"Enough To Make A Deacon Swear"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: This poem, written in the New England dialect, ostensibly by "Squire Biglow," is a commentary on the famous Mason and Slidell incident of the recent Civil War, with a "frame" letter from Homer Wilber, A. M., a fictional person who supposedly forwards the poem from the little town of Jaalam, in Middlesex County, to the editors of the Atlantic Monthly, in Boston. Mason and Slidell, appointed by Jefferson Davis as diplomatic representatives of the Confederacy at London and Paris, respectively, had been seized from a British steamer by an American war vessel; this act was of the kind the United States had objected to when England had committed it against Americans prior to the War of 1812. Lowell has Squire Biglow begin by telling how he likes to take a walk in the evening, after the chores are done, "to shake the kinkles out o' back and legs." On one such walk, "round the whale's-back o' Prospect Hill," the squire begins a reverie in which he seems to hear the Concord Bridge, site of the famous battle in the American Revolution, talking to the monument at Bunker Hill. The bridge, noting that the ghosts of the dead British soldiers buried nearby have been restless in the previous night, asks the Bunker Hill monument what is bothering the long-dead men. The monument says it is Mason and Slidell, the men Captain Wilkes took off the "Trent." The bridge replies that it hopes the authorities have not hanged the two and thus made "a goose a swan." The monument tells the bridge that the English want the release of the two men sent by the Confederacy, to which the bridge replies, thinking the United States has been insulted:

Hev they? Wal, by heaven,
Thet's the wust news I've heered sence Seventy-seven!
By George, I meant to say, though I declare
It's 'most enough to make a deacon swear.