The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law

The Critical Response
Harriett Jay

Site Diary
Site Search

{Saint Abe and his Seven Wives 1872}






Sister Tabitha, thirty odd,
Rising up with a stare and a nod;
Sister Amelia, sleepy and mild,
Freckled, Dudu-ish, suckling a child;
Sister Fanny, pert and keen,
Sister Emily, solemn and lean,
Sister Mary, given to tears,
Sister Sarah, with wool in her ears;—
All appearing like tapers wan
In the mellow sunlight of Sister Anne.

With a tremulous wave of his hand, the Saint
Introduces the household quaint,


And sinks on a chair and looks around,                                               69
As the dresses rustle with snakish sound,
As curtsies are bobb’d, and eyes cast down
Some with a simper, some with a frown.
And Sister Anne, with a fluttering breast,
Stands trembling and peeping behind the rest.

Every face but one has been
Pretty, perchance, at the age of eighteen,
Pert and pretty, and plump and bright;
But now their fairness is faded quite,
And every feature is fashion’d here
To a flabby smile, or a snappish sneer.
Before the stranger they each assume
A false fine flutter and feeble bloom,
And a little colour comes into the cheek
When the eyes meet mine, as I sit and speak;
But there they sit and look at me,
Almost withering visibly,
And languidly tremble and try to blow—                                             70
Six pale roses all in a row!

Six? ah, yes; but at hand sits one,
The seventh, still full of the light of the sun.
Though her colour terribly comes and goes,
Now white as a lily, now red as a rose,
So sweet she is, and so full of light,
That the rose seems soft, and the lily bright.
Her large blue eyes, with a tender care,
Steal to her husband unaware,
And whenever he feels them he flushes red,
And the trembling hand goes up to his head!
Around those dove-like eyes appears
A redness as of recent tears.
Alone she sits in her youth’s fresh bloom
In a dark corner of the room,
And folds her hands, and does not stir,
And the others scarcely look at her,


But crowding together, as if by plan,                                                    71
Draw further and further from Sister Anne.

I try to rattle along in chat,
Talking freely of this and that—
The crops, the weather, the mother-land,
Talk a baby could understand;
And the faded roses, faint and meek,
Open their languid lips to speak,
But in various sharps and flats, all low,
Gave a lazy “yes” or a sleepy “no.”
Yet now and then Tabitha speaks,
Snapping her answer with yellow cheeks,
And fixing the Saint who is sitting by
With the fish-like glare of her glittering eye,
Whenever the looks of the weary man
Stray to the corner of Sister Anne.

Like a fountain in a shady place
Is the gleam of the sadly shining face—
A fresh spring whither the soul might turn,                                            72
When the road is rough, and the hot sands burn;
Like a fount, or a bird, or a blooming tree,
To a weary spirit is such as she!
And Brother Abe, from his easy chair,
Looks thither by stealth with an aching care,
And in spite of the dragons that guard the brink
Would stoop to the edge of the fount, I think,
And drink! and drink!

“Drink? Stuff and fiddlesticks,” you cry,
Matron reader with flashing eye:
“Isn’t the thing completely his,
His wife, his mistress, whatever you please?
Look at her! Dragons and fountains! Absurd!”
Madam, I bow to every word;
But truth is truth, and cannot fail,
And this is quite a veracious tale.


More like a couple of lovers shy,                                                        73
Who flush and flutter when folk are by,
Were man and wife, or (in another
And holier parlance) sister and brother.
As a man of the world I noticed it,
And it made me speculate a bit,
For the situation was to my mind
A phenomenon of a curious kind—
A person in love with his wife, ’twas clear,
But afraid, when another soul was near,
Of showing his feelings in any way
Because—there would be the Devil to pay!

The Saint has been a handsome fellow.
Clear-eyed, fresh-skinn’d, if a trifle yellow,
And his face, though somewhat soft and plain,
Ends in a towering mass of brain.

His locks, though still an abundant crop,
Are thinning a little at the top,
But you only notice here and there                                                       74
The straggling gleam of a silver hair.
A man by nature rolled round and short,
Meant for the Merry Andrew’s sport,
But sober’d down by the wear and tear
Of business troubles and household care:
Quiet, reticent, gentle, kind,
Of amorous heart and extensive mind,
A Saint devoid of saintly sham,
Is little Brother Abraham.

