Bread! Bread! Bread!

There’s a little of teaching yet
In the measures of the clown,
Who dug for gold in his cellar mould,
‘Till he dug his whole house down.
And a lesson left below,
By the gentleman in the tree,
Who severed the limb that seated him
And was punished—accordingly.
There’s reason, and may be room
In seasons of much misrule,
For an “iron hand,” to purge the land
Of a somewhat similar fool !
No Congressman, I name;
No man of meaner wares;
Though it is a shame, if a nation’s claim
To life, be less than theirs!
But I mean your “cotton-head,”
Mole-blind to all but pelf,
With a root to gnaw, and a limb to saw,
And a crash to cripple himself.
Digging for cotton bales,
While the nation cries for bread!
Digging dirt for a Nessus shirt
To scorch him, heel to head.
Sighing for cotton bales,
With the hand of God outspread
To smite him first, whom Folly nursed
For Famine to leave unfed.
Oh! Cromwell! with a kick;
Oh! Cromwell! with a curse;
Larrup the knaves who’d dig our graves
For half the wages of famished slaves,
Out of the Universe!
Reader, accept my rhyme;
So be thy soul of cheer,
Fro the early and the summer dew,
‘Till the latter rains appear;
From the tender blade, ‘till the corn is laid
By, in the bursting ear;
‘Till a harvest won by a wide “Well Done”
With LIBERTY, crowns the year.

Title:Bread! Bread! Bread!


Publication:Charleston Mercury

Published in:

Date:April 8th 1862

Keywords:hunger, politics


With a title that might have been written at the same time across the Atlantic, this bitter satirical poem written by an unknown author and published in the Charleston Mercury reminds us that famine caused by the collapse of the cotton trade during the American Civil War was not confined to Europe. Indeed, this poem castigates cotton growers for not switching to food crops in order to feed the southern population. The cry of ‘Cromwell’ obviously refers to the instigation of civil war by the Confederacy, and the imagery in the early stanzas of the man sawing through the bough he is sitting on indicates that this writer, even if they might be sympathetic to the cause, believes that the methods are erroneous. – SR