A Stranger Stood At The Gates of Hell

Guest Post by Lewis Sharrard Author Unknown

My dead grandfather wrote typed today’s post for me. I was planning on exploring the history of margarine by tracing its definitions through 150+ years of dictionary definitions, thereby demonstrating that historically, margarine has not been a vegetarian product, and moreover the “spreadable butter” butter-canola oil mix that has recently been introduced to the market ought to be classified as margarine. That research has been mostly done, and no doubt I’ll regale you on that fascinating topic soon enough.

But, while I was browsing my dictionary collection (yes, I collect dictionaries, and no doubt I’ll explain more when I’m re-introducing the history of margarine), I stumbled across a poem written typed by my grandfather who-knows-when, folded and tucked into the pages of his old Merriam Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition. I was thrilled to read new work by this brilliant man, and am even happier to be able to As comments at the end detail, the source of this poem is unknown, but I am glad to be able to publish this truly unearthed text as its content relates, in part, to the reforms in farming policy during the FDR administration that have led to the prevalence of agribusiness conglomerate-run factory farms that dominates our agricultural landscape today. And so, without further ado….

A Stranger Stood at the Gates of Hell
by Lewis Sharrard ???

A stranger stood at the gates of Hell,
And the Devil himself answered the bell.
He looked him over from head to toe,
And said, my friend, I’d like to know
What have you done in the line of sin
To entitle you to come within?
Then Franklin D. with his usual guile,
Stepped forth and flashed his toothy smile.

When I took charge in thirty
A nation’s faith was mine, said he.
I promised this and I promised that,
And I calmed them down with a fireside chat.
I spent their money on fishing trips,
And fished from the decks of their battleships.
I gave them jobs on the WPA,
Then raised their wages and took it away.
I killed their pigs and burned their crops.
I raised their wages and closed their shops.
I double-crossed both old and young,
And still the fools my praises sung.
I brought back beer and what do you think?
I taxed it so high they couldn’t drink.
I furnished money with government loans
When they missed a payment I took their homes.
When I wanted to punish the folks,you know,
I’d put put my wife on the radio.

I paid them to let their farms stand still,
And imported foodstuffs from Brazil,
I curtailed crops when I felt real mean
And shipped corn in from the Argentine.
When they’d start to worry, stew and fret
I’d get them chanting the alphabet
With the A.A.A. and the N.L.B.,
The W.P.A. and the C.C.C.
With these many units I got their goats
But still I crammed it down their throats.
My workers worked with the speed of snails
While the taxpayers chewed their finger nails.
When the organizers needed dough,
I closed up plants for the C.I.O.
I ruined jobs and I ruined health
And I put the screws to the rich men’s wealth.
And some who couldn’t stand the gaff
Would call on me, and how I’d laugh.
When they got strong on certain things
I’d pack and head for Warm Springs.
I ruined their country, their homes, and then
I placed the blame on Nine Old Men.

Now Franklin talked both long and loud,
And the Devil stood, and his head was bowed.
At last he said, Let’s make it clear
You’ll have to move, you can’t stay here,
For once you’ve mingled with this mob
I’d have to hunt myself a job!

I’m not really familiar with many of the political references that are made in the poem, but it smacks of being current: of indignation at the policies as they were being implemented, and I really enjoy how the farm policy changes that made it tougher for family farms to survive are cited as damning evidence.

If you have a piece of food-related writing that you think belongs on Corduroy Orange, email it to me and I’ll see if I agree. All submissions are subject to editing.

8 Responses to “A Stranger Stood At The Gates of Hell”

  1. Jim Says:

    I think if you do some more research that Lew had merely copied this poem. It may have been in his handwriting, but I don’t think he claimed to have written it. Go check out http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1903710/posts.

  2. Jim Says:

    Try this lilnk. I got carried away with my punctuation and got an extra period in the above.


  3. jwsharrard Says:

    It was actually typed out, which led to my assumption that he had written it, though it’s neither signed nor dated. I’ve found a couple of other pages that have the text on them, all of them citing it as “anonymous,” and none offering evidence as to where it was first published. Any information that anyone might have as to its original source would be greatly appreciated.

  4. Karl Bell Says:

    This poem was published in the Denver Post sometime during the 30s. As a school child I memorized the poem, and to this day I could recite about of it from memory. I am happy to now have the complete poem.

    My father was a stanch Republican, and I always thought FDR’s first name was “that damn”

  5. Jewell Kee Says:

    I, too, found this poem “typed” in my Dad’s collection of things he found interesting. For years I have wondered who actually wrote it. I’ll keep looking, but thanks for verifying the accuracy of Dad’s copying.

  6. Fran Cording Says:

    Thanks so much for putting this online. I, too, have a typed copy from my grandfather. In checking your version and other versions online, I find mine more extensive. I do not know who the author is. Have you found out yet? I had wondered if my grandfather had written it because he was in the publishing business and words were his trade and he was a Republican! Anyone that can provide more info is welcome to contact me. Thanks.

  7. ERch kuehn Says:

    i found this poem typed and folded up in a book i got at auction 20yrs ago in pennsylvania; the book is long gone but i kept the poem; i liked the poem then and put it aside; i recently found it again and my daughters googled it to try to find the author; my original was typed on onion skin paper and must have been the 10th copy; how funny that we have traced it back to this cooking blog! long live the world wide web!

  8. Joyce Atchley Says:

    My dad carried a typed copy of this poem in his wallet until he died. I could recite at least half of this poem when I was 6 years old. Needlessly to say my dad was not a fan of FDR. It was a walk down memory lane that find it on line. I don’t k ow what happened to Dad’s copy but think my brother may have it.

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