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Leaves of Grass

20. By The Roadside
A BOSTON BALLAD [1854]
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?
Retreat then--pell-mell!
To your graves--back--back to the hills old limpers!
I do not think you belong here anyhow.
 
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