‘Husband, dear husband’: poem by a legislative wife (pre-1881)

The nameless, uncredited poem below was printed in the 1881 History of Sangamon County, Illinois, printed by the Interstate Publishing Co. of Chicago. Here is all the History tells us about it:

As is well known, the session of the legislature last much longer than the average citizen thinks they ought. The following song, written as a parody on the familiar temperance song, Father, dear father, come home to me now, is supposed to have been written by the wife of a rural member, who neglects his farm and family, by remaining at the Capital too long in the spring.

The implication in the History is that the poem/song was written by the wife of an Illinois legislator sojourning in Springfield. However, as far as SangamonLink can determine, there were no restaurants, saloons or hotels named Parker’s or Young’s (see fourth stanza) in Springfield in the years preceding 1881.

The best bet for the origin of the poem is Massachusetts. Boston, the capital, had establishments under both names in the late 1800s. (Young’s folded in 1927. Parker’s still exists.) And, of course, one of Boston’s nicknames is “the hub” (also fourth stanza).

Wherever and whenever it was written, however, the poem probably reflects the sentiments of many stay-at-home legislative wives in the 19th century. (Illinois had no female lawmakers in the 1800s.) In addition to the locale clues, the fourth stanza ends with what, for the time, must have been a rather daring double entendre.

Husband, dear husband, come home to me now,
From the city and State House so warm,
‘Tis lonely without you, why do you not come
And see to the things on the farm?
You told me when you were elected last fall,
You’d surely return before April was past
If I would but once let you go,
And I really believed ‘twould be so.
Come home! Come home! Come home!
Dear husband, kind husband, come home.

Husband, dear husband, come home to me now,
Come home e’re the spring time is through;
The old brindle cow has got a white calf.
And the young lambs are bleating for you.
The hens have been setting a fortnight or more,
They soon will be off with their broods.
The old speckled turkey has stolen her nest
Away in the brakes or the woods.

Husband, dear husband, come home to me now,
The garden needs spading for peas,
The boys should be picking up stones in the lot,
And you should be trimming the threes.
When will you get through with bills and resolves,
Stop talking of license and rum,
Or railroads and tunnels, and other such things,
And tend to your business at home?

Husband, dear husband, don’t write to me more
Of the theater, lobby and club,
Nor dinners you have eaten at Parker’s and Young’s
But hurry away from the hub.
Yes, hurry back home, your Betsy is sad,
Her heart is so honest and true,
All winter she’s slept in her hard bed at home.
And say, dear husband, have you?

Husband, dear husband, come home to me now,
Come home, while the birds sing in May,
And let not the smiles in the gallery there
Distract you, or tempt you to stay.
The voice of your Betsy is calling you now.
Come home; for you know what it means.
I’m getting quite nervous about you – come home!
And we will have cow-slips for greens.
Come home! Come home! Come home!
Dear husband, kind husband, come home!

The poem appears on page 558 of the History of Sangamon County, Illinois.

schs-logo-2Hat tip: To Springfield writer and historian Tara McClellan McAndrew, who read part of the poem at an Illinois State Museum brown-bag lecture on Nov. 15, 2017. McAndrew is the author of Stories of Springfield: Life in Lincoln’s Home Town.

Original content copyright Sangamon County Historical Society. You are free to republish this content as long as credit is given to the Society.


This entry was posted in Arts and letters, Histories, Illinois capital, State government, Women. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to ‘Husband, dear husband’: poem by a legislative wife (pre-1881)

  1. Thanks for the hat tip, Mike! I am glad you looked into the possible origin of the poem. Interesting that it might be Boston. I agree with you, though, it might have applied anywhere.

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