Brigham’s right hand he used to be—
Mild though he seems, and simple, and free;
Sound in the ways of the world, and great
In planning potent affairs of state;
Not bright, nor bumptious, you must know,
Too retiring for popular show,
But known to conceive on a startling scale
Gigantic plans that never fail;


To hold with a certain secret sense                                                      75
The Prophet under his influence,
To be, I am led to understand,
The Brain, while the Prophet is the Hand,
And to see his intellectual way
Thro’ moral dilemmas of every day,
By which the wisest are led astray.

Here’s the Philosopher!—here he sits,
Here, with his vaguely wandering wits,
Among the dragons, as I have said,
Smiling, and holding his hand to his head.
What mighty thoughts are gathering now
Behind that marble mass of brow?
What daring schemes of polity
To set the popular conscience free,
And bless humanity, planneth he?
His talk is idle, a surface-gleam,
The ripple on the rest of the stream,
But his thoughts—ah, his thoughts—where do they fly,                      76
While the wretched roses under his eye
Flutter and peep? and in what doth his plan
Turn to the counsel of Sister Anne?
For his eyes give ever a questioning look,
And the little one in her quiet nook
Flashes an answer, and back again
The question runs to the Brother’s brain,
And the lights of speculation flit
Over his face and trouble it.

Follow his eyes once more, and scan
The fair young features of Sister Anne:
Frank and innocent, and in sooth
Full of the first fair flush of youth.
Quite a child—nineteen years old;
Not gushing, and self-possessed, and bold,
Like our Yankee women at nineteen,
But low of voice, and mild of mien—


More like the fresh young fruit you see                                                77
In the mother-land across the sea—
More like that rosiest flower on earth,
A blooming maiden of English birth,
Such as we find them yet awhile
Scatter’d about the homely Isle,
Not yet entirely eaten away
By the canker-novel of the day,
Or curling up and losing their scent
In a poisonous dew from the Continent.

There she sits, in her quiet nook,
Still bright tho’ sadden’d; and while I look,
My heart is filled and my eyes are dim,
And I hate the Saint when I turn to him!
Ogre! Blue Beard! Oily and sly!
His meekness a cheat, his quiet a lie!
A roaring lion he’ll walk the house
Tho’ now he crouches like any mouse!
Had not he pluck’d enough and to spare
Of roses like these set fading there,
But he must seek to cajole and kiss                                                      78
Another yet, and a child like this?
A maid on the stalk, just panting to prove
The honest joy of a virgin love;
A girl, a baby, an innocent child,
To be caught by the first man’s face that smiled!
Scarce able the difference to fix
Of polygamy and politics!
Led to the altar like a lamb,
And sacrificed to the great god Sham!
Deluded, martyr’d, given to woe,
Last of seven who have perish’d so;
For who can say but the flowers I see
Were once as rosy and ripe as she?

Already the household worm has begun
To feed on the cheeks of the little one;
Already her spirit, fever-fraught,
Droops to the weight of its own thought;


Already she saddens and sinks and sighs,                                           79
Watched by the jealous dragonish eyes.
Even Amelia, sleepy and wan,
Sharpens her orbs as she looks at Anne;
While Sister Tabby, when she can spare
Her gaze from the Saint in his easy-chair,
Fixes her with a gorgon glare.

All is still and calm and polite,
The Sisters bolster themselves upright,
And try to smile, but the atmosphere
Is charged with thunder and lightning here.
Heavy it seems, and close and warm,
Like the air before a summer storm;
And at times,—as in that drowsy dream
Preluding thunder, all sounds will seem
Distinct and ominously clear,
And the far-off cocks seem crowing near;—
Ev’n so in the pauses of talk, each breast
Is strangely conscious of the rest,
And the tick of the watch of Abe the Saint                                           80
Breaks on the air, distinct though faint,
Like the ticking of his heart!
                                                         I rise
To depart, still glancing with piteous eyes
On Sister Anne; and I find her face
Turn’d questioning still to the same old place—
The face of the Saint. I stand and bow,
Curtsies again are bobbing now,
Dresses rustling . . . I know no more
Till the Saint has led me to the door,
And I find myself in a day-dream dim,
Just after shaking hands with him,
Standing and watching him sad and slow
Into the dainty dwelling go,
With a heavy sigh, and his hand to his head.

