Thomas Clarke.

Sir Copp. A poem for the times, in six cantos online

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3it Sb Cantos.



AcTHOE OF "A Day in May," "Donna Eos a," "The Silent Yillaoh;,*
"Life in the West" &o.

"Truth— the highest poetry and the bitterest satire." — The ATTTnoR.

"Thus have they masked Hypocrisy,

And dubbed her ' Young Democracy.' " — Sik Copp., Canto VI.


./ o

•- OnT-





18 65.


Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1S65,


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, for the
Northern District of Illinois.




The object of this Poem is two-fold ; first, to photo-
graph a phase of human depravity incredible, had we
not witnessed it; and to hand down its subjects to
eternal infamy : and, secondly, to paint the beauty and
power of goodness and loyalty in the sacred cause of
God and of Country. " Sir Copp " represents the
element of mean servility exhibited in those whom duty
called in vain to the support of their invaded liberties ;
the most venomous " copperheads " being those who,
under a loyal mask, betrayed their trust, starved our
soldiers, robbed their widows and orphans, and, like
Benedict Arnold, sold themselves to the enemy. Con-
trasted with this dark side of the picture the patriotism
of our loyal citizens stands out in bold relief Our
aimy, like a torrent, sweeps away the strongholds of
the rebels and restores peace and happiness to the
nation. But this glimpse of light is clouded by the
murder of Mr. Lincoln, and, in "Abel Misraim," the
people bewail the irreparable loss of then* martyred
chief A digression on certain British poets, and a
severe criticism on " Enoch Arden," are followed by a
discussion demonstrating the impossibility of sustaining
liberty, unless founded on the basis of popular virtue
and intelligence ; and that no man, whatever be his


color, is entitled to the privileges, unless he he prepared
to discharge the duties of a citizen. The ahuse of this
principle caused all our troubles in the past, and, unless
a speedy and a radical reform shall be effected, we can
expect nothing better for the future.

" Sir Copp," having undergone a severe physical and
moral dissection, is finally introduced into hell, vvhence
Satan, unwilling to entertain him, sends him back to
earth to be punished there according to his deserts.

This is the first of a series of works, chiefly on the
war, by the same author, which will be issued in due
coui'se, if " home production " shall receive here, at the
West, a sufficient patronage to justify the undertaking.

It is proposed, also, to republish here, from the Lon-
don editions, the most popular of the author's pubUshed
works, to which the opinions of the best English
critics will be appended, according to him a high rank
amongst the first poets of our day.

Perhaps it may not be deemed out of place to give
here a few brief extracts from those criticisms :

The London Athenaeum says ; " Mr. Clarke is highly
successful in his management of blank verse, and the
following passage from his " Day in May," is worthy of
praise for the happy arrangement of its cadences, and
the pure and natural feelings contained in it." [Plere
follows a quotation of over 40 lines.]

The London Spectator speaks of the same poem in
the highest terms ; so do the Court Journal, Indian
Review, Morning Post, &c.

Blackwood says of " Donna Rosa," that " it caimot


be surpassed for elegance of style and correctness of
metre." Tait's Edinburgh Magazine coincides, and
Bell's Messenger says : " This is the best and most
musical poem which the present season has produced."

Much more might be quoted, had we space. The
above must suffice for the present.

With regard to this new jioem, " Sir Copp," the
author relies entirely on the good sense and judgment
of the people of the Great West, for an impartial deci-
sion of its claims to public favor; and he will rest
satisfied with that decision, whatever it may be ; for he
cannot but believe, that those who have been able to
appreciate the best political, militaiy and legal talent
in the country, will also be able to discriminate, and
reward, literary merit, when it is faii'ly and candidly
presented for their consideration.

Chicago, Sept. 8, 1865.




Great Sov'reign, mightier far than king,
Accept this off 'rmg which I bring.
Thy humble servant would propose
A novel theme in rhjming prose ;
Or, since my Muse flanks the sublime,
Then be it named prosaic rhyme.
No matter, if the thing shall please,
Concemino^ names I feel at ease.


Muse, if you ever condescend
To aid, in time of need, a friend,
If ever I have sung a lay
That charmed you on a happier day ;
If, with the fat of spitted priests,
I have enriched your genial feasts ;
Or politician's sav'riest part,
Has warmed the " cockles " of your heart :
Oh, grant me, now, this precious boon,
(Again I may not ask you soon,)
May I before the lieges spread
The merits of the Coi3Derhead !



