DOWN TO THE CAPITAL
BY JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY
I' be'n down to the Capital at Washington, D. C.,
Where Congerss meets and passes on the pensions ort to be
Allowed to old one-legged chaps, like me, 'at sence the war
Don't wear their pants in pairs at all--and yit how proud we are!
Old Flukens, from our deestrick, jes turned in and tuk and made
Me stay with him whilse I was there; and longer 'at I stayed
The more I kep' a-wantin' jes to kindo' git away,
And yit a-feelin' sociabler with Flukens ever' day.
You see I'd got the idy--and I guess most folks agrees--
'At men as rich as him, you know, kindo' jes what they please;
A man worth stacks o' money, and a Congerssman and all,
And livin' in a buildin' bigger'n Masonic Hall!
Now mind, I'm not a-faultin' Fluke--he made his money square:
We both was Forty-niners, and both bu'sted gittin' there;
I weakened and onwindlassed, and he stuck and stayed and made
His millions; don't know what I'm worth untel my pension's paid.
But I was goin' to tell you--er a-ruther goin' to try
To tell you how he's livin' now: Gas burnin' mighty nigh
In ever' room about the house; and all the night, about,
Some blame' reception goin' on, and money goin' out.
They's people there from all the world--jes ever' kind 'at lives,
Injuns and all! and Senators, and Ripresentatives;
And girls, you know, jes dressed in gauze and roses, I declare,
And even old men shamblin' round waltzin' with 'em there!
And bands a-tootin' circus-tunes, 'way in some other room
Jes' chokin' full o' hothouse plants and pinies and perfume;
And fountains, squirtin' stiddy all the time; and statutes, made
Out o' puore marble, 'peared-like, sneakin' round there in the shade.
And Fluke he coaxed and begged and pled with me to take a hand
And sashay in amongst 'em--crutch and all, you understand;
But when I said how tired I was, and made fer open air,
He follered, and tel five o'clock we set a-talkin' there.
"My God!" says he--Fluke says to me, "I'm tireder'n you;
Don't putt up yer tobacker tel you give a man a chew.
Set back a leetle furder in the shadder--that'll do;
I'm tireder'n you, old man; I'm tireder'n you!
"You see that-air old dome," says he, "humped up ag'inst the sky?
It's grand, first time you see it; but it changes, by and by,
And then it stays jes thataway--jes anchored high and dry
Betwixt the sky up yender and the achin' of yer eye.
"Night's purty; not so purty, though, as what it ust to be
When my first wife was livin'. You remember her?" says he.
I nodded-like, and Fluke went on, "I wonder now ef she
Knows where I am--and what I am--and what I ust to be?
"That band in there!--I ust to think 'at music couldn't wear
A feller out the way it does; but that ain't music there--
That's jes a' imitation, and like ever'thing, I swear,
I hear, er see, er tetch, er taste, er tackle anywhere!
"It's all jes artificial, this-'ere high-priced life of ours;
The theory, it's sweet enough, tel it saps down and sours.
They's no home left, ner ties o' home about it. By the powers,
The whole thing's artificialer'n artificial flowers!
"And all I want, and could lay down and sob fer, is to know
The homely things of homely life; fer instance, jes to go
And set down by the kitchen stove--Lord! that 'ud rest me so,--
Jes set there, like I ust to do, and laugh and joke, you know.
"Jes set there, like I ust to do," says Fluke, a-startin' in,
'Peared-like, to say the whole thing over to hisse'f ag'in;
Then stopped and turned, and kindo' coughed, and stooped and fumbled fer
Somepin' o' 'nuther in the grass--I guess his handkercher.
Well, sence I'm back from Washington, where I left Fluke a-still
A-leggin' fer me, heart and soul, on that-air pension bill,
I've half-way struck the notion, when I thinko' wealth and sich,
They's nothin' much patheticker 'n jes a-bein' rich!