. . . Hark, distant thunder!—’tis as I said:
The air was far too close;—at length
The Storm is breaking in all its strength.







Along the streets they’re thronging, walking,
Clad gaily in their best and talking,
     Women and children, quite a crowd;
The bright sun overhead is blazing,
The people sweat, the dust they’re raising
     Arises like a golden cloud.
Still out of every door they scatter,
Laughing and light. Pray what’s the matter,
     That such a flock of folks I see?



They’re off to hear the Prophet patter,
     This yer’s a day of jubilee.



Come along, we’re late I reckon. . .
There’s our Matt, I see him beckon. . .
How d’ye do, marm? glad to meet you. . .
Silence, Hiram, or I’ll beat you. . .
Emm, there’s brother Jones a-looking. . .
Here’s warm weather, how I’m cooking!



Afar the hills arise with cone and column
Into a sky of brass serene and solemn;
And underneath their shadow in one haze
Of limpid heat the great salt waters blaze,
While faint and filmy through the sultry veil
The purple islands on their bosom sail


Like floating clouds of dark fantastic air.                                              83
How strangely sounds (while ’mid the Indian glare
Moves the gay crowd of people old and young)
The bird-like chirp of the old Saxon tongue!
The women seem half weary and half gay,
Their eyes droop in a melancholy way,—
I have not seen a merry face to-day.



Thet’s a smart hoss you’re riding, brother!
     How are things looking, down with you?



Not over bright with one nor ’tother,
     Taters are bad, tomatoes blue.
You’ve heer’d of Brother Simpson’s losses?—
     Buried his wife and spiled his hay.
And the three best of Hornby’s hosses
     Some Injin cuss has stol’n away.



Zoë, jest fix up my gown. . .
There’s my hair a-coming down. . .
Drat the babby, he’s so crusty—
It’s the heat as makes him thusty. . .
Come along, I’m almost sinking. . .
There’s a stranger, and he’s winking.



That was a fine girl with the grey-hair’d lady,
How shining were her eyes, how true and steady,
Not drooping down in guilty Mormon fashion,
But shooting at the soul their power and passion.
That’s a big fellow, six foot two, not under,
But how he struts, and looks as black as thunder,
Half glancing round at his poor sheep to scare ’em—
Six, seven, eight, nine,—O Abraham, what a harem!


All berry brown, but looking scared as may be,                                   85
And each one but the oldest with a baby.






                   Yes, Grace!



                                   Don’t seem to notice, dear,
That Yankee from the camp again is here,
Making such eyes, and following on the sly,
And coughing now and then to show he’s nigh.



Who’s that along with him—the little scamp
     Shaking his hair and nodding with a smile?



Guess he’s some new one just come down to camp.



Isn’t he handsome?



                                   No; the first’s my style!



If my good friends, the Saints, could get their will,
These Yankee officers would fare but ill;
Wherever they approach the folk retire,
As if from veritable coals of fire;
With distant bow, set lips, and half-hid frown,
The Bishops pass them in the blessed town;
The women come behind like trembling sheep,
Some freeze to ice, some blush and steal a peep.
And often, as a band of maidens gay
Comes up, each maid ceases to talk and play,
Droops down her eyes, and does not look their way;


But after passing where the youngsters pine,                                       87
All giggle as at one concerted sign,
And tripping on with half-hush’d merry cries,
Look boldly back with laughter in their eyes!



Here we are, . . how folk are pushing . . .
Mind the babby in the crushing. . .
Pheemy! . . Yes, John! . . Don’t go staring
At that Yankee—it’s past bearing.
Draw your veil down while he passes,
Reckon you’re as bold as brass is.



[Passing with his hand to his head, attended by his Wives.]

Head in a whirl, and heart in a flutter,
Guess I don’t know the half that I utter.
Too much of this life is beginning to try me,                                          88
I’m like a dern’d miller the grind always nigh me;
Praying don’t soothe me nor comfort me any,
My house is too full and my blessings too many—
The ways o’ the wilderness puzzle me greatly.



Do walk like a Christian, and keep kind o’ stately!
And jest keep an eye on those persons behind you,
You call ’em your Wives, but they tease you and blind yon;
Sister Anne’s a disgrace, tho’ you think her a martyr,
And she’s tuck’d up her petticoat nigh to her garter.