It is, indeed, a boon you ask,
And mine will be an arduous task :
The reptile's name is legion ;
He every color can put on ;
He is a blackleg all complete,
The people to delude and cheat ;
Pretends to be their faithful hack.
Yet claps a saddle on then- back
And rides them roughshod through the mh-e,
Not suffering them to lag or tire,
But whips and spurs the patient jade,
Which never can his yoke evade,
UntU, from high official chair
He sees the gaping creatures stare
Upon the riches he has fobbed
From those he so adroitly robbed ;
Or in the Senate or the House,
He sits with those who there carouse
At your expense, and laughs to scorn
The slaves who for his use were born.
But though the task is hard, yet still,
I owe you much for your good will ;
Then come, together let us wing
Our upward flight, and boldly sing
The strains which from my Ups shall flow,
I love to pay whate'er I owe.



" To hell how easy the descent !
But to retrace your steps and to regain
The light of Heaven, alas, how difficult 1" — Yirgil.

Some orator hath lately said,
(And mark the speech each CopjDerhead,)
" Who martyrs out of rebels make,
Themselves are worthy of the stake,
And they shall have then* full deserts,
When Justice aU her rights asserts."

I grant, the government was wrong,
In giving color to a throng
Of traitors so sublimely small, —
(The merest insects after all,)
Of raising martyrs from theii- ranks ;
For this it scarce deserves our thanks,
Whilst bigger flies are left at large ;
The only answer to this charge
That I can urge in its excuse.
It turned the barnacles all loose,
That bored the timbers of the ship,
And caused them drop their murderous grip ;
And, hke Ithuriel's spear of yore,
It touched the toadies to the core.


And goaded them unmasked to spring,

At once to liglit and show then* sting.

Soon may it send each tory sham

Hence hell-ward with Yallandigham !
All this was well : for now we see

Much that was veiled in mystery :

We now behold the secret springs

That worked the puppets with their strings,

And are prepared to circumscribe

The "Golden Circle's" venal tribe,

The trappers in tlieii' net to mesh.

And try their flavor, lish or flesh ;

Or Avhether they be bird or beast :

No neutral bat adorns our feast.

Come forth from that same magic ring,

And let us view that precious thing

You call a neutral, we, a drone,

Or rebel traitor — both in one.

If any " neuter " should be here,

Now is his time, let him appear. (A nondescript Cop-
perhead comes forward, whom Scalpel addresses
thus :)
Behold this scalpel and this probe.

To prove your heart beneath that robe ;

And lo ! this stethescope to test

The inmost secrets of your breast,

Shrink not ! for if your heart be sound,

Nor rottenness therein be found,

And you be loyal, as you say,

No cause have you for such dismay :


If conscience tells you, you are right,
Why shun the test of truth and light?

Sir Copp —
I dread the dungeon !

Scalpel —

Be you true,
The dungeon was not made for you.

Sir Copp —
The " habeas corpus " is suspended,
And with it liberty is ended.

Scalpel- -
SusjDended ! yes, for those alone
"WhoVe made the rebel cause their own,
Who ought to be suspended too.
If every dog should get his due.
You shake your head and still demur,

Sir Copp —

But, then, "the proclamation, " sir,

Can you excuse or palliate

An act so dreadful, so ingrate ;

To rob three hundred thousand braves.

Of their best Samson locks, their slaves ?

Oh, Lincoln false ! we know thee now,

A perfect Delilah art thou.

To lull thy Samson, till the bands

Of Philistines tie down his hands:

Nor would it strike us with surprise.

If next you robbed him of his eyes ;

And then ! —

Scalpel —

What then?


Sir Copp —

Why, then, look out,
The temple falls your ears about
And sweeps! —

Scalpel —

How frightful, all at once,
Are those disasters you announce !
Like miracles exempt from laws,
Tliey mark effects without a cause.
The " proclamation ! " Why, 'twas fun
For you and yours, short time agone ;
A mastiff's bay against the moon,
The dish that scampered with the spoon,
With spoony grandam mounted on it.
Or the Pope's bull against the comet ;
A " brutum fulmen " w^hich, at best.
Was meant to scare, and not divest ;
And now, it has become at once
A stumbling block of great offense !
To dwell on this is poor pretext:
What grievance will you lug up next ?
What, none ! 'Tis well, then, bare your breast,
And yield to this unerring test.

Sir Copp —
Nay, stop one moment, let me ask
This question, then perform your task :
What right had Lincoln to suspend
The " habeas corpus," or to lend
His sanction to the violation
Of that great bulwark of the nation.


The constitution of the land,
Beneath whose aegis all should stand
On equal footing in the sight
Of God and law, their manhood's right?

