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A Black Job
by [?]

“No doubt the pleasure is as great, Of being cheated as to cheat.”–HUDIBRAS.

The history of human-kind to trace, Since Eve–the first of dupes–our doom unriddled, A certain portion of the human race Has certainly a taste for being diddled.

Witness the famous Mississippi dreams! A rage that time seems only to redouble– The Banks, Joint-Stocks, and all the flimsy schemes, For rolling in Pactolian streams, That cost our modern rogues so little trouble. No matter what,–to pasture cows on stubble, To twist sea-sand into a solid rope, To make French bricks and fancy bread of rubble, Or light with gas the whole celestial cope– Only propose to blow a bubble, And Lord! what hundreds will subscribe for soap!

Soap!–it reminds me of a little tale, Tho’ not a pig’s, the hawbuck’s glory, When rustic games and merriment prevail– But here’s my story: Once on a time–no matter when– A knot of very charitable men Set up a Philanthropical Society, Professing on a certain plan, To benefit the race of man, And in particular that dark variety, Which some suppose inferior–as in vermin The sable is to ermine, As smut to flour, as coal to alabaster, As crows to swans, as soot to driven snow, As blacking, or as ink, to “milk below,” Or yet a better simile to show, As ragman’s dolls to images in plaster!

However, as is usual in our city, They had a sort of managing Committee, A board of grave responsible Directors– A Secretary, good at pen and ink– A Treasurer, of course, to keep the chink, And quite an army of Collectors! Not merely male, but female duns, Young, old, and middle-aged–of all degrees– With many of those persevering ones, Who mite by mite would beg a cheese! And what might be their aim? To rescue Afric’s sable sons from fetters– To save their bodies from the burning shame Of branding with hot letters– Their shoulders from the cowhide’s bloody strokes, Their necks from iron yokes? To end or mitigate the ills of slavery, The Planter’s avarice, the Driver’s knavery? To school the heathen Negroes and enlighten ’em, To polish up and brighten ’em, And make them worthy of eternal bliss? Why, no–the simple end and aim was this– Reading a well-known proverb much amiss– To wash and whiten ’em!

They look’d so ugly in their sable hides: So dark, so dingy, like a grubby lot Of sooty sweeps, or colliers, and besides, However the poor elves Might wash themselves, Nobody knew if they were clean or not– On Nature’s fairness they were quite a blot! Not to forget more serious complaints That even while they join’d in pious hymn, So black they were and grim, In face and limb, They look’d like Devils, tho’ they sang like Saints! The thing was undeniable! They wanted washing! not that slight ablution To which the skin of the White Man is liable, Merely removing transient pollution– But good, hard, honest, energetic rubbing And scrubbing, Sousing each sooty frame from heels to head With stiff, strong, saponaceous lather, And pails of water–hottish rather, But not so boiling as to turn ’em red!

So spoke the philanthropic man Who laid, and hatch’d, and nursed the plan– And oh! to view its glorious consummation! The brooms and mops, The tubs and slops, The baths and brushes in full operation! To see each Crow, or Jim or John, Go in a raven and come out a swan! While fair as Cavendishes, Vanes, and Russels, Black Venus rises from the soapy surge, And all the little Niggerlings emerge As lily-white as mussels.

Sweet was the vision–but alas! However in prospectus bright and sunny, To bring such visionary scenes to pass One thing was requisite, and that was–money! Money, that pays the laundress and her bills, For socks and collars, shirts and frills, Cravats and kerchiefs–money, without which The negroes must remain as dark as pitch; A thing to make all Christians sad and shivery, To think of millions of immortal souls Dwelling in bodies black as coals, And living–so to speak–in Satan’s livery!