What group is this, begrim’d with dust and heat,
Staring like strangers in the open street?
The women, ragged, wretched, and half dead,
Sit on the kerbstone hot and hang the head,
And clustering at their side stand children brown,
Weary, with wondering eyes on the fair town.
Close by in knots beside the unhorsed team
The sunburn’d men stand talking in a dream,
For the vast tracts of country left behind
Seem now a haunting mirage in the mind.
Gaunt miners folding hands upon their breasts,
     Big-jointed labourers looking ox-like down,
And sickly artizans with narrow chests
     Still pallid from the smoke of English town.
Hard by to these a group of Teutons stand,
Light hair’d, blue-eyed, still full of Fatherland,
With water-loving Northmen, who grow gay                                       90
To see the mimic sea gleam far away.
Now to this group, with a sharp questioning face,
Cometh a holy magnate of the place
In decent black; shakes hands with some; and then
Begins an eager converse with the men:
All brighten; even the children hush their cries,
And the pale women smile with sparkling eyes.



The Prophet welcomes you, and sends
His message by my mouth, my friends;
He’ll see you snug, for on this shore
There’s heaps of room for millions more! . .
Scotchman, I take it? . . Ah, I know
Glasgow—was there a year or so. . .
And if you don’t from Yorkshire hail,
I’ll—ah, I thought so; seldom fail.


Make yourselves snug and rest a spell,                                               91
There’s liquor coming—meat as well.
All welcome! We keep open door—
Ah, we don’t push away the poor;
Tho’ he’s a fool, you understand,
Who keeps poor long in this here land.
The land of honey you behold—
Honey and milk—silver and gold!



Ah, that’s the style—Bess, just you hear it;
Come, come, old gal, keep up your spirit:
Silver and gold, and milk and honey,
This is the country for our money!



Es lebe die Stadt! es lebe dran!
Das heilige Leben steht mir an!



Taler du norske?



[Shaking his head, and turning with a wink to the English.]

                                   No, not me!
Saxon’s the language of the free:
The language of the great Evangels!
The language of the Saints and Angels!
The only speech that Joseph knew!
The speech of him and Brigham too!
Only the speech by which we’ve thriven
Is comprehended up in Heaven! . .
Poor heathens! but we’ll make ’em spry,
They’ll talk like Christians by and by.



[Strolling out of the streets.]

From east, from west, from every worn-out land,
Yearly they stream to swell this busy band.


Out of the fever’d famine of the slums,                                                93
From sickness, shame, and sorrow, Lazarus comes,
Drags his sore limbs o’er half the world and sea,
Seeking for freedom and felicity.
The sewer of ignorance and shame and loss,
Draining old Europe of its dirt and dross,
Grows the great City by the will of God;
While wondrously out of the desert sod,
Nourished with lives unclean and weary hearts,
The new faith like a splendid weed upstarts.
A splendid weed! rather a fair wild-flower,
Strange to the eye in its first birth of power,
But bearing surely in its breast the seeds
Of higher issues and diviner deeds.
Changed from Sahara to a fruitful vale
Fairer than ever grew in fairy tale,
Transmuted into plenteous field and glade
By the slow magic of the white man’s spade,
Grows Deseret, filling its mighty nest
Between the eastern mountains and the west,
While—who goes there? What shape antique looks down                    94
From this green mound upon the festive town,
With tall majestic figure darkly set
Against the sky in dusky silhouette?
Strange his attire: a blanket edged with red
Wrapt royally around him; on his head
A battered hat of the strange modern sort
Which men have christened “chimney pots” in sport;
Mocassins on his feet, fur-fringed and grand,
And a large green umbrella in his hand.
Pensive he stands with deep-lined dreamy face,
Last living remnant of the mighty race
Who on these hunting-fields for many a year
Chased the wild buflalo, and elk, and deer.
Heaven help him! In his mien grief and despair
Seem to contend, as he stands musing there;
Until he notices that I am nigh,
And lo! with outstretched hands and glistening eye


Swift he descends—Does he mean mischief? No;                               95
He smiles and beckons as I turn to go.



Me Medicine Crow. White man gib drink to me.
Great chief; much squaw; papoose, sah, one, two, three!



