Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
Elegiac Ode
By George Richards
 
Sacred to the memory of General Greene

SAY, shall the bards of ancient Greece and Rome,
  In all the pathos of impassion’d woe,
Mourn with their country, at the hero’s tomb,
  And fire a world to emulation’s glow?
 
Shall weeping muses quit Pierian groves,        5
  To deck the sod, where rest the good, the brave?
And shall the warrior, whom an empire loves,
  Repose, unsung, unhonour’d in the grave?
 
Forbid it, Heaven! Columbia claims the song:
  Touch’d with her griefs, I sweep the plaintive lyre:        10
To her, to Greene, immortal strains belong:
  An angel’s pencil, and a seraph’s fire.
 
Whilst sacred Truth, from realms of light divine,
  Shall pour the tide of intellectual day,
And lead my footsteps to the hero’s shrine,        15
  Were patriots guard and freemen watch the clay.
 
When first Britannia bathed her sword in gore,
  His soul, indignant, spurn’d the peaceful shade;
Instant he arm’d, to brave the lion’s roar,
  And the keen terrors of the Highland blade.        20
 
Prompt at his call, to hostile fields he led
  The hardy yeomen of his native isle;
True sons of liberty; whom virtue bred,
  Strong for the labours of Herculean toil.
 
Mild of access, in him, no little pride        25
  Obscured the greatness of a noble mind;
He felt for all; the soldier at his side
  Brought down the sweetest “milk of human kind.”
 
For council honour’d, in the camp beloved,
  Sagacious, cool, amid the storm serene;        30
Heroes revered, applauding states approved,
  And Albion trembled at the name of Greene.
 
Oft have his limbs the frozen earth compress’d,
  Whilst round his head the watery torrent pour’d;
Thick clouds the curtains to his couch of rest,        35
  Where the bleak wind and midnight hail-storm roar’d.
 
And oft, advancing with the solar ray,
  His banners flamed to meet the lightning’s glare,
In torrid realms of more than burning day;
  Sad haunts of death, and plagues, and putrid air.        40
 
There hallow’d truths, inscribed on glory’s roll,
  Written in blood on honour’s purple vest,
Shall gallant warriors, born of kindred soul,
  With conscious pride and martial zeal attest.
 
Illustrious men! ye nerved his mighty hand,        45
  To crush the savage on the warlike plain;
When to the south he wheel’d his conquering band,
  And broke the iron of oppression’s chain.
 
Around the shores which Hudson’s billows lave,
  His laurel wreaths shall ever verdant bloom;        50
And Trenton’s cypress shade the hero’s grave,
  Whilst pensive Princeton mourns his early tomb.
 
August abodes! ye heard the trumpet’s sound;
  Which bade his columns range, his squadrons form;
Ye saw his coursers snuff the embattled ground,        55
  And Greene, triumphant, rule the vengeful storm.
 
Array’d in tears and garb of sable hue
  See Brandywine the chieftain’s hearse attend;
And Germantown lament, and Monmouth robed in yew,
  And Ashley’s waters wail their godlike friend.        60
 
Immortal grounds! the theme of every age,
  Your meanest dust shall speak the hero’s praise:
Here bolted vengeance burst with tenfold rage,
  And there he drove the lightning’s rapid blaze.
 
Nor less illustrious are the banks of Dan,        65
  Or Guilford’s fields, where feats of bold emprise,
Proclaim the genius of the matchless man:
  Through all the regions mark’d by azure skies.
 
Ye saw his arms the vollied thunders deal,
  Which check’d Cornwallis in his mid career:        70
With Tarleton’s sword, and Rawdon’s murderous steel,
  And savage Balfour paled with guilty fear.
 
Illustrious spots of earth’s high favour’d mould!
  What, though no clarions swell to dire alarms,
And no proud chief, in pomp of burnish’d gold,        75
  Leads on his troops in the bright glow of arms.
 
Yet shall the veteran there recount the tale
  Of armies raised, unclothed, unfed, unpaid,
Who stood the summer’s heat, the winter’s gale,
  Nor turn’d their bosoms from the tyrant’s blade.        80
 
Such were the men who own’d the power of Greene,
  When the shrill music, lengthening down the line,
Urged rank on rank, to try the dubious scene,
  And combat hosts, by despots thought divine.
 
Thrice honour’d chief! the work of death is past,        85
  Thy task completed, smiling peace descends,
Hush’d is the din, and mute the trumpet’s blast,
  And ardent warriors greet as ancient friends.
 
Mature in life, with endless honour crown’d,
  Too bright for earth, and fit for purer skies,        90
Celestial bards his mighty deeds resound,
  Whilst thus, aloud, a prince of angels cries.
 
“At God’s decree, by Heaven’s high throne, I swear,
  ’Tis done! ’tis done! his time shall be no more!
Thou king of death, descend on wings of air,        95
  And waft the hero to his native shore.”
 
The obedient monarch cleft the ethereal way, 1
  His golden darts were tipp’d with sacred fire,
He rode the chariot of eternal day,
  And, fleet as lightning, pass’d the applauding choir.        100
 
His radiant form the hero kenn’d afar,
  Resolved in death to boast supernal fame,
He mounted swift, lash’d on the burning car,
  And tower’d sublime in robes of solar flame.
 
According spirits tuned the song of love,        105
  From heavenly harps was heard triumphant praise,
Which breathed thrice welcome to the climes above,
  In the mild music of harmonious lays.
 
A pause ensued; the melting lyre was still,
  And this the voice which trumpets roll’d around:        110
“Go fix the hero’s throne on glory’s hill,
  And be the chief by mightiest warriors crown’d.”
 
The laurel wreath was borne in Warren’s hand,
  The great Montgomery throned the immortal Greene,
The gentle Mercer join’d the festive band,        115
  And gallant Laurens graced the glorious scene.
 
Uncounted veterans throng’d the blest abodes;
  Loud swell’d the notes to ecstasy divine;
And Spartan heroes, next in rank to gods,
  Proclaimed, with Wolfe, the palm of merit thine.        120
 
Note 1. General Greene died of the coup de soleil, or stroke of the sun. [back]
 
 
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