Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  The Family Blood

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Family Blood

By Aaron Cleveland (1744–1815)

[Born in Haddam, Conn., 1744. Died at New Haven, Conn., 1815.]

  • “Genus et proavos, et quod non fecimus ipsi
  • Vix ea nostra voco.”

  • FOUR kinds of blood flow in my veins,

    And govern, each in turn, my brains.


    I had my parentage in quarters;

    My fathers’ fathers’ names I know,

    And further back no doubt might go.

    Compound on compound from the flood,

    Makes up my old ancestral blood;

    But what my sires of old time were,

    I neither wish to know, nor care.

    Some might be wise—and others fools;

    Some might be tyrants—others tools;

    Some might have wealth, and others lack;

    Some fair perchance—some almost black;

    No matter what in days of yore,

    Since now they’re known and seen no more.

    The name of CLEVELAND I must wear,

    Which any foundling too might bear:

    PORTER, they say, from Scotland came,

    A bonny Laird of ancient fame:

    SEWELL, of English derivation,

    Perhaps was outlawed from the nation;

    And WATERS, Irish as I ween,

    Straight—round-about from—Aberdeen!

    Such is my heterogeneous blood,

    A motley mixture, bad and good:

    Each blood aspires to rule alone,

    And each in turn ascends the throne,

    Of its poor realm to wear the crown,

    And reign till next one tears him down.

    Each change must twist about my brains,

    And move my tongue in different strains;

    My mental powers are captive led,

    As whim or wisdom rules the head;

    My character no one can know,

    For none I have while things are so;

    I’m something—nothing, wise, or fool,

    As suits the blood that haps to rule.

    When CLEVELAND reigns I’m thought a wit

    In giving words the funny hit;

    And social glee and humorous song

    Delight the fools that round me throng:

    Till PORTER next puts on the crown,

    And hauls the CLEVELAND banner down.

    Now all is calm, discreet, and wise,

    Whate’er I do, whate’er devise;

    What common sense and wisdom teach,

    Directs my actions, forms my speech;

    The wise and good around me stay,

    And laughing dunces hie away.

    But soon, alas, this happy vein

    May for some other change again!

    SEWELL perchance shall next bear rule:

    I’m now a philosophic fool!

    With Jefferson I correspond,

    And sail with him, the stars beyond;

    Each nerve and fibre of my brain

    To sense profound I nicely strain,

    And thus uprise beyond the ken

    Of common sense and common men.

    Thus great am I, till SEWELL’S crown

    About my ears comes tumbling down.

    Wise fools may soar themselves above,

    And dream in rapturous spheres they move;

    But airy castles must recoil,

    And such wild imagery spoil.

    But who comes now? Alas! ’tis WATERS,

    Rushing and blustering to head-quarters:

    He knows nor manners, nor decorum,

    But elbows headlong to the forum;

    Uncouth and odd, abrupt and bold,

    Unteachable and uncontrolled,

    Devoid of wisdom, sense, or wit,

    Not one thing right he ever hit,

    Unless by accident, not skill,

    He blundered right against his will.

    And such am I! no transmigration

    Can sink me to a lower station:

    Come, PORTER, come depose this clown,

    And, once for all, possess the crown.

    If aught, in SEWELL’S blood, you find

    Will make your own still more refined;

    If found in CLEVELAND’S blood, a trait

    To aid you in affairs of state;

    Select such parts—and spurn the rest,

    No more to rule in brain or breast.

    Of WATERS’ blood, expel the whole,

    Let not one drop pollute my soul:

    Then rule my head—and keep my heart

    From folly, weakness, wit apart:

    With all such gifts I glad dispense,

    But only leave me—COMMON SENSE.