With what a leer, half wheedling and half winking,
The lost one imitates the act of drinking;
His nose already, to his woe and shame,
Carbuncled with the white man’s liquid flame!
Well, I pull out my flask, and fill a cup
Of burning rum—how quick he gulps it up;
And in a moment in his trembling grip
Thrusts out the cup for more with thirsty lip.
But no!—already drunken past a doubt,                                              96
Degenerate nomad of the plains, get out!

[A railway whistle sounds in the far distance.]

Fire-hearted Demon tamed to human hand,
Rushing with smoky breath from land to land,
Screaming aloud to scare with rage and wrath
Primæval ignorance before his path,
Dragging behind him as he runs along
His lilliputian masters, pale and strong,
With melancholy sound for plain and hill
Man’s last Familiar Spirit whistles shrill.

Poor devil of the plains, now spent and frail,
Hovering wildly on the fatal trail,
Pass on!—there lies thy way and thine abode,
Get out of Jonathan thy master’s road.
Where? anywhere!—he’s not particular where,
So that you clear the road, he does not care;


Off, quick! clear out! ay, drink your fill and die;                                  97
And, since the Earth rejects you, try the Sky!
And see if He, who sent your white-faced brother
To hound and drive you from this world you bother,
Can find a corner for you in another!






Sisters and brothers who love the right,
     Saints whose hearts are divinely beating,
Children rejoicing in the light,
     I reckon this is a pleasant meeting.
Where’s the face with a look of grief?—
     Jehovah’s with us and leads the battle;
We’ve had a harvest beyond belief,
     And the signs of fever have left the cattle;
All still blesses the holy life
     Here in the land of milk and honey.




Brother Shuttleworth’s seventeenth wife, . .
     Her with the heer brushed up so funny!



Out of Egypt hither we flew,
     Through the desert and rocky places;
The people murmur’d, and all look’d blue,
     The bones of the martyr’d filled our traces.
Mountain and valley we crawl’d along,
     And every morning our hearts beat quicker.
Our flesh was weak, but our souls were strong,
     And we’d managed to carry some kegs of liquor.
At last we halted on yonder height,
     Just as the sun in the west was blinking.



Isn’t Jedge Hawkins’s last a fright? . . .
     I’m suttin that Brother Abe’s been drinking!



That night, my lambs, in a wondrous dream,
     I saw the gushing of many fountains;
Soon as the morning began to beam,
     Down we went from yonder mountains,
Found the water just where I thought,
     Fresh and good, though a trifle gritty,
Pitch’d our tents in the plain, and wrought
     The site and plan of the Holy City.
“Pioneers of the blest,” I cried,
     “Dig, and the Lord will bless each spadeful.”



Brigham’s sealed to another Bride. . . .
     How worn he’s gittin’! he’s aging dreadful.




This is a tale so often told,
     The theme of every eventful meeting;
Yes! you may smile and think it old;
     But yet it’s a tale that will bear repeating.
That’s how the City of Light began,
     That’s how we founded the saintly nation,
All by the spade and the arm of man,
     And the aid of a special dispensation.
“Work” was the word when we begun,
     “Work” is the word now we have plenty.



Heard about Sister Euphemia’s son? . .
     Sealing already, though only twenty!



I say just now what I used to say,
     Though it moves the heathens to mock and laughter,
From work to prayer is the proper way—                                           102
     Labour first, and Religion after.
Let a big man, strong in body and limb,
     Come here inquiring about his Maker,
This is the question I put to him,
     “Can you grow a cabbage, or reap an acre?”
What’s the soul but a flower sublime
     Grown in the earth and upspringing surely?



Oh, yes! she’s had a most dreadful time!
     Twins, both thriving, though she’s so poorly.



Beauty, my friends, is the crown of life,
     To the young and foolish seldom granted;
After a youth of honest strife
     Comes the reward for which you’ve panted.


O blessed sight beyond compare,                                                      103
     When life with its halo of light is rounded,
To see a Saint with reverend hair
     Sitting like Solomon love-surrounded!
One at his feet and one on his knee,
     Others around him, blue-eyed and dreamy!



All very well, but as for me,
     My man had better!—I’d pison him, Pheemy!



