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Poem by John Pierpont
Years roll along; and, as they glide away In silent lapse, on every New-Year's day 'T is claimed by custom that we carriers sing; And thus the tribute of the Muse we bring. Not that the strain with classic smoothness flows, Nor that the same might not be said in prose; But while there's nought the fancy to amuse, Or waken wonder in the form of news, You'll pause with pleasure, in this gloomy season, If song be sense, and if our rhyme be reason,— While all around us clouds and tempests lower, The frosts of winter, and the frown of power,— To listen where a rippling rill of rhyme Steals through the wild and dreary waste of Time. No pomp of battle shall our numbers swell; No deathless wreaths for those who fought and fell Shall we entwine; nor pour a mournful dirge O'er those, who, sinking in the swallowing surge, Saw, e'er they sunk into their billowy grave, The sword of Blakeley, gleaming o'er the wave, Pluck the green laurel from the azure plain, And from the mighty mistress of the main;— Nor yet o'er those who fell with equal fame, On sweeter waters, though of humbler name; Who by Macdonough to the combat led, By valor conquered, and with glory bled. Here check the Muse, e'er yet in full career, And pay the passing tribute of a tear To the brave tars who triumphed on the wave, But e'en in victory found a watery grave;— Who sunk in silence, and now sweetly sleep Within the coral caverns of the deep. Still shall their spirits hover o'er the flood, Now stained and rendered sacred by their blood, From where St. Lawrence spreads his bosom wide And meets the main with his gigantic tide, To where Champlain his emerald basin fills With crystal waters from surrounding hills. Still shall their ghosts on the dark tempest ride, Still o'er the fury of the fight preside; Still of their country claim a generous tear, Pledged by their comrades each returning year; And, as their memory consecrates the bowl, Swell the rich tide in each congenial soul, As kindred streams to kindred oceans roll. Peace to their shades!—nor let the Muse presume O'er Europe's fields to wave the historic plume; For me to sing, or you to hear the song, Of e'en her mighty deeds were far too long. One moment still, as o'er her fields I run, I pause to hail the splendor of the sun, That rises cloudless from her vales of blood, Gilds the blue mountain, glances on the flood, Darts his glad beams to even the Atlantic shore, And lights the waves that whiten as they roar. But stop;—while gazing upon eastern glory, The time runs on, and I delay my story. Surrounded by his parasites and tools,— Those arrant knaves, and these as arrant fools; Those raised to seats of power for what they 'd said, And these kept in them by congenial lead, But all pure patriots,—sat in full divan A mighty statesman, but a little man. Though short his person, 't was genteelly slim, His step was stately, and his dress was prim; Proud of his station, of himself still prouder, His shirt no plaiting lacked, his hair no powder.— 'T was silence all, when thus the sage expressed The calm complacency that filled his breast: "Oh happy state, where foes each other claw, Where power is liberty, and license law; All then are fools, if not of all possessed, Which, wanted, leaves a void within the breast, And thus are we, my friends, supremely blest. But, if we all are blest in stations high, Then how superlatively so am I! Ask for what end yourselves around me shine? Each for whose use?—I answer, whose but mine! Me the kind nation clothes with boundless power, And feeds with sweetest herbs and finest flour; Annual for me does either house renew The tax on whisky,—never paid when due; To me the mine a thousand treasures brings; For me wealth gushes from a thousand springs; Blacks count, to choose me, mobs to help me rise; Be earth my throne, and never mind the skies. "How doubly blest in this propitious hour, Are those who gave, or we who stole, the power, To banish commerce from each busy mart, To check the warm tide bounding through the heart, Lest, should the current too profusely spread, Dance through the limbs, and riot in the head, It might gush out through some unguarded chink, And the poor patient through exhaustion sink. True, we deny the multitude their wishes;— But what of that?—we take their loaves and fishes; For, faithful to the wise Egyptian law, We claim their bricks, though we refuse them straw; While they are 'prompt,' the dear, enlightened elves, To feed their rulers, though they starve themselves. O happy rulers, who can taxes lay! O happy people, who must taxes pay!— But ha!—what awful vision meets my sight, That moves majestic, though involved in night! Pale sheets of lightning quiver on the cloud, That robes some demon in a sulphurous shroud, And hark! the swelling thunder rolls aloud. 'T is he, 't is War!—I snuff his blasting breath! Save me, my friends, then save yourselves, from death!" Pale as the plaster, sunk the great beholder, Cold as the marble of the floor, or colder. Meantime, 'mid lurid smoke and withering flame, In gloomy pomp, the Fiend of darkness came. Two dragons fierce, by spells infernal bound, Roll on his iron car, that shakes the ground! Their breath around a hellish horror flings, That darkens as they flap their leathern wings; While viscid drops exude between the scales, That rustle as they writhe their coiling tails;— Heaven frowns above them, earth, with hollow groan, Shudders beneath the steeds of Phlegethon. The Fiend, who goaded on the panting pair, Had wreathed his temples, and his clotted hair, With shrivelled hemlock and with cypress round;— So should the gory God of War be crowned. His stiffening locks on his broad shoulders curled;— O'er him his bloody banner was unfurled;— He breathes, and dun smoke rolls in volumes dire;— Beneath his black brow, flash his eyes of fire;— In either hand he waves a weapon fell, In this a glowing shot, in that a shell, Both snatched still hissing from the forge of hell. And round the Demon, as in wrath he comes, Bright bayonets bristle, burst the bellowing bombs, Red rockets dart, and rattling roll the drums. The affrighted chief, who on the floor had sunk, With "brief authority," not brandy, drunk, Burst the cold bands of syncopè asunder, And, starting as he heard the approaching thunder, Sprung from the floor and cried with all his force, "A horse! a horse!