Adams, Edwin G.

United States, (1821-1877)

An Insult to the American Hog — A Poem

  1. Now is the time, by dark Astrologers foretold,
  2. When the malignant plants would conspire,
  3. To wreck the world.
  4. The earthquake’s shock, the lightning’s deadly flash —
  5. The cyclone’s swoop, the dark tornado’s blast —
  6. O’er land and sea, the elements would rage,
  7. And bring dire peril to the human race.
  8. Astrologers may err, their data are not unfailing,
  9. Causes unknown, may mitigate their meaning;
  10. But in this period, as if decreed by fate,
  11. Calamity has wrought a fearful wreck.
  12. If still you claim their science is unmeaning,
  13. And near akin to the dark Gypsy’s craft,
  14. It must be true, that when they wrote that record,
  15. Some one did make a wondrous guess.
  17. And now dark portents rise upon the distant East,
  18. Egypt’s dark hordes rise up to fierce revolt;
  19. China’s dense millions, tiring of contempt,
  20. With strange reluctance, brave the fate of war.
  21. It seems it were a crime against mankind,
  22. To force these pagans to defend their lands
  23. Against the christian spoiler.
  24. To spurn their treaties, scorn their ancient fame,
  25. And treat their people with contemptuous hate.
  26. Such crimes as these against their nation,
  27. May bring a fearful retribution.
  28. As the swift toilers in the busy hive,
  29. Yield their rich stores into the spoiler’s hand,
  30. But when he comes by wanton malice led,
  31. Maltreats their people, desecrates their home,
  32. With what wild tumult rise their myriad host,
  33. And sting him to a blinding death.
  35. But now an evil thing has happened to our people!
  36. Shall foreign minions spurn our proffered food?
  37. Shall lordly kings insult the noble hog?
  38. This king must be a Jew! but no!
  39. The world proclaims! he is a noble christian!
  41. Perchance he may have read the bible.
  42. Within the pages of that ancient book,
  43. There is a message from the great King of kings
  44. A sort of proclamation to his people,
  45. Wherein he did reveal to man that high philosophy,
  46. To be his guide through all the ages,
  47. To save his soul from Hell, his body from pollution.
  48. “Thou shalt not eat the flesh of swine, it is unclean,”
  49. Reads much like the message of this German king;
  50. They are so like, in form and meaning,
  51. His seems much like a plagiarism.
  53. One is the word of that great God,
  54. Whose boundless wisdom made the world,
  55. And cursed it with such baleful things,
  56. As snakes and hogs and savage beasts;
  57. But with that all pervading love,
  58. Which shows his highest care for man,
  59. He gave against each vicious thing —
  60. A needful warning.
  61. Against the beasts that roam the earth,
  62. And prey upon the human race,
  63. Man needs no written law —
  64. Their savage instincts are apparent.
  65. Not so the subtle, crafty snake,
  66. Fit tool to do the Devil’s work,
  67. Nor yet the Devil tainted hog
  68. Man might not know, by instinct taught,
  69. The deadly danger lurking there.
  71. The other is the word of man,
  72. The message of an earthly king,
  73. He tells us of what science taught,
  74. The wonders of the microscope,
  75. That breeding in this loathsome meat,
  76. It shows a million deadly parasites,
  77. Which, if one fasten on the flesh of man
  78. More fatal than the serpent’s fang,
  79. T’will breed pollution through his frame.
  80. We are often taught, perhaps ‘tis true,
  81. God’s law was given to the Jews,
  83. But now we have a revelation,
  84. That well may teach the doubting christian;
  85. Teach him that God through all his works,
  86. Will verify and prove his words;
  87. That he ne’er spoke to Jew or Christian,
  88. In words that bore a double meaning;
  89. That time, nor space, nor man will know,
  90. The termination of his law.
  92. Go fondle with the poisonous snake,
  93. Perhaps he may forget to sting you;
  94. The law that cursed his baleful race,
  95. Is older than all philosophy.
  96. Yet this most fated foe of man,
  97. Has ne’er forgot that laws command —
  98. Nor will forget! till in the wreck of time,
  99. The world sinks down in endless night.
  101. ‘Tis said that when a field or wood,
  102. Infested by the rattlesnake —
  103. A kind of kingdom where he rules —
  104. Is entered by the sluggish hog,
  105. Forthwith a contest is begun —
  106. For mastery.
  107. As Devils fought for highest name,
  108. Till Satan reigned supreme in Hell.
  109. As there are degrees of evil,
  110. And Devil knows superior Devil;
  111. So the vile snake doomed to defeat,
  112. Lurks in his den, and shuns the hog;
  113. His poisonous fangs most deadly thrust,
  114. Can never harm his turbid blood.
  115. Meanwhile the hog by malice led,
  116. Hunts for his foe through field and wood,
  117. Nor rests till with malicious snout,
  118. He drives the lesser Devil out —
  119. And eats him.
  121. We often read of savage tribes,
  122. Who gorge themselves with human flesh;
  123. But it would be a shameful thing,
  124. If Christian men should feed on snakes.
  126. It is a strange philosophy