Scalpel —

What ! Lincoln make a revolution,
And violate the constitution ;
The " habeas corpus " set aside,
That he might rule with regal pride !
What monstrous calumnies I hear !
What misconceptions strike mine ear !
Now, if in ignorance you stand,
A stranger in this glorious land,
Nor yet have learnt the scope and worth
Of Freedom, hear, I set them forth.
But, if corruption clouds your soul.
Which yom* own conscience should control,
Of which the truth shall soon appear.
Then tremble for your fate, but hear ;

So firmly have our fathers built
Fair Freedom's temple, that, save guilt,
No power the fabric can tear do^vn ;
And then what falls strikes those alone
Who draw its terrors on their head.
And none need suffer in their stead :
This truth is often dearly bought
By those who set its laws at nought.
And chiefly in the traitor's case,
For whom the temple keeps no place,

6 sm copp.

Save that whose dungeon walls secure
The good from him they cannot cure ;
Or whenoe the gallows gives release,
That those behind may dwell in peace.
The " habeas corpus " gives no hope,
The constitution gives a rope.
To these and such as these. Yet, " why "
You ask, " should such in dungeons lie ;
Why sink the power of men beneath,
Or suffei- ignominious death ?"

Because their own deliberate course
Draws on themselves the cross and curse ;
Be theirs the blame, and not on those
Who for our safety interpose
Betwixt the murderer and our life.
To save us from the fire or knife.
Then why should parricides go free,
The miu'derers of Liberty ?
Who with felonious hand would burn
The temple, and the sacred urn
Of him who to us did bequeath
The noblest gift the stars beneath?
Who Liberty and Washington
Betray, suspend all acts in one.
Nor needs there that, to suit such case,
A single stone should change its place ;
Since self-protection still dictates,
That thieves should be debarred its gates ;
And he who watcheth on the tower
Must never sleep in danger's hour ;


He would be recreant to his trust,
Did he admit the brood accurst.
What riglits have such Avithin the j^alc
Where Freedom and her sons prevail ?
One only right, and that is flat.
The right to wear a hemp cravat !

Now, are you answered? Don't you know
We all are masters here below ;
And chiefly in this land, to be
Just what we will, or slave or free ?
One truth is clear, the path of right
Will lead to joy, to peace, to light ;
The wrong as surely lead astray,
As gloomy night succeeds to day.
>To Lincoln for a single hour,
To blast our happiness has power,
Had he the will to do us wrong ;
The law protects both weak and strong ;
(Such is its object and its use.
When freed from partizan abuse ;)
But who transgresses laAV invokes
On his own head its righteous strokes,
And for his suflering, sin and shame,
Has no one but himself to blame.

I laugh at those whose purblind eyes
See all things in a strange disguise ;
Who teU us, that the President,
With his due powers not half content,
The constitution must suspend
That constitution to defend;


As if a man wlio is attacked,
Must first be all to pieces hacked,
And have his breath suspended too,
Before he anything can do,
To strike for hfe in self-defense ;
Or dare to use what common sense
Dictates, and every man concedes,
" Necessity all law exceeds ;"
And thus where danger is extreme.
Becomes itself the law supreme.

I ask, what kind of constitution
Were that, which fearing dissolution.
Assumes grotesque, protean shaj^es ;
Or, like a garter-snake, escapes,
By breaking into numerous links.
While each to its own dungeon slinks,
Until, the danger overpast.
Their fragments reunite at last ?
Such were a mockery, a sham,
The hope of freeborn souls to damn ;
A demon sent from hell's profound.
To taunt us with fair Freedom's sound.
Shall we not wield the rightful power
To crush our foe in danger's hour ;
To teach our enemies to feel
The virtue of our polished steel ;
Give to the dungeon, ball or knife.
All traitors who assail our life ;
While e'en the worm and snail inert
Gi-eat nature's privilege assert?


Lincoln, be steadfiist, undismayed ;
Make use of cannon, slave or blade,
Nay all the means within your reach,
To man the wall — defend the breach ;
And scourge the fierce, rebellious band,
With every weapon at command ;
Make no distinction ; smite alike
False friends and open foes who strike ;
Nor pause amidst the iron shower,
Your right is measured by your power ; *

But, copperhead, why do you writlie,
And gnaw, in vain, the mower's scythe ?
You hum and haw, at every pause,
And prate of violated laws ,
Of broken vows, " emancipation,"
And all the sufferings of the nation ;
Thus Satan writhes, while preachers lash him,
And for his doings soundly thrash him ;
While he, the injured innocent,
Indignant apes the holy saint !
Enough ! my speech has been in vain ,
Now bare that breast of yours again j
I will dissect it spite of fate,
Yom* prayers and groans are all too late ;
My friends, take hold : he squirms and twists
And with such energy resists.
That I — 'Tis well, you've got him fast.
And I have got my way at last !

