Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
The Village
By Enoch Lincoln (1788–1829)
 
  SHALLOW and deep, by turns, and swift and slow,
There I behold the winding Saco flow.
In early spring, when showers increase its tides,
And melted snows pour down the mountains’ sides,
I ’ve seen it raging, boisterous, and deep,        5
O’erflow its banks and through the upland sweep.
The farmer’s hopes, the lumberer’s hard earn’d thrift,
Logs, bridges, booms, and boats were all adrift;
Trees, fences, fields, whate’er opposed its course,
Were torn and scatter’d by the o’erwhelming force.        10
  Loosed from the fold to crop the tender feed,
The hungry flock were grazing on the mead.
Their saving Ararat, a trifling mound,
Secured them from the deluge spreading round,
Till, taught no more to let the stragglers roam,        15
The careless shepherd bore them to their home.
And then, from spouting clouds no longer fed,
Our little Nile return’d within its bed.
  Along its borders, spreading far and wide,
The tall, straight pines appear on every side.        20
To these thick woods the hardy laborer goes,
And rears his sheltering tent amid the snows,
His couch the hemlock’s twigs, his household ware,
A jug and basket fill’d with simplest fare.
Ye, who indulge in indolence and ease,        25
Whom spleen invades and moody vapors seize,
To whom each day an age of trouble seems,
Whose nights are wakeful or disturb’d by dreams,
Observe the happy quiet of his rest,
And learn, like him, by labor to be blest.        30
Ye bloated epicures, disease’s prey,
Who waste in vile excess your lives away,
Observe his frugal board, be wise at length,
And gain like him, from temperance, health and strength.
The frosty boreal blast, the pelting storm,        35
Solstitial suns, or seasons mildly warm,
The western breezes, or the southern air,
Alike to him, wake not one passing care.
With nervous arm he wields the keen-edged axe,
And plies anew each day untired attacks,        40
Till by his strokes the forest levell’d round,
With prostrate trunks and branches heaps the ground.
The oxen, faithful sharers of his toil,
Drag to the river’s brink the heavy spoil,
Thence floated downward to the distant mart,        45
And changed from Nature’s form to works of Art.
  But not alone the lofty pine trees fall,
The axe unsparing strikes alike on all.
Now a rich treasury of golden grain,
Few moons have wax’d and waned since yonder plain,        50
A shady solitude, a drear retreat,
Had scarcely known the print of human feet.
When, joining hand in hand, what charms imparts
The potent touch of Labor and the Arts.
Planted by them, the sweetly scented rose,        55
On dreary wilds, in blooming beauty grows;
The fields, where famine reign’d or wild beasts ranged,
By them to peopled villages are changed.
Their aid invoked, with no retarding fears,
His cumber’d land the sturdy yeoman clears.        60
Fell’d by his strokes, the forest prostrate lies;
Its vital sap the glowing summer dries,
And last the bonfires burn, the boughs consume,
And spreading flames the hemisphere illume.
The fresh’ning breezes fan the growing blaze,        65
Bear the light sparks, and cloudy columns raise,
And whirl the storm of rushing fire along
O’er lighted hills, and crackling vales among.
Swift fly the birds, as spreads the ruin round,
The frighted reptiles hide within the ground,        70
And all the forest tribes grow wilder at the sound.
But see yon simple hut, of structure rude,
Of unplaned boards contrived and logs unhew’d:
The threat’ning fires pursue their blasting way,
And the low fabric falls their certain prey.        75
Alas! ’t was Poverty’s last hope,—the place
Where dwelt Contentment with her sister, Peace.
Ah! Charity, thou comforter of wo,
Wipe now the tears from Misery’s eye that flow:
Thou Angel Almoner of pitying heaven,        80
Now let thy treasures of relief be given,
Take to thy bosom the poor child of need,
The houseless shelter, and the hungry feed:
By blessings wing’d their prayer shall make its way
To heaven’s high Chancery; there will God repay.        85
  More sacred than the Thunderer’s chosen oak,
Let not the maple feel the woodman’s stroke.
