A Boston Ballad
by Walt Whitman
from Leaves of Grass, 1871
To get betimes in Boston town I rose this morning early,
Here’s a good place at the corner, I must stand and see the show.
Clear the way there Jonathan!
Way for the President’s marshal—way for the government cannon!
Way for the Federal foot and dragoons, (and the apparitions copiously tumbling.)
I love to look on the Stars and Stripes, I hope the fifes will play Yankee Doodle.
How bright shine the cutlasses of the foremost troops!
Every man holds his revolver, marching stiff through Boston town.
A fog follows, antiques of the same come limping,
Some appear wooden-legged, and some appear bandaged and bloodless.
Why this is indeed a show—it has called the dead out of the earth!
The old graveyards of the hills have hurried to see!
Phantoms! phantoms countless by flank and rear!
Cock’d hats of mothy mould—crutches made of mist!
Arms in slings—old men leaning on young men’s shoulders.
What troubles you Yankee phantoms? what is all this chattering of bare gums?
Does the ague convulse your limbs? do you mistake your crutches for firelocks and level them?
If you blind your eyes with tears you will not see the President’s marshal,
If you groan such groans you might balk the government cannon.
For shame old maniacs—bring down those toss’d arms, and let your white hair be,
Here gape your great grandsons, their wives gaze at them from the windows,
See how well dress’d, see how orderly they conduct themselves.
Worse and worse—can’t you stand it? are you retreating?
Is this hour with the living too dead for you?
To your graves—back—back to the hills old limpers!
I do not think you belong here anyhow.
But there is one thing that belongs here—shall I tell you what it is, gentlemen of Boston?
I will whisper it to the Mayor, he shall send a committee to England,
They shall get a grant from the Parliament, go with a cart to the royal vault,
Dig out King George’s coffin, unwrap him quick from the graveclothes, box up his bones for a journey,
Find a swift Yankee clipper—here is freight for you, black-bellied clipper,
Up with your anchor—shake out your sails—steer straight toward Boston bay.
Now call for the President’s marshal again, bring out the government cannon,
Fetch home the roarers from Congress, make another procession, guard it with foot and dragoons.
This centre-piece for them;
Look, all orderly citizens—look from the windows, women!
The committee open the box, set up the regal ribs, glue those that will not stay,
Clap the skull on top of the ribs, and clap a crown on top of the skull.
You have got your revenge, old buster—the crown is come to its own, and more than its own.
Stick your hands in your pockets, Jonathan—you are a made man from this day,
You are mighty cute—and here is one of your bargains.
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