But, ere I venture to dissect him.
My friends, I ask you to inspect him.


Behold his strange, abnormal shape,

Sometlung between a snake and ape ;

And mark his lank, distorted body

Clad in a garb of clouts and shoddy !

How like a legal malefactor,

Or loyal shoddyite contractor !

No difference can you detect,

Unless you narrowly inspect ;

And then it is but nominal ;

With both self-interest is all.

His phiz, you see, is almost human.

Save that his look is of a demon ;

His face is ever earthward bent.

As if on treasures there intent ;

His glance thence never turns astray

Towards sunny sky or milky way ;

His usual gait is on all fours,

Although his hands will open doors ;

You see they're hooked like vulture's claws,

To clutch the gold through chinks and flaws ;

No lock of treasury can bar

His entrance or his purpose mar ;

Whatever meets his greedy eyes,

He seizes as his lawful prize ;

Filches the gold from out its bed,

And " greenbacks " shuffles in its stead ;

(For he with caution still would steer,

And honest ever would appear ;)

And, with the gold thus basely gotten,

Sends arms to rebels for their cotton ;


And thus his honors cheaply wins,
His loyal cloak hides all his sins !

Friends, while small flies still feel our laws,
Shall big ones burst through rents and flaws.
And fall like Jove wdth golden shower,
To rob the iron-bolted tower ;
Shall we from whom the gold was taken.
Remain, like Israel's sons, unshaken
In our allegiance to the Devil,
Well knowing that his deeds are evil ?
Like them, but not so wise by half;
Theirs was a real golden-calf;
Whilst we, oh shame and sad disgrace !
Must of the calf assume the place ;
Not to be worshipped and caressed,
(That were too good for such a beast ; )
Xo, but to give our gold away,
And worship calves of brass and clay ;
Who still, the more that we adore.
Our gold and worship claim the more ;
And look more brazen than before !

Friends, while poor nameless wretches pine
In dungeon, or in dungeon-mine.
Whom cold and hunger led astray.
To filch a loaf upon their way ;
Friends, freemen, tell me, is it right,
That those foul fiends who love the night ;
Whose grov 'ling souls for mammon made
Incessant ply their thieving trade,


And on a large scale rob the State,

Whose misplaced faith had made them great I

])ase hirelings whose ingratitude

Uepays with evil every good;

Who, if they had then* just deserts,

Would pine at tail of penal carts,

And feel distained with felon's gore

The lash their sires had borne before ;

Say, should such wretches go scot-free,

Enjoy Heaven's light and liberty;

In mockery of earth and skies.

Blazon their shame before our eyes ;

Nay, be caressed as something great.

And models for youth to imitate ?

Oh God ! if this be liberty.

From such be our loved country free ;

And may a race less prone to serve

The demon, Plutus, rise with nerve,

And drive the grov'ling trash to hell,

A place most fit for such to dwell !

Thus only can our land become

Of brave and free the honored home ! *

Our land! oh may its boundless space
Be homes for men of Abraham's race ;
Men who are " Israelites indeed !"
God purge our troubled land with speed ;
Strike every grov'hng traitor dead.
And clear it of the copperhead ! "*

And you, ye watchdogs of the press,
Ye " friends of virtue in distress "


Who preach a homily each day
To wretches who have missed their way ;
And with yom* saws and cuttmg jokes
Direct at paupers all your strokes ;
Where are your homilies for those
Who every good on earth oppose ?
For those big sinners who oppress
Tlie poor and widow in distress !
Who fleece their laborers on Monday,
That they may saints appear next Sunday,
Wlien they are liberal with the gold
For which they have then- country sold ;
How comes it that you pass these by,
Or squint with retroverted eye
At their misdeeds, while still Vv^ith hate
The poor and weak you well berate ?

Hov/ comes it ? Answer, potent su-s !
Because you are but venal curs ;
The ]3urchased tools that despots use.
To gloze their crimes or them excuse ;
The creatures doomed to echo still
The dictates of your master's Avill ;
Prompt to obey the prompter's nod.
And worship Mammon as your god.

