A Campaign Song by James Patton Taylor
The other day there came a horse
To town I thought deserved a verse;
A mountain plug of ancient days,
Inured to fortunes devious ways,
A lop-eared, gaunt, flea-bitten gray,
A stranger born to oats and hay,
As his bare ribs will testify
To every curious passerby.
From North Carolina's wilds he hails,
Where oft the one "whangdoodle wails"-
Wails ever he with hope forlorn-
Mourns that poor whang for his first born.
Ah! how could I suppress a sigh,
As he painfully labored by,
Collared with shucks, with ropes for gear,
A pair of oxen in his rear;
While o'er the tiresome steeps they wind,
An apple wagon creeps behind.
He'd lived a long laborious life,
'Mid this world's discord and strife,
Where whips and fists and clubs and stones
Waged mortal war on flesh and bones;
Where savage man beats and abuses
With cruel blows, cuffs and bruises
Thick rained on his devoted head,
Alas! more oft than he was fed.
If you'd seen those ghastly scars,
The fleshy records of his jars,
You'd thought that he had waded through
The crimson stream of Waterloo-
You'd thought that he had spent his days
'Mid storms of war and battle blaze,
Where cannons boom and muskets rattle
Along the sulphurous line of battle,
Where banners stream and sabers flash,
And squadron upon squadron clash.
With a yew neck, a hammer head,
A knife blade back all sore and red,
With one eye out, the other blind,
He racks before and trots behind,
While all his legs convolving wind,
And all his hoofs the gravel grind.
His slender ribs bulged out each way,
To give his back a gentle sway.
His tail was docked, his mane was thin,
His hide held naught but bone within.
From colt-hood's day the'd called him SNIP,
Loose hung his parting under lip,
As in meditative mood,
Absorbed in thought, he mutely stood.
But death has marked him for his own-
This he must meet alone,
And cross old Jordan's icy river
To graze in happier fields forever.
All life's troubles will be o'er;
He'll fall asleep to wake no more:
Then shall the buzzards justly claim
A banquet on his fleshless frame.
Note: According to the papers of Franklin D. Love, as edited by Dennis Partridge, this poem is by my great-grandfather, James P. Taylor. Love writes that it was intended to be sung to the tune of "The Old Tariff Mule" during the presidential campaign of 1896, when the Democratic nominee William Jennings Bryan delivered his famous Free Silver speech. It seems plausible that J. P. Taylor wrote this poem to suggest that the gold standard favored by McKinley and the Republican Party was a "fleshless frame" and should be allowed to "fall asleep to wake no more." Alas, McKinley won. James's son Baxter (my grandfather, who also wrote verse) must have been inspired by Bryan's populism, however. He served as an elector for William Jennings Bryan, likely in the campaign of 1900. Bryan ran three times for president, in 1896, 1900, and 1908, and served as Woodrow Wilson's Secretary of State; his heart gave out at the end of the famous "monkey trial" in Cleveland, Tennessee.