other incidentals,

When he comes out to yearly muster

To air aristocratic bluster.

And then he is a man unlean

He is too fat is what I mean.

You, Abraham, are just the man

Lank and long-legged as a pelican,

Can wade the swamps of Illini

Or rise and o'er the tree-tops fly,

Soaring above the Sangamon

And prairies flat we stand upon.

I dare him clinch you in a tussle

Despite his bluster and his bustle;

In making an off-hand stump-speech

Him can you many a lesson teach,

Your tongue and arms are longer, each to

Than his two, stretch them as he may,
Both yours and his must measured be to-day ;
His arm and tongue with yours must gallop
Like racing horses twain


To see which can the other wallop

And as best man the prize obtain.

When both of you come to the twist,

He dares not butt against Abe Lincoln's fist,

And given all his power and glory,

He cannot with you swop a story.' '

The people seems to speak in that one voice

When it gets down to talking to the boys ;

Uproared in mass that leveled crowd

To rival upper thunder of the cloud.

Lincoln's first thought was to decline,

He could not put his men in line;

Little he knew of military drill,

His knowledge of the foe was smaller still.

But he bethought himself anew :

There rose two sparkling eyes upon his view,

Flashing ambition in his heart,

Along with echoes of a subtler art

Which softly throbbed a dulcet smart,

Whose twinge he deftly kept concealed

Though it to him his holier self revealed.

But out the game he could not stay,
He soon came back from far away,
Hearing again a clang of tongue
Which from the prairie flat was sung.
Another man spoke up his pleasure
Whose name we shall leave out this measure ;
His voice was cracked in sundry streaks of


While setting up his democratic right :

* ' Kirkpatrick holds his head too high,

We'll prairie him out of his sky,

And bring him down to our country's level,

He means to us the very Devil

He piques himself upon his ancestry,

And cannot say enough of quality.

You are the better man in muscle,

First challenge him to try a tussle ;

The brain you have to boot, I know,

That never have you failed to show,

For you can write the fairest hand

Of any body in this border land,

Can tell a yarn or make a speech,

Can any common man outreach

With your long arms and longer head;

The leader ought not to be led

By aristocracy of blood ;

That bodes our country little good;

You must the champion chosen be,

Abe, dare the captaincy."

But to the village they have come,
Stepping the beat of the big bass-drum
And the rack-a-tack of the little tambour,
Two dozen borderers or more.
Already others had gathered there,
And some were still arriving;
Eumors of war buzzed in the air
Like busy swarms of bees a-hiving,


They slaughtered the redskin with many a

Which blazed in speech aflame with liquor's

Always the word became more bloody
Shot through and through with charge of

toddy ;
At last the squads of men repair
Toward a grassy public square,
With whoops which would the Indians scare,
Had they been only there.
Some wore their buckskin pantaloons,
With caps made of the skins of coons
Others were dressed in butternut
That always showed a home-grown cut,
Blue jeans was in great favor, too,
And lent to yellow its skiey hue;
To mud was trod the loamy street
In chorus kneaded by many feet ;
April still tried the clouds to drain,
Spirting adown her rivulets of rain,
And from celestial sprinkling-pots,
Kept watering her earthly garden spots.

The men had yelled the final cheer,

When every mouth was oped and every ear,

And all began to electioneer.

The war of offices, now uppermost,

Must first be fought out by that host;

Of tongues there were at least three score


Which started up a pattering roar,

Like musketry in battle

That never stops its rattle ;

The big guns too were getting loaded,

But had not yet their charge exploded.

The rival strutted through the throng,

To it he seemed not to belong ;

He was the only man who wore store-clothes,

And rode a blooded horse in pompous pose,

Against the drizzling shower he spread

A silk umbrella o 'er his head,

A thing unknown to all that crowd

Who at such weapon jeered aloud;

His twisting corkscrew of a nose,

Go where he might, would make him foes,

And oft he twitched his countenance,

As if he tasted wormwood in each glance

He threw upon the multitude

Who everywhere about him stood.

But when the sun strode out his cover

In golden panoply of lover,

And laughed down on the earth his beams,

Then all the folk in his inviting gleams

Together roll with mighty crush,

And to a pile of logs they rush,

And it their prized center make,

As if just that were all the stake.

"A speech! a speech!" the cry first heard —

The leader must be master of the word;


"From Lincoln's Abe a speech, a speech !"

The roar resounded round the welkin's reach.

His stalwart form o'ertopped the rest,

Of them he was, yet was the best ;

He mounted there upon a log,

Before him stood the crowd agog;

' ' Here, hold my old straw hat, ' \ he said

"No, keep it on your brush-heap head

To shade your phiz and roof your poll,

Now let from under it the stories roll ;

We want no stunning style from you,

Eail-splitter of the Sangamon,

Maul on the wedge till it rive through

And one good job of jaw get done."

So spoke the people's voice reduced to one;

Meanwhile the speech of Lincoln had begun :

"My country's call to-day I hear.

And so I come a volunteer

Against the murderous savages,

Who have renewed their ravages ;

When we but think of all their brutal broils,

The blood of us frontiersmen boils.

The battle has come down to sons from sires,

In us still glow the old ancestral fires

Enkindled long ago to flaming strife

Between the white and red for death and life ;

From generation to generation

We stand the vanguard of the nation.

But when the war is done, come back


I shall and tread the same old track;

You know I am a candidate

To make the law for this whole State ;

My creed I shall at once make known,

It is to improve the Sangamon,

Which to the Illinois will stream

Bearing ns on as in a dream.

Into the Mississippi float

Behold our Sangamonian boat ;

Then to the Gulf and to the Ocean,

Of all the world we'll share the motion,

The universe, I have to think

Needs us to get along — or else 'twill sink."

Whereat the applause did seem to tear

To very shreds the domed air

Which overarched the shouters there ;

Each flintlock old was held on high

And shot in chorus up the sky,

Making a noisy celebration

Since just next door stood all creation ;

Such was the backwoods aspiration

Stirred by Abe Lincoln's speech upon

The navigable Sangamon.

The people's voice again spoke single,

The many tongues turned one in tune and

And lilted in a kind of common jingle,
Which somehow fits into this rhyme :
i ' The tallest cornstalk, Lincoln, is just you,


With biggest ear of corn

From prairie ever born,

With all the silken tassels streaming too,

You never fail to tick the tickle spot,

You read us off down to the dot ;

Give us another sample of that lot."

But now the rival has his turn,

Haughty he peers about and stern,

For he the trend may well discern.

With his fat jowl high up he treads,

And from his perch looks o'er their heads,

Then he begins to talk

At that big-eared unhusked cornstalk:

"I know this Lincoln and his clan,

Awhile he was my hired man,

In yarning he would spin his time,

Would crack a joke and make a rhyme,

He liked his work less than his play,

I sent him off, he could not stay

Upon my place another day

When I him once had tried.

He has no horse, for none can pay,

And if he had he cannot ride

As it becomes a captain in the line,

He has no sword, but here is mine,

Worn by my father at Tippecanoe,

Wliere it he boldly drew

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Online LibraryDenton Jaques SniderLincoln in the Black Hawk war, an epos of the Northwest → online text (page 1 of 16)