Fair maple! honors purer far are thine
Than Venus’ myrtle yields, or Bacchus’ vine;
Minerva’s olive, consecrated tree,        90
Deserves not half the homage due to thee.
The queen of trees, thou proudly tower’st on high,
Yet wave thy limbs in graceful pliancy.
On yonder river’s bank, around thy root,
The closely interweaving fibres shoot,        95
And numerous branches spreading far and wide,
Swiftly the wind, strongly must rush the tide
To overthrow thy deep and stately strength,
And on the strand to measure out thy length.
From every twig of thee, as blows the breeze,        100
Fly the ripe germes, the little embryo trees,
And form’d with each a wing by Nature’s care,
Float lightly, quivering in the passing air,
Or, dropping, fall upon the stream and flow
With rich alluvion, and to forests grow.        105
Fair maple! let thy leaves my brows surround,
And laurel wreaths I trample on the ground.
The suffering Negro in West Indian Isles,
Soothed at thy name, amid his sorrow smiles,
Hope’s cheering rays dispel his gloomy care,        110
And tinge with dawning light his deep despair.
Do not our soil and frosty clime insure
Sweets as salubrious, exquisite and pure,
As those which burning suns, or humid air
With swarming insects fill’d, and slaves prepare?        115
They do! our blest New England’s fruitful soil
Requires no culture by a servile toil;
No master’s torturing lash offends the ear,
No slave is now nor ever shall be here.
Whene’er he steps upon our sacred fields,        120
Their guardian Genius an asylum yields,
His chains drop from him, and on Reason’s plan,
He claims the gift of God, the rights of man.
*      *      *      *      *      *
  Enough of mountains, rocks, and woods, and streams;
We turn our view to more instructive themes:        125
The varied landscape let us cease to scan,
And strive to sketch the qualities of man,
Whilst from the camera of the faithful brain,
We paint the little village of the plain.
Let others trace a more extensive view,        130
And different scenes with higher aim pursue:
Let them become familiar with the great,
And ope the hidden mysteries of state,
Or march with conquering armies and rehearse
The deeds of heroes in the epic verse:        135
My lowly subjects humbler strains invite,
And check the Fancy’s more aspiring flight:
Yet, though the numerous hamlets rise around,
And many tempting charms in each abound,
She will not stray from this her little sphere;        140
The brief epitome of all is here.
  With admiration fill’d, by beauty fired,
By virtue awed, by all her charms inspired,
With sacred tenderness and watchful care,
First should I pay my homage to the fair.        145
Satire avaunt! throw down thy poison’d darts,
Forbear to fix thy wounds in female hearts,
Forbear to draw from Beauty’s eye the tear,
A scornful jest to barb, or point a sneer.
True, some are mark’d by follies, subjects fit        150
For jeers and taunts, for laughter and for wit.
A jilt may cheat you, a coquette may vex,
A Messalina may disgrace her sex,
A Clytemnestra may her husband kill,
A father’s blood a furious Tullia spill,        155
A cruel Mary light the Smithfield fire,
And numerous victims in the flames expire;
But is the starry firmament less bright,
Or would you veil the blaze of solar light,
Because a transient cloud obscures the one,        160
Or now and then a spot comes o’er the sun?
Exceptions to their sex those monsters call,
And for their faults and crimes condemn not all.
For one of those a thousand you may find
Of charming person and of cultured mind.        165
Behold the politic, the good Queen Bess
By virtuous rule a happy nation bless,
A Joan of Arc invading armies brave,
And fall herself a tottering realm to save.