Oh Press, great pillar of the State,
lIo\Y deeply art thou fallen of late !
To what a gulf of degradation,
From such a height of power and station !
Your friends scarce recognize your face,
Whose traits betray your foul disgrace :


Should Franklin rise from out his grave,
He'd grieve to see thee such a slave ;
Should Faust or Gutenberg arise,
How painful were their deep surprise,
To find their giant hopes decline
To pigmy banthngs such as thine !
How grieved the Areopagite,*
Could he behold the sickening sight !
But why pursue this mournful tale ?
Repinmgs now of what avail !

Halt, muse ! If thus we rattle on.
When will our serious work be done ?
We've thrown away much indignation ;
Return we to our " demonstration."

His hinder parts from hot affray
Are made to bear him swift away ;
Or, if the hounds of law pursue.
He bounds like buck or kangaroo ;
Till, safe beyond the Atlantic wave
His carcass and his dross he save ;
He revels there like millionaire
Or nabob, for the vulgar stare.
Till, spurned by all good men Avith scorn,
He wishes he had ne'er been born.
And homeward turns in his vexation,
To find midst Copps some toleration.
A loyal tongue he sometimes wags.
But see those fangs and poison bags
That lie concealed beneath its root ;
Touch not or death will be the fruit.


But he our words will laugh to scorn,
Till from his face the mask is torn.
(Dissecting him,)

I rip him open ! lo, his heart
Is foul and black in every part !
A cancerous ulcer gnaweth there,
Defying the healer's skill and care ;
Now with this probe its depths I sound ;
Ila ! what is this that I have found ?
A yielding something not quite rotten ;
What can it be ? (Drawing it out on the point of his

probe,) A ball of cotton !

" Zounds !" you exclaim' " 'Tis very odd !"
Not so, for cotton was his god ;
His heart was in it. Do you start?
It formed the nucleus of his heart ;
And from the fire if he could save it.
Fame, party, Heaven itself, he'd brave it !

His scull is soft — his head is sore ; —
His brain is tainted to the core ;
And on his brain-case you may trace
A bump — the monarch of its race, —
Cobb-ativeness, so named from Cobb,
A bump that prompts to steal and rob ;
Another near to it allied
Takes name and function both from Floyd ;
Two more hardby may strike your fancy.
One named from Shdell, one from Yancey ;
And one there is — the Davis bump,
In function strange as huge in lump ;

16 SIR Corp.

It fills its owner's heart with fright,
And stamps hioi an Hermaphrodite !
And there are others quite congenial
Which serve to mark the serf and menial.
But, Fowler, I owe you an apologj^
I tramp on your coat tail. Phrenology.

His nerves are dead in every sense,
His breath is rank and gives oflense,
His flesh — I touch it with iny blade ;
Of such the flunkey tribe is made,
The patient tribe who ready stand
To execute their lord's command.
Instant, or in or out of season,
>Tor e'en presume to ask a reason ;
But do v,^hate'er their masters say,
As Pitt was served by Castlereagh ;
Or as that king, named George the Third,
"Was flunkeyed by his Tory herd,
Who Washington and Freedom spurned,
And well the name of Tory earned,
Which to them and their race shall cling.
While streams shall flow or grass shah spring.'

Nov/, Copperheads, in you I trace
These marks of that accursed race ;
The name of liberty you scorn.
Because you natural slaves are born :
Your love for despots you preserve.
Because you're made express to serve :
You worship pomp, and glare, and kings,
Because you are not men — but things ;


And wish for things in turn to do
The Uke, and eat tlie dirt for you !

Not merely on your brain and heart
Is branded slave ; on every part,
On every muscle^ joint and bone,
In every gesture, look and tone.
The flunkey Ave can hear and see.
Prepared to crook the supple knee
To Jeft', for whom it is your j^ride
To turn a traitor, parricide ;
Your country, duty, all forgot ;
And pray for this what have you got?
That just reward which you deserve,
As do all those that willing serve.
Who might command, the despot's scorn,
Who loathes you as base flunkeys born,
Whom having served his turn and pride.
With tools as base he flings aside !

Degenerate wretches ! by what claim

Dare you assert the freeman's name ?

You are no freemen ! no, not you ;

But bantlings of that motley crcAv,

The blight of Europe and its dross.

Once borne the Atlantic tide across,

By hostile winds and angry waves.

Vile scum, to shame true freemen's graves.

Whate'er the scourge or rope had spared.

What vice engendered, folly reared ;

Whatever monsters spring to life,

^Vhere foul disease and filth are rife ;


Where men of wild, (lisonlcred brain

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Online LibraryThomas ClarkeSir Copp. A poem for the times, in six cantos → online text (page 1 of 6)