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1865 Washington, D.C. Celebration by the Colored People's Educational Monument Association in Memory of Abraham Lincoln


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The corn and oats, that man and horse demand,

He brings not from these fields of pine and sand.

Not long ago, I passed this region o’er,

My journey lay along Potomac’s shore,

As the broad-bosomed river gently sweeps,

Near where the Father of his Country sleeps.

Riding along the rough highway, and thinking,

I know not what—as Horace says*— a clinking

I heard among the stones, on the hillside.

I checked my horse, and looking up, espied

Some negro laborers hoeing with their hoes,

Digging small holes, in equidistant rows,

And burying something in them. So I cried

‘What are you doing there?’ A slave replied—

‘We’re planting corn, sir, in these gravel beds.’

‘What plant ye with it?’ Answer, ‘Herring heads.’

‘Why plant ye herring heads with corn?’ said I.

‘To make the corn come up,’ was the reply.

Again I asked, ‘How many heads do you

Plant, to each grain of corn?’ He answered, ‘Two.’

‘Well, how high grows it, thus manured, I beg?’

‘About so high,’ measuring upon his leg !”

Mother of Presidents, once haughty land,

Behold thy portrait by a master’s hand !

One artist more depicts thy state forlorn:

Native is he, and “to the manner born.”

His handiwork may fascinate thine eyes;

High-born is he, and nominally Wise.

Stumping the State its highest chair to gain,

And, history tells us, stumping not in vain,

This limner, true to nature, thus bewails

His mother’s fate: “Commerce her fickle sails

Long since has spread and sailed from you away;

Plowing no more the bosom of your bay;

Your coal mines, richer than are mines of gold,

Remain undug, till your own hearths are cold.

Your iron foundries wait impatient for

Trip-hammer, such as Vulcan wields, or Thor.

Nor of your coarsest cotton, do you spin

Enough to hide your negroes’ naked skin.

Of commerce, manufacturers, arts, bereft,

Nought, but the culture of your ground, is left.

  • Nescio quid meditana.—Hor.

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