  127. To teach in such a land as this,
  128. Where God has spread with lavish hand,
  129. The products of both sea and earth,
  130. That man should utilize for food
  131. Such cursed things as snakes and hogs.
  132. Perhaps it is a different way
  133. To reach about the same result,
  134. When man who loathes the crawling snake,
  135. Will make the hog his staple food.
  136. This base born scavenger of the earth,
  137. True to the instincts of her birth,
  138. Leaves the clear brook to seek the slimy pool,
  139. Revels in filth, and wallows in the mire.
  140. The deadly carrion is her favorite food,
  141. And poisonous snakes shall feed her turbid blood;
  142. Full of fell hate, to mercy’s instinct lost,
  143. A shame to beasts, she feeds upon her young,
  144. By devils urged to baser deeds of shame,
  145. Like the dread jackal tears the human breast;
  146. What mother, by a mother’s instinct moved,
  147. Would trust her infant with this awful beast?
  148. What food is this to drag man down,
  149. Imbrute his nature, poison his blood,
  150. And stain the fair casket of his soul,
  151. Even with a devilish stain?
  153. As the clear brook fed by the mountain streams,
  154. Pure as the polished rocks from which they spring,
  155. Starts on its mission to the world below,
  156. Freighted with gifts poured from the hand of God,
  157. The crystal water in its rolling tide,
  158. Is stained by the drainage of the teeming plains;
  159. Unseen and silent as the falling dew,
  160. That decks the flower to greet the morning sun,
  161. The subtle poison with a ceaseless flow,
  162. Meets the clear current of the moving stream.
  163. Powerless its poisoned waters roll,
  164. To cast the pollution on its shores,
  165. Till the clear brook whose lucid waters shone
  166. Like polished silver in the noon-day sun,
  167. Glides unresponsive to the orb of day,
  168. Polluted, poisoned, sinks into the sea.
  170. Ages on ages of the life of man,
  171. A foul pollution’s flowed into his veins;
  172. From youth to age, from sire to son,
  173. This baleful poison with a deepening stain,
  174. Has clouded the clear current of his blood;
  175. Till man, who with each succeeding age,
  176. Grown stronger, purer, with clear, bounding blood,
  177. Should rise responsive to the gifts of God —
  178. Sinks down degraded, poisoned, lost —
  179. Disease the first, sure heritage of his race.
  181. We have often wondered if t’was true,
  182. As some men teach, that Christ who came,
  183. Not to destroy, but prove God’s word,
  184. Had by a later dispensation —
  185. Absolved the hog.
  186. By parables and words of wisdom,
  187. He sought to teach our fallen race,
  188. The beauty of that pure religion,
  189. Where men obey the laws of God.
  190. It must have been a wondrous lesson,
  191. Of highest import to mankind,
  192. When He — the Lord, great Heir of Heaven!
  193. To emphasize what God had said —
  194. Filled swine with Devils — and then drowned them.
  196. Why should statesmen rage, and threaten with war
  197. And retaliation, a friendly people?
  198. Is this a crime condemned by nation’s laws,
  199. That they refuse to buy polluted meat?
  200. Should this great King whose lengthening record
  201. Tells of a pure life;
  202. Who stands like a strong bulwark to restrain
  203. The maddened passions of a continent,
  204. When he shuts out the hand that brought his people
  205. Food, breeding the seeds of stinging death,
  206. Heed the wild mutterings of men,
  207. Whose groveling instincts never rise
  208. To the high welfare of their race?
  210. Such swine-fed statesmen with their hellish hate,
  211. Have wrecked more nations than they’ll ever save.
  212. Theirs is the mission of that godless kind,
  213. To breed the dark tempest of fraternal strife,
  214. Plunder their country with a robber’s greed,
  215. And brand its people with a traitor’s name.
  217. Not every cloud that mars the sun,
  218. Bears the swift messenger of death;
  219. Not every snake that crawls the earth,
  220. Strikes with the deadly venom of the asp;
  221. Not every man who risks his life
  222. In the fierce battle’s deadly strife,
  223. Draws in that lottery of death
  224. His final prize.
  225. Many there be, wounded and maimed,
  226. Rise and take up their lives again,
  227. And bear through years of want and pain
  228. A living death.
  230. Yet ‘tis a noble thing to brave
  231. Danger and death for some great cause.
  232. But what a base, an awful thing,
  233. When men of science teach mankind
  234. To brave the dread trichinae’s sting,
  235. Because not every hog they’ve seen
  236. Breeds in his cursed and slimy meat,
  237. This dreadful, deadly parasite.
  238. And if perchance they revel there,
  239. That is no proper cause for fear,
  240. As men can very safely eat them,
  241. If they but take the pains to cook them.
  242. Cook parasites whose deadly sting
  243. Was tempered in the fires of Hell,
  244. And call them food for man? for shame!
  245. Is this the message Science brings?
  246. “Twould seem a question of some doubt,
  247. If too much learning makes men mad —
  248. Or eating pork.”

