I first became aware of a work by Oliver Wendell Holmes when I read John D. Billings' "Hard Tack and Coffee" last year. Billings didn't pull his punches in criticizing the cheerleaders who pushed hard for war against the South in the run-up to the bloody conflict--yet who mysteriously vanished or had important matters to attend to when their opportunity came to stand and fight. Billings quoted a poem in which Holmes questions the manhood of such men by comparing them to women, which was likely a powerful critique back in the 1860's, but it's dated for the same reason today. Women today can kick serious ass--and we should note that many of them are in the military, doing work our sweet little men of today are too cowardly to manage (8 minute video of manly Young Pubbies giving excuses for why they won't enlist to fight in Iraq). Give those same SLM's 20 years--they'll be pushing for a war they'd never fight in. I'd embed the video, but I'd rather keep attention on the poem:
"The Sweet Little Man."
Dedicated to the Stay-At-Home Rangers.
Now, while our soldiers are fighting our battles,
Each at his post to do all that he can,
Down among rebels and contraband chattels,
What are you doing, my sweet little man?
All the brave boys under canvas are sleeping,
All of them pressing to march with the van,
Far from the home where their sweethearts are weeping;
What are you waiting for, sweet little man?
You with the terrible warlike mustaches,
Fit for a colonel or chief of a clan,
You with the waist made for sword-belts and sashes,
Where are your shoulder-straps, sweet little man?
Bring him the buttonless garment of woman!
Cover his face lest it freckle and tan;
Muster the Apron-String Guards on the Common,
That is the corps for the sweet little man!
Give him for escort a file of young misses,
Each of them armed with a deadly rattan;
They shall defend him from laughter and hisses,
Aimed by low boys at the sweet little man.
All the fair maidens about him shall cluster,
Pluck the white feathers from bonnet and fan,
Make him a plume like a turkey-wing duster,--
That is the crest for the sweet little man!
Oh, but the Apron-String Guards are the fellows
Drilling each day since our troubles began,--
"Handle your walking-sticks!" "Shoulder umbrellas!"
That is the style for the sweet little man!
Have we a nation to save? In the first place
Saving ourselves is the sensible plan,--
Surely the spot where there's shooting's the worst place
Where I can stand, says the sweet little man.
Catch me confiding my person with strangers!
Think how the cowardly Bull-Runners ran!
In the brigade of the Stay-at-Home Rangers
Marches my corps, says the sweet little man.
Such was the stuff of the Malakoff-takers,
Such were the soldiers that scaled the Redan;
Truculent housemaids and bloodthirsty Quakers,
Brave not the wrath of the sweet little man!
Yield him the sidewalk, ye nursery maidens!
Sauve qui peut! Bridget, and right about! Ann;--
Fierce as a shark in a school of menhadens,
See him advancing, the sweet little man!
When the red flails of the battle-field's threshers
Beat out the continent's wheat from its bran,
While the wind scatters the chaffy seceshers,
What will become of our sweet little man?
When the brown soldiers come back from the borders,
How will he look while his features they scan?
How will he feel when he gets marching orders,
Signed by his lady love? sweet little man!
Fear not for him, though the rebels expect him,--
Life is too precious to shorten its span;
Woman her broomstick shall raise to protect him,
Will she not fight for the sweet little man?
Blow the great fish-horn and beat the big pan!
First in the field that is farthest from danger,
Take your white-feather plume, sweet little man!