Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
 
Appendix II. Poems Printed in the ‘Life of Whittier’
To a Poetical Trio in the City of Gotham
 
   [This jeu d’esprit was written by Whittier in 1832. The notes are his own. The authorship was not discovered till after his death.]
  
 Three wise men of Gotham
Went to sea in a bowl.

BARDS of the island city!—where of old
  The Dutchman smoked beneath his favorite tree,
And the wild eyes of Indian hunters rolled
  On Hudson plunging in the Tappaan Zee,
Scene of Stuyvesant’s might and chivalry,        5
  And Knickerbocker’s fame,—I have made bold
To come before ye, at the present time,
And reason with ye in the way of rhyme.
 
Time was when poets kept the quiet tenor
  Of their green pathway through th’ Arcadian vale,—        10
Chiming their music in the low sweet manner
  Of song-birds warbling to the “Soft South” gale;
Wooing the Muse where gentle zephyrs fan her,
  Where all is peace and earth may not assail;
Telling of lutes and flowers, of love and fear,        15
Of shepherds, sheep and lambs, and “such small deer.”
 
But ye! lost recreants—straying from the green
  And pleasant vista of your early time,
With broken lutes and crownless skulls—are seen
  Spattering your neighbors with abhorrent slime        20
Of the low world’s pollution 1 Ye have been
  So long apostates from the Heaven of rhyme,
That of the Muses, every mother’s daughter
Blushes to own such graceless bards e’er sought her.
 
“Hurrah for Jackson!” is the music now        25
  Which your cracked lutes have learned alone to utter,
As, crouching in Corruption’s shadow low,
  Ye daily sweep them for your bread and butter, 2
Cheered by the applauses of the friends who show
  Their heads above the offal of the gutter,        30
And, like the trees which Orpheus moved at will,
Reel, as in token of your matchless skill!
 
Thou son of Scotia! 3—nursed beside the grave
  Of the proud peasant-minstrel, and to whom
The wild muse of thy mountain-dwelling gave        35
  A portion of its spirit,—if the tomb
Could burst its silence, o’er the Atlantic’s wave
  To thee his voice of stern rebuke would come,
Who dared to waken with a master’s hand
The lyre of freedom in a fettered land.        40
 
And thou!—once treading firmly the proud deck
  O’er which thy country’s honored flag was sleeping,
Calmly in peace, or to the hostile beck
  Of coming foes in starry splendor sweeping,—
Thy graphic tales of battle or of wreck,        45
  Or lone night-watch in middle ocean keeping,
Have made thy “Leisure Hours” more prized by far
Than those now spent in Party’s wordy war. 4
 
And last, not least, thou!—now nurtured in the land
  Where thy bold-hearted fathers long ago        50
Rocked Freedom’s cradle, till its infant hand
  Strangled the serpent fierceness of its foe,—
Thou, whose clear brow in early time was fanned
  By the soft airs which from Castalia flow!— 5
Where art thou now? feeding with hickory ladle        55
The curs of Faction with thy daily twaddle!
 
Men have looked up to thee, as one to be
  A portion of our glory; and the light
And fairy hands of woman beckoned thee
  On to thy laurel guerdon; and those bright        60
And gifted spirits, whom the broad blue sea
  Hath shut from thy communion, bid thee, “Write,”
Like John of Patmos. Is all this forgotten,
For Yankee brawls and Carolina cotton?
 
Are autumn’s rainbow hues no longer seen?        65
  Flows the “Green River” through its vale no more?
Steals not thy “Rivulet” by its banks of green?
  Wheels upward from its dark and sedgy shore
Thy “Water Fowl” no longer?—that the mean
  And vulgar strife, the ranting and the roar        70
Extempore, like Bottom’s should be thine,—
Thou feeblest truck-horse in the Hero’s line!
 
Lost trio!—turn ye to the minstrel pride
  Of classic Britain. Even effeminate Moore
Has cast the wine-cup and the lute aside        75
  For Erin and O’Connell; and before
His country’s altar, Bulwer breasts the tide
  Of old oppression. Sadly brooding o’er
The fate of heroes struggling to be free,
Even Campbell speaks for Poland. Where are ye?        80
 
Hirelings of traitors!—know ye not that men
  Are rousing up around ye to retrieve
Our country’s honor, which too long has been
  Debased by those for whom ye daily weave
Your web of fustian; that from tongue and pen        85
  Of those who o’er our tarnished honor grieve,
Of the pure-hearted and the gifted, come
Hourly the tokens of your master’s doom?
 
Turn from their ruin! Dash your chains aside!
  Stand up like men for Liberty and Law,        90
And free opinion. Check Corruption’s pride,
  Soothe the loud storm of fratricidal war,—
And the bright honors of your eventide
  Shall share the glory which your morning saw;
The patriot’s heart shall gladden at your name,        95
Ye shall be blessed with, and not “damned to fame”!
 
Note 1. Editors of the Mercantile Advertiser and the Evening Post in New York,—the present organs of Jacksonism. [back]
Note 2. Perhaps, after all, they get something better; inasmuch as the Heroites have for some time had exclusive possession of the Hall of St. Tammany, and we have the authority of Halleck that
  “There ’s a barrel of porter in Tammany Hall,
And the Bucktails are swigging it all the night long.”
 [back]
Note 3. James Lawson, Esq., of the Mercantile. A fine, warm-hearted Scotchman, who, having unfortunately blundered into Jacksonism, is wondering “how i’ the Deil’s name” he got there. He is the author of a volume entitled Tales and Sketches, and of the tragedy of Giordano. [back]
Note 4. William Leggett, Esq., of the Post, a gentleman of good talents, favorably known as the editor of the New York Critic, etc. [back]
Note 5. William C. Bryant, Esq., well known to the public at large as a poet of acknowledged excellence; and as a very dull editor to the people of New York. [back]
 
 
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