To-day I strayed in Charing Cross as wretched as could be
With thinking of my home and friends across the tumbling sea;
There was no water in my eyes, but my spirits were depressed
And my heart lay like a sodden, soggy doughnut in my breast.
This way and that streamed multitudes, that gayly passed me by--
Not one in all the crowd knew me and not a one knew I!
'Oh, for a touch of home!' I sighed; 'oh, for a friendly face!
Oh, for a hearty handclasp in this teeming desert place!'
And so, soliloquizing as a homesick creature will,
Incontinent, I wandered down the noisy, bustling hill
And drifted, automatic-like and vaguely, into Lowe's,
Where Fortune had in store a panacea for my woes.
The register was open, and there dawned upon my sight
A name that filled and thrilled me with a cyclone of delight--
The name that I shall venerate unto my dying day--
The proud, immortal signature: 'John Smith, U.S.A.'
Wildly I clutched the register and brooded on that name--
I knew John Smith, yet could not well identify the same.
I knew him North, I knew him South, I knew him East and West--
I knew him all so well I knew not which I knew the best.
His eyes, I recollect, were gray, and black, and brown, and blue,
And, when he was not bald, his hair was of chameleon hue;
Lean, fat, tall, short, rich, poor, grave, gay, a blonde and a brunette--
Aha, amid this London fog, John Smith, I see you yet;
I see you yet, and yet the sight is all so blurred I seem
To see you in composite, or as in a waking dream,
Which are you, John? I'd like to know, that I might weave a rhyme
Appropriate to your character, your politics and clime;
So tell me, were you 'raised' or 'reared'--your pedigree confess
In some such treacherous ism as 'I reckon' or 'I guess';
Let fall your tell-tale dialect, that instantly I may
Identify my countryman, 'John Smith, U.S.A.'
It's like as not you are the John that lived a spell ago
Down East, where codfish, beans 'nd bona-fide school-marms grow;
Where the dear old homestead nestles like among the Hampshire hills
And where the robin hops about the cherry boughs and trills;
Where Hubbard squash 'nd huckleberries grow to powerful size,
And everything is orthodox from preachers down to pies;
Where the red-wing blackbirds swing 'nd call beside the pickril pond,
And the crows air cawin' in the pines uv the pasture lot beyond;
Where folks complain uv bein' poor, because their money's lent
Out West on farms 'nd railroads at the rate uv ten per cent;
Where we ust to spark the Baker girls a-comin' home from choir,
Or a-settin' namin' apples round the roarin' kitchen fire:
Where we had to go to meetin' at least three times a week,
And our mothers learnt us good religious Dr. Watts to speak,
And where our grandmas sleep their sleep--God rest their souls, I say!
And God bless yours, ef you're that John, 'John Smith, U.S.A.'
Or, mebbe, Colonel Smith, yo' are the gentleman I know
In the country whar the finest democrats 'nd horses grow;
Whar the ladies are all beautiful an' whar the crap of cawn
Is utilized for Bourbon and true dawters are bawn;
You've ren for jedge, and killed yore man, and bet on Proctor Knott--
Yore heart is full of chivalry, yore skin is full of shot;
And I disremember whar I've met with gentlemen so true
As yo' all in Kaintucky, whar blood an' grass are blue;
Whar a niggah with a ballot is the signal fo' a fight,
Whar a yaller dawg pursues the coon throughout the bammy night;
Whar blooms the furtive 'possum--pride an' glory of the South--
And Aunty makes a hoe-cake, sah, that melts within yo' mouth!
Whar, all night long, the mockin'-birds are warblin' in the trees
And black-eyed Susans nod and blink at every passing breeze,
Whar in a hallowed soil repose the ashes of our Clay--
Hyar's lookin' at yo', Colonel 'John Smith, U.S.A.'!
Or wuz you that John Smith I knew out yonder in the West--
That part of our republic I shall always love the best?
Wuz you him that went prospectin' in the spring of sixty-nine
In the Red Hoss mountain country for the Gosh-All-Hemlock Mine?
Oh, how I'd like to clasp your hand an' set down by your side
And talk about the good old days beyond the big divide;
Of the rackaboar, the snaix, the bear, the Rocky Mountain goat,
Of the conversazzhyony 'nd of Casey's tabble-dote,
And a word of them old pardners that stood by us long ago
(Three-Fingered Hoover, Sorry Tom and Parson Jim, you know)!
Old times, old friends, John Smith, would make our hearts beat high again,
And we'd see the snow-top mountain like we used to see 'em then;
The magpies would go flutterin' like strange sperrits to 'nd fro
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