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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

AUTHOR: John Sharp Williams (1854–1932)
QUOTATION: I am going back to Yazoo City and to my old home on a rural free-delivery route. I want to get up again each morning as I hear the roosters crow. I want to pick flowers while the dew is still on them. Then, I want to come back and have my coffee and breakfast. Later on, if I am so fortunate as to have any left in these days, I want to stir myself a toddy whenever I feel that I would like one.

Through the middle of the day I will read books, putter around the place, and talk to my neighbors. At noon I will leisurely eat my dinner. After dinner I will read some more, and then late in the evening, I will eat supper—and notice that I call it supper, this last meal of the day. That is what we call it in Mississippi.

And as night and the time for bed approaches, I will listen to the greatest chorus of voices that man ever heard, music that will charm me and make me ready for repose—the voices of my mocking birds, trilling from the trees.

In that way I want to live the rest of my life. And when the end comes, I hope to be carried out of the house by my neighbors and laid to rest among my people.

Now some may say that it is not a very wonderful future—all of this I have mapped out for myself—but I say there is merit in calm retirement. Right now I feel that it is more a real life than being a Senator of the United States who serves his people by joining in the petty squabbles that occupy so much time of the Senate today. I may have grown cynical from long service, but this is a tendency I do not like, and I sometimes think I’d rather be a dog and bay at the moon than stay in the Senate another six years and listen to it.

Perhaps it is a sign that I ought to retire. For retirement brings repose, and repose allows a kindly judgment of all things. As for me, it shall also mean a calm in which to make peace with myself and a season to spend in the quiet of my home and in the friendship of my neighbors.
ATTRIBUTION: Senator JOHN SHARP WILLIAMS, farewell to his friends, at a dinner organized by the Mississippi Society of Washington, D.C., honoring him shortly before his retirement from the Senate on March 4, 1923. This is sometimes referred to as the “mocking bird speech.”—William Norwood Brigance, Classified Speech Models, pp. 274–75 (1928).

Sharp’s obituary reported an earlier use of the hound dog metaphor. He said to the Senate after it doomed Wilson’s League of Nations proposal: “I’d rather be a hound dog and bay at the moon from my Mississippi plantation than remain in the United States Senate.”—The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, September 29, 1932, p. 2.
SUBJECTS: Congress—Senate