Edwin G. Adams. An Insult to the American Hog — A Poem. Cohoes, N.Y. (1884).

About the Poet:

Edwin Goodhue Adams (1821-1877) was a U.S. Congregational minister, poet and author of historical discourse. He graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1846. One year later he was ordained junior minister of the First Congregational Church in Templeton, Massachusetts under Rev. Charles Wellington. Adams, became sole minister in 1861 on the death of Rev. Wellington and continued to serve there until his own death.

Duane Hamilton Hurd, in his History of Worcester County, Massachusetts (1889) described Adams as:

As a minister and pastor, Mr. Adams possessed the esteem and affection of the members of his own society to an unusual degree. He was not content with rendering merely the usual professional services of a minister; every force was utilized, nothing was done at random, or without a settled purpose…

Mr. Adams had a natural aptitude for the mastery of legal and financial affairs, and came to have such a knowledge of their underlying principles and their application to practical affairs as to make his opinion and advice very valuable, even to those whose lives were spent in the management of such affairs. Few lawyers could excel him in unraveling a knotty legal question. To thread his way through these investigations was among his recreations.

A keen discernment, a well-balanced judgment, great prudence, far-reaching foresight, combined with the most perfect conscientiousness and integrity, made a combination of qualities which rendered his life a highly useful one.

Additional information:

Editor’s Note:

As early as the 1860s, food quality and health standards had become a growing source of concern for the world in both domestic and international markets. Emerging medical and bacteriological research had begun to detect and identify a growing number of infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Pigs were a noted carrier, and of special concern because of the important role pork products played in the world’s diet and economy.

As U.S. production capacity, packaging technology and transport ability improved, U.S. producers began to sell to international markets. International quarrels about food quality arose, and trade relations were especially fierce between the U.S. and Germany, two rising economic and political powers of that time.

“Thou shalt not eat the flesh of swine, it is unclean,”
Reads much like the message of this German king;

This is the environment in which “An Insult to the American Hog” was penned, and readers here may note that while Edwin G. Adams’ death has been clearly established as 1877, this poem is copyrighted 1884. While I have no specific documented evidence, I am confident that Edwin G. Adams, of the First Congregational Church in Templeton, Massachusetts wrote this poem.

The knowledge of both the U.S. meat packer’s difficulties selling to the German market and the existence of the infectious diseases transmitted from animals to humans were common and controversial public news during Adams’ lifetime.

Also, the general temperament of the poem and its many references to Judeo-Christian doctrine is more suggestive of a ministers sermon than that of a common critic of popular news. I feel it is likely that prior to the 1884 copyright, which is after Adams’ death, this poem may only have been circulated privately or locally by Adams. [DES-03/12]

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