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An Ode In Time of Inauguration

Franklin P. Adams 1881 (Chicago, Illinois) – 1960 (New York City, New York)



(March 4, 1913)

Thine aid, O Muse, I consciously beseech;
I crave thy succour, ask for thine assistance
That men may cry: "Some little ode! A peach!"
O Muse, grant me the strength to go the distance!
For odes, I learn, are dithyrambs, and long;
Exalted feeling, dignity of theme
And complicated structure guide the song.
(All this from Webster's book of high esteem.)

Let complicated structures not becloud
My lucid lines, nor weight with overloading.
To Shelley, Keats, and Wordsworth and that crowd
I yield the bays for grand and lofty oding.
Mine but the task to trace a country's growth,
As evidenced by each innauguration
From Washington's to Wilson's primal oath--
In these U.S., the celebrated nation.

But stay! or ever that I start to sing,
Or e'er I loose my fine poetic forces,
I ought, I think, to do the decent thing,
Ti Wit: give credit to my many sources:
Barnes's "Brief History of the U.S.A.,"
Bryce, Ridpath, Scudder, Fiske, J.B. McMaster,
A book of odes, a Webster, a Roget--
The bibliography of this poetaster.

Flow, flow, my pen, as gently as sweet Afton ever flowed!
An thou dost ill, shall this be a poor thing, but mine ode.

G.W., initial prex,
Right down in Wall Street, New York City,
Took his first oath. Oh, multiplex
The whimsies quaint, the comments witty
One might evolve from that! I scorn
To mock the spot where he was sworn.

On next Inauguration Day
He took the avouchment sempiternal
Way down in Phil-a-delph-i-a,
Where rises now the L.H. Journal.
His farewell speech in '96
Said: "'Ware the Trusts and all their tricks!"

John Adams fell on darksome days:
March fourth was blustery and sleety;
The French behaved in horrid ways
Until John Jay drew up a treaty.
Came the Eleventh Amendment, too,
Providing that--but why tell you?

T. Jefferson, one history showed,
Held all display was vain and idle;
Alone, unpanoplied he rode;
Alone he hitched his horse's bridle.
No ball that night, no carouse,
But back to Conrad's boarding house.

He tied that bridle to the fence
The morning of inauguration;
John Davis saw him do it; whence
Arose his "simple" reputation.
The White House, though, with Thomas J.,
Had chefs--and parties every day.

THE MUSE INTERRUPTS THE ODIST

If I were you I think I'd change my medium;
I'm weary of your meter and your style.
The sameness of it sickens me to tedium;
I'll quit unless you switch it for a while.

THE ODIST REPLIES

I bow to thee, my Muse, most eloquent of pleaders;
But why embarras me in front of all these readers?

Madison's inauguration
Was a lovely celebration.
In a suit of wool domestic
Rode he, stately and majestic,
Making it be manifest
Clothes American are best.
This has thundered through the ages.
(See our advertising pages.)

Lightly I pass along, and so
Come to the terms of James Monroe
Who framed the doctrine far too well
Known for the odist to retell.
His period of friendly dealing
Began The Era of Good Feeling.

John Quincy Adams followed him in Eighteen Twenty-Four;
Election was exciting--the details I shall ignore.
But his inauguration as our country's President
Was, take it from McMaster, some considerable event.
It was a brilliant function, and I think I ought to add
The Philadelphia "ledger" said a gorgeous time was had.

Old Andrew Jackson's pair of terms were terribly exciting;
That stern, intrepid warrior had little else than fighting.
A time of strife and turbulence, of politics and flurry.
But deadly dull for poem themes, so, Mawruss, I should worry!

In Washington did Martin Van
A stately custom then decree;
Old Hickory, the vetran,
Must ride with him, the people's man,
For all the world to see.
A pleasant custom, in a way,
And yet I should have laughed
To see the Sage of Oyster Bay
On Tuesday ride with Taft.
(Pardon me this
Parenthetical halt:
That sight you'll miss,
But it isn't my fault.)

William Henry Harrison came
Riding a horse of alabaster,
But the weather that day was a sin and a shame,
Take it from me and John McMaster.
Only a month--and Harrison died,
And V.P. Tyler began preside.
A far from popular prex was he,
And the next one was Polk from Tennessee.
There were two inaugural balls for him
But the rest of his record is rather dim.

Had I
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Franklin P. Adams

Franklin Pierce Adams was an American columnist known as Franklin P. Adams and by his initials F. P. A.. Famed for his wit, he is best known for his newspaper column, "The Conning Tower", and his appearances as a regular panelist on radio's Information Please. A prolific writer of light verse, he was a member of the Algonquin Round Table of the 1920s and 1930s. more…

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