How The One-Hoss Shay Relates to
Heresy of Decisional Regeneration
|Oliver Wendel Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) was sent to Phillips Academy (which shared it's campus and board of directors with Andover Theological Seminary) to learn Calvinist theology. He disliked the "bigoted, narrow-minded, uncivilized" attitudes of most of the school's teachers. It's not hard to understand why he wrote the One-Hoss Shay.|
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. was friends with the literatti, including Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne. He was popular among the transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and shared their distain for Calvinism. Holmes is a good example of the nineteenth century renaissance man, thinking that man is the measure of all things, throwing off superstitious views of a wrathful God at odds with man. Like Henry Ward Beecher, Holmes was a popular dandy, using his intimate knowledge of Calvinism to show it's perceived faults. Also like Beecher, he promoted women’s and negro rights, transcendentalism and science to the exclusion of religion. He is listed here, however as the author of the One-Hoss Shay, a satirical work which described Calvinism as a perfect, closed system, unable to stand the rigors of modern examination by 1855. The One-Hoss Shay is emblematic of why Scottish Common Sense Realism replaced the theology of Hopkins and Bellamy. Scottish Common Sense realism was the surviving form of New Light Calvinism because it's metaphysical replacement of the immediate supernatural activity of the Holy Spirit fit the optimism and hypocrisy of the gilded age. The One-Hoss Shay, gives way in 1855, one hundred years after Hopkins and Bellamy started promoting predeterministic Calvinism as the reason why seekers needed to immediately repent and submit to God. After 1855, Scottish Common Sense Realism changes the purpose and reason for the Inquiry Room from BEST to BIST.
Have you heard of the wonderful one-hoss shay,
That was built in such a logical way
It ran a hundred years to a day,
And then, of a sudden, it -- ah, but stay,
I'll tell you what happened without delay,
Scaring the parson into fits,
Frightening people out of their wits, --
Have you ever heard of that, I say?
Seventeen hundred and fifty-five.
Georgius Secundus was then alive, --
Snuffy old drone from the German hive.
That was the year when Lisbon-town
Saw the earth open and gulp her down,
And Braddock's army was done so brown,
Left without a scalp to its crown.
It was on the terrible Earthquake-day
That the Deacon finished the one-hoss shay.
Now in building of chaises, I tell you what,
There is always somewhere a weakest spot, --
In hub, tire, felloe, in spring or thill,
In panel, or crossbar, or floor, or sill,
In screw, bolt, thoroughbrace, -- lurking still,
Find it somewhere you must and will, --
Above or below, or within or without, --
And that's the reason, beyond a doubt,
A chaise breaks down, but does n't wear out.
But the Deacon swore (as Deacons do,
With an "I dew vum," or an "I tell yeou")
He would build one shay to beat the taown
'N' the keounty 'n' all the kentry raoun';
It should be so built that it could n' break daown:
"Fur," said the Deacon, "'t 's mighty plain
Thut the weakes' place mus' stan' the strain;
'N' the way t' fix it, uz I maintain,
Is only jest
T' make that place uz strong uz the rest."
So the Deacon inquired of the village folk
Where he could find the strongest oak,
That could n't be split nor bent nor broke, --
That was for spokes and floor and sills;
He sent for lancewood to make the thills;
The crossbars were ash, from the straightest trees,
The panels of white-wood, that cuts like cheese,
But lasts like iron for things like these;
The hubs of logs from the "Settler's ellum," --
Last of its timber, -- they could n't sell 'em,
Never an axe had seen their chips,
And the wedges flew from between their lips,
Their blunt ends frizzled like celery-tips;
Step and prop-iron, bolt and screw,
Spring, tire, axle, and linchpin too,
Steel of the finest, bright and blue;
Thoroughbrace bison-skin, thick and wide;
Boot, top, dasher, from tough old hide
Found in the pit when the tanner died.
That was the way he "put her through."
"There!" said the Deacon, "naow she'll dew!"
Do! I tell you, I rather guess
She was a wonder, and nothing less!
Colts grew horses, beards turned gray,
Deacon and deaconess dropped away,
Children and grandchildren -- where were they?
But there stood the stout old one-hoss shay
As fresh as on Lisbon-earthquake-day!
EIGHTEEN HUNDRED; -- it came and found
The Deacon's masterpiece strong and sound.
Eighteen hundred increased by ten; --
"Hahnsum kerridge" they called it then.
Eighteen hundred and twenty came; --
Running as usual; much the same.
Thirty and forty at last arrive,
And then come fifty, and FIFTY-FIVE.
Little of all we value here
Wakes on the morn of its hundreth year
Without both feeling and looking queer.
In fact, there's nothing that keeps its youth,
So far as I know, but a tree and truth.
(This is a moral that runs at large;
Take it. -- You're welcome. -- No extra charge.)
FIRST OF NOVEMBER, -- the Earthquake-day, --
There are traces of age in the one-hoss shay,
A general flavor of mild decay,
But nothing local, as one may say.
There could n't be, -- for the Deacon's art
Had made it so like in every part
That there was n't a chance for one to start.
For the wheels were just as strong as the thills,
And the floor was just as strong as the sills,
And the panels just as strong as the floor,
And the whipple-tree neither less nor more,
And the back crossbar as strong as the fore,
And spring and axle and hub encore.
And yet, as a whole, it is past a doubt
In another hour it will be worn out!
First of November, 'Fifty-five! (1855)
This morning the parson takes a drive.
Now, small boys, get out of the way!
Here comes the wonderful one-horse shay,
Drawn by a rat-tailed, ewe-necked bay.
"Huddup!" said the parson. -- Off went they.
The parson was working his Sunday's text, --
Had got to fifthly, and stopped perplexed
At what the -- Moses -- was coming next.
All at once the horse stood still,
Close by the meet'n'-house on the hill.
First a shiver, and then a thrill,
Then something decidedly like a spill, --
And the parson was sitting upon a rock,
At half past nine by the meet'n-house clock, --
Just the hour of the Earthquake shock!
What do you think the parson found,
When he got up and stared around?
The poor old chaise in a heap or mound,
As if it had been to the mill and ground!
You see, of course, if you're not a dunce,
How it went to pieces all at once, --
All at once, and nothing first, --
Just as bubbles do when they burst.
End of the wonderful one-hoss shay.
Logic is logic. That's all I say.