In Which Governor Altgeld Bids Farewell To His Few Remaining Suporters

“Governor” is not so much a title or particular duty;

Like “courtesan” or “freebooter”,

It is just another word, in truth,

And, like many other words,

Open to any number of interpretations and shades of meaning.

Take, “love”, for instance—to me, it may refer

To a blessed state where a man and woman

Live in such a manner

That the word “I” becomes virtually meaningless,

Whereas to you it may be nothing more

Than a commodity to be bought and sold

At whatever rate vendor and buyer agree upon. 

Likewise, “justice” may be understood as some high-flown notion

That any man is on a par with his fellow man,

And, as such, entitled to equal liberty and opportunity,

While someone else may see it as the meting out of punishment in accord with statute,

And still another man may see it

As a bitter, mocking term

Denoting how he that is poor, or holds to unpopular notions,

Is subject to tyranny of the tax collector and the club of the bailiff

While she who holds the scales of impartiality

Cannot, through the cloth that covers her eyes,

See the ungainly tilt of the scales, the weights in the pans

Having been surreptitiously moved about as in some street-corner shell game. 

My friends, I assert that the word “governor” is no different;

For some, it is as a sword to be employed

In the service of great deeds and ideas,

For others, it is no more than the title

Given to one who is the boss among rogues,

And, as such, enjoined solely to divide the spoils in accord with custom,

While others still see it as a synonym for the ventriloquist’s dummy,

Mouthing such words which others see fit for being heard. 

Myself?  I see the term as a yoke

Fastened on some poor, insensate beast

Stuck in that limbo between the plow and the abattoir.

Whatever the case may be, I know it to be a term

Which my successor is more than welcome to appropriate.

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