There in the gate of Paradise
     The Saint is sitting serene and hoary,
Tendrils of arms, and blossoms of eyes,
     Festoon him round in his place of glory;
Little cherubs float thick as bees
     Round about him, and murmur “father!”
The sun shines bright and he sits at ease,                                             104
     Fruit all round for his hand to gather.
Blessed is he and for ever gay,
     Floating to Heaven and adding to it!



Thought I should have gone mad that day
     He brought a second; I made him rue it!



Sisters and Brothers by love made wise,
     Remember, when Satan attempts to quell you,
If this here Earth isn’t Paradise
     You’ll never see it, and so I tell you.
Dig and drain, and harrow and sow,
     God will bless you beyond all measure;
Labour, and meet with reward below,
     For what is the end of all labour? Pleasure!


Labour’s the vine, and pleasure’s the grape,                                       105
     The one delighting, the other bearing.



Higginson’s third is losing her shape.
     She hes too many—it’s dreadful wearing.



But I hear some awakening spirit cry,
     “Labour is labour, and all men know it;
But what is pleasure?” and I reply,
     Grace abounding and Wives to show it!
Holy is he beyond compare
     Who tills his acres and takes his blessing,
Who sees around him everywhere
     Sisters soothing and babes caressing.
And his delight is Heaven’s as well,
     For swells he not the ranks of the chosen?



Martha is growing a handsome gel. . .
     Three at a birth?—that makes the dozen.



Learning’s a shadow, and books a jest,
     One Book’s a Light, but the rest are human.
The kind of study that I think best
     Is the use of a spade and the love of a woman.
Here and yonder, in heaven and earth,
     By big Salt Lake and by Eden river,
The finest sight is a man of worth,
     Never tired of increasing his quiver.
He sits in the light of perfect grace
     With a dozen cradles going together!



The babby's growing black in the face!
     Carry him out—it’s the heat of the weather!




A faithful vine at the door of the Lord,
     A shining flower in the garden of spirits,
A lute whose strings are of sweet accord,
     Such is the person of saintly merits.
Sisters and brothers, behold and strive
     Up to the level of his perfection;
Sow, and harrow, and dig, and thrive,
     Increase according to God’s direction.
This is the Happy Land, no doubt,
     Where each may flourish in his vocation. . .
Brother Bantam will now give out
     The hymn of love and of jubilation.






Deep and wise beyond expression
Sat the Prophet holding session,
And his Elders, round him sitting
With a gravity befitting,
Never rash and never fiery,
Chew’d the cud of each inquiry,
Weigh’d each question and discussed it,
Sought to settle and adjust it,
Till, with sudden indication
Of a gush of inspiration,
The grave Prophet from their middle
Gave the answer to their riddle,


And the lesser lights all holy,                                                                109
Round the Lamp revolving slowly,
Thought, with eyes and lips asunder,
Right, we reckon he’s a wonder!”

Whether Boyes, that blessed brother,
Should be sealed unto another,
Having, tho’ a Saint most steady,
Very many wives already?
Whether it was held improper,
If a woman drank, to drop her?
Whether unto Brother Fleming
Formal praise would be beseeming,
Since from three or four potatoes
(Not much bigger than his great toes)
He’d extracted, to their wonder,
Four stone six and nothing under?
Whether Bigg be reprimanded
For his conduct underhanded,
Since he’d packed his prettiest daughter                                             110
To a heathen o’er the water?
How, now Thompson had departed,
His poor widows, broken-hearted,
Should be settled? They were seven,
Sweet as cherubs up in heaven;
Three were handsome, young, and pleasant,
And had offers on at present—
Must they take them? . . These and other
Questions proffer’d by each brother,
The great Prophet ever gracious,
Free and easy, and sagacious,
Answer’d after meditation
With sublime deliberation;
And his answers were so clever
Each one whisper’d, “Well I never!”
And the lesser lights all holy,
Round the Prophet turning slowly,
Raised their reverend heads and hoary,
Thinking, “To the Prophet, glory!


Hallelujah, veneration,                                                                        111
Reckon that he licks creation!”

Suddenly as they sat gleaming,
On them came an unbeseeming
Murmur, tumult, and commotion,
Like the breaking of the ocean;
And before a word was utter’d,
In rush’d one with voice that fluttered,
Arms uplifted, face the colour
Of a bran-new Yankee dollar,
Like a man whose wits are addled,
Crying—“Brother Abe’s skedaddled!

