It Didn’t Start With Obama: FDR ‘Rejected’ at the Gates of Hell

My mother-in-law found the following anonymous FDR-era poem among my father-in-law’s files and sent it to my wife.

In doing some research on the poem, I found the following:

This poem was published in the Denver Post sometime during the 1930s. As a school child I memorized the poem, and to this day I could recite about [all] 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.”

The poem can be found in The Assault of Laughter: A Treasury of American Political Humor, edited and with an Introduction by Arthur P. Dudden (New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1962), 499-500. “Rejected” is attributed to “Anonymous.”

There’s a very good discussion of “Rejected” in The Oxford Handbook of Modern and Contemporary American Poetry edited by Cary Nelson (pages 304-316). Here it’s attributed to V. M. Rodebaugh and was first printed in 1938.

This illustration was used in a “Nazi propaganda version of ‘Rejected,’ distributed by rocket bombs aimed at the more than 800,000 American troops fighting at the Battle of the Bulge” around 1944 or 1945.


“Sometime near the end of the war, the Pan American Publishing Company of El Paso, Texas, issued . . . a folded postcard” titled “Hitler at the Gates of Hell” that was modeled after the Rodebaugh poem.



FDR at the Gates of Hell

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 you have done in the line of sin
To entitle you to come within?

Then Franklin D, with his usual guile
Stepped forth with his toothy smile and said:

“When I took charge in ’33
A nations faith was mine,” said he.
“I promised them this and I promised them that
And I calmed them down with a fireside chat.

I spent their money in fishing trips
And fished from the decks of their battleships.
I gave them jobs in the WPA
Then raised their taxes and took it away.
I raised their wages and closed their shops
I killed their pigs and buried their crops
I double-crossed both old and young
And still the folks my praises sung.

I brought back beer, and what do you think?
I taxed it so high they couldn’t drink.
I furnished ’em 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 my wife on the radio.
I paid them to let their farms lie still
And imported foodstuffs from Brazil.
I curtailed crops when I felt real mean
And shipped in crops from the Argentine.

When they started to worry, stew and fret
I got them to chant the alphabet
With the AAA and the NLB
The WPA and the CCC.
With these many units I got their goats
And still I crammed it down their throats.
My workers worked with the speed of snails
While the taxpayers chewed their fingernails.

When the organization needed dough
I closed their plants with the CIO.
I ruined jobs, I ruined health
And I put the screws on the rich man’s wealth.
And some who couldn’t stand the gaff
Would call on me and how I’d laugh.

When they got too strong on certain things
I’d pack and head for “Ole 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 he bowed.
At last he said: “Lets make it clear
You’ll have to move, you can’t stay here
For once you mingle with this mob,
I’ll have to find myself a job.”

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