—my kingdom for a horse!" His steed, obedient to his sovereign's call, In splendid trappings bounded from his stall, Neighed as he stopped before the palace gate, And kneeled expectant of the illustrious freight. Quick to his seat the enlightened statesman sprung;— The conscious saddle creaked, the stirrups rung, Loud cracked the lash, loose hung the useless rein, And floated freely on his courser's mane. Swift though that courser bore his lord from home, Whitening his dusty flanks with flakes of foam, Yet for those flanks the rider felt no bowels, But galled them sorely with his bloody rowels, Nor once looked backward till far on the way That leads from Washington to Montpelier. Immortal Gilpin! did thy charger caper, Charged though he were with the bold linen-draper; With hoofs of iron spurn the paving-stones, Nor heed thy bottles, nor regard thy bones,— Though those were dashed to atoms at thy back, And these endured the tortures of the rack?— Did his high mettle, heedless of the rein, Prompt him, without a scourge, to scour the plain With such resistless fury as to baffle The united force of martingal and snaffle? Such fury as to leave thy hat behind, And give thy wig, all powdered, to the wind? Such that nor bits could curb, nor turnpikes check? (Much to the peril, Gilpin, of thy neck Did postboys see thee pass like lightning by, Mount their fleet steeds, and raise their hue and cry; And in this crisis did thy generous steed, As they increased their noise, increase his speed? And didst thou, finding all thy efforts vain To curb him with thy bridle, drop the rein, And, to thyself lest there might happen some ill, With this hand grasp the mane, with that the pommel, And, leaning forward, to their Fates resign Thy wife, thy wig, thy bottles, and thy wine; Till far behind the chase was heard no more, And thy good steed had halted at thy door, And dropped thee, bruised and weary, from the crupper, But just in season to sit down to supper? O Captain Gilpin, hush!—no longer seek To palm thy tale upon us as unique; For, as his homeward course our hero steers, Leaving his palace to "his valiant peers," These seem resolved, if there is aught in speed, Ne'er to desert him "in his utmost need," And least of all to stay, and at the altar bleed. Thus ever duteous, each his groom bestirs, Pulls on his boots, and buckles on his spurs, Ne'er asks the question, which demands him most, In danger's hour, his pony or his post, But mounts at once, and à la mode de Boncy, Deserts his post, and pricks his prancing pony. Yet, gentle reader, do not think that fear Impelled their heels, to urge their swift career; They knew not fear, for, even when the air Smelt strong of powder, they could nobly dare, Could laugh at balls as they innoxious fell, And,—when it once had burst,—despise a shell; Nay one, 't is said, whose birth the auspicious stars Had kindly cast beneath the sign of Mars, E'en cracked his whip at an expiring rocket, (He had, it seems, his pistols in his pocket,) Nor was he by his bravery incommoded, For, strange to tell, the rocket ne'er exploded! In the short moment that they 're thus delayed, What deathless deeds of daring are displayed! That little moment!—But new lightnings flash, And nearer roars the thunder; hark! the lash, That cracked defiance at all Congreve's powder, Now o'er the flying courser cracks still louder. Away they start, and, as each rider feels War's sulphurous breath already scorch his heels, (Those heels where plated silver shines so bright,) His heels with greater vigor urge the flight. Swift is the steed, they know, that bears their master, But, though he leads them fast, they follow faster;— All strive to pass their fellows as they fly, And, "Devil take the hindmost," is the cry, Till far remote from danger they descried Our Hero seated by his horse's side, Who, sad as Sancho when he saw the vile end Of all his hopes, his palace, and his island, Seemed to apostrophize the distant flame, And thus be closed, as on their coursers came: "It is no more! Yet nought beneath the stars Can stand the shock of Vulcan and of Mars; Neither the city's pomp, nor rustic bowers, 'Nor gorgeous palaces, nor cloud-capt towers,' Nor e'en the pillars of this mighty globe;— Nor—all the brick and mortar of Latrobe." Patrons, my tale is told, and shall I hush? I will, indeed,—to hide the crimson blush That kindles on my cheek with parching flame, When doomed to dwell upon these scenes of shame. Fain would I dash the records from my page, And veil the present from the future age.— But no;—what Truth compels the Muse to trace, No tears can wash away, no art crase. Fain would I check the tide;—but flow it must. Who can repress the invincible disgust, That finds a place in every patriot's breast, Who knows he is not governed but oppressed;— Who sees his sacred rights the jest of knaves, His bleeding sons, the tools of abject slaves! Who sees, beneath the feet of tyrants trod, The laws of man, the oracles of God,— And, where the historic Muse, with diamond pen, Once wrote the immortal names of godlike men, Now, catching through the gloom a sickening glimpse, Sees Infamy, begirt with grinning imps, Trace on her sooty page with pitchy swab The damning deeds of Madison and Mob! My New-Year's wish, though warm, is briefly told;— May the New-Year be happier than the Old; May scenes of peace succeed to those of blood; May Commerce spread her white wings o'er the flood; May good men live, but every tyrant knave, Who rules to curse his country, find a grave, Whether by angry Heaven in vengeance made, Or dug by Brutus with his patriot blade.
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