Then those Elders fearful-hearted
Raised a loud cry and upstarted,
But the Prophet, never rising,
Said, “Be calm! this row’s surprising!”
And as each Saint sank unsinew’d
In his arm-chair he continued:
“Goodman Jones, your cheeks are yellow,                                          112
Tell thy tale, and do not bellow!
What’s the reason of your crying—
Is our brother dead?—or dying?

As the Prophet spake, supremely
Hushing all the strife unseemly,
Sudden in the room there entered
Shapes on whom all eyes were centred—
Six sad female figures moaning,
Trembling, weeping, and intoning,
“We are widows broken-hearted—
Abraham Clewson has departed!”

While the Saints again upleaping
Joined their voices to the weeping,
For a moment the great Prophet
Trembled, and look’d dark as Tophet.
But the cloud pass’d over lightly.
“Cease!” he cried, but sniffled slightly,


“Cease this murmur and be quiet—                                                     113
Dead men won’t awake with riot.
’Tis indeed a loss stupendous—
When will Heaven his equal send us?
Speak, then, of our brother cherish’d,
Was it fits by which he perish’d?
Or did Death come even quicker,
Thro’ a bolting horse or kicker?”

At the Prophet’s question scowling,
All the Wives stood moaning, howling,
Crying wildly in a fever,
“O the villain! the deceiver!”
But the oldest stepping boldly,
Curtseying to the Session coldly,
Cried in voice like cracking thunder,
“Prophet, don’t you make a blunder!
Abraham Clewson isn’t dying—
Hasn’t died, as you’re implying;
No! he’s not the man, my brothers,                                                     114
To die decently like others!
Worse! he’s from your cause revolted—
Run away! ske-daddled! bolted!”

Bolted! run away! skedaddled!
Like to men whose wits are addled,
Echoed all those Lights so holy,
Round the Prophet shining slowly
And the Prophet, undissembling,
Underneath the blow sat trembling,
While the perspiration hovered
On his forehead, and he covered
With one trembling hand his features
From the gaze of smaller creatures.
Then at last the high and gifted
Cough’d and craved, with hands uplifted,
Silence. When ’twas given duly,
“This,” said he, “ ’s a crusher truly!


Brother Clewson fall’n from glory!                                                     115
I can scarce believe your story.
O my Saints, each in his station,
Join in prayer and meditation!”

Covering up each eyelid saintly
With a finger-tip, prayed faintly,
Shining in the church’s centre,
Their great Prophet, Lamp, and Mentor;
And the lesser Lights all holy,
Round the Lamp revolving slowly,
Each upon his seat there sitting,
With a gravity befitting,
Bowed their reverend heads and hoary,
Saying, “To the Prophet glory!
Hallelujah, veneration!
Reckon that he licks creation!”

Lastly, when the trance was ended,
And, with face where sorrow blended
Into pity and compassion,                                                                  116
Shone the Light in common fashion;
Forth the Brother stept who brought them
First the news which had distraught them,
And, while stood the Widows weeping,
Gave into the Prophet’s keeping
A seal’d paper, which the latter
Read, as if ’twere solemn matter—
Gravely pursing lips and nodding,
While they watch’d in dark foreboding,
Till at last, with voice that quivered,
He these woeful words delivered:—

“Sisters, calm your hearts unruly,
’Tis an awful business truly;
Weeping now will save him never,
He’s as good as lost for ever;
Yes, I say with grief unspoken,
Jest a pane crack’d, smash’d, and broken


In the windows of the Temple—                                                        117
Crack’d ’s the word—so take example!
Had he left ye one and all here
On our holy help to call here,
Fled alone from every fetter,
I could comprehend it better!
Flying, not with some strange lady,
But with her he had already,
With his own seal’d Wife eloping—
It’s a case of craze past hoping!
List, O Saints, each in his station,
To the idiot’s explanation!”

Then, while now and then the holy
Broke the tale of melancholy
With a grunt contempt expressing,
And the Widows made distressing
Murmurs of recrimination
Here and there in the narration,
The great Prophet in affliction
Read this awful Valediction!



St. Abe and His Seven Wives continued

or back to St. Abe and His Seven Wives - Contents








The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


Site Diary
Site Search