See the Czarina, as her father great,        170
In all the arts and policy of State,
The heroine Roland tyrant power defy,
The patriot Corday for her country die,
With learning fraught, Dacier’s scholastic page,
By female genius signalize an age,        175
And, in our native land, a Warren’s name
Rank near a Gibbon’s on the roll of Fame,
And Adams, rich in history’s various lore,
The arduous path of literature explore;
With Shakspeare, great blasphemer of the fair,        180
“Woman thy name is Frailty,” then declare,
The “semper varium” of the bard relate
Who sang the lovely Dido’s hapless fate,
And let the strains of satire all be sung,
From bitter Juvenal down to pungent Young;        185
Those female worthies still shall live in fame,
And honor’s haloes circle every name;
Still shall the virtues of a countless crowd
Proclaim the bards malicious, false and proud.
The foul injustice of their pens to show,        190
Proofs, living proofs, full many here I know.
And now forgive, ye fair, if, bold and rude,
The muse unbidden on your homes intrude;
’T is not to drag you to the common gaze,
For modest merit shrinks from public praise;        195
’T is not, with flattery’s sycophantic guile,
To smooth a frowning brow or win a smile;
But ’t is to pay the homage which is due,
To Truth, to Beauty, Innocence and you.
Some could I name, who never fail to please        200
By manners joining dignity and ease;
Strictly correct in everything they say,
In Virtue’s balance every act they weigh,
And while to all the social duties true,
Good their delight and heaven their hopeful view.        205
Even watching envy not a fault can find,
But owns them pure of heart and rich in mind:
Censure is dumb, while families and friends
Revere those virtues, which the world commends.
  Thrice happy he, by Fortune highly bless’d,        210
By such, as husband loved, or child caress’d,
And whom the ties of marriage, or of blood,
Have made the guardian angels of his good.
Ye men of pleasure, roving, wild, and gay,
Can lawless riot these pure joys repay?        215
Say which, through life’s great voyage, will rather please,
Love’s furious whirlwind or its gentle breeze?
Say, when enjoyments have the senses pall’d,
And unimpassion’d Reason is recall’d
To hold again her abdicated throne,        220
Do you not feel abandon’d and alone?
When on your spirits moody sorrow weighs,
When on your health destructive sickness preys,
When on your rights invade malignant foes,
Assail your fame, and stab at your repose,        225
Surely no greater good by pitying heaven
Can, in its vast beneficence, be given,
Than one, the friend in all the scenes of life,
The kind companion, and the loving wife.
Yet truth must own such paragons are rare,        230
And few so good, so lovely, and so fair.
Though frequent quarries may the earth unfold,
Yet rare are diamonds or the mines of gold:
So we perceive the mass of human kind,
Though fair in spots, is rough and unrefined.        235
Those bless’d with beauty and by virtue loved,
Of manners polish’d and of taste improved,
Are precious gems, ’midst barren mountains found,
Where dreary wastes and frowning cliffs abound.
’T is happily contrived that man is made        240
With tastes and powers of every varying shade.
Hence every one the other’s wants subserves,
And each her own peculiar praise deserves,
As well the housewife ’neath the humble roof,
Plying the wheel and laboring warp and woof,        245
As the gay charmer, mistress of the heart,
Who plays in higher life a brighter part.
But she above all competition towers
Who adds to other gifts high mental powers.
*      *      *      *      *      *      *
  But man, wild, active, versatile, and bold,        250
What pen his various nature can unfold,
Depict his actions, character, and mien,
And dramatize the vast and changeful scene!
Behold him here, the Village for his stage,
The scenery Nature, and the plot the Age,        255
Life’s tragi-comic subject for the Play,
And Actors of all stamps, from grave to gay,
From bustling, strutting, pompous, loud, and vain,
To simple merit’s large and lowly train.
Think not the moment lost, as these we scan,        260
For the best “study of mankind is man.”
  First comes the lawyer; ’t is an honor’d name,
A title glorious on the roll of Fame,
Too dear for wealth, which birth cannot bestow,
Or flattery wreathe around a lordling’s brow;        265
A title from the fane of Science borne,
By weary vigils earn’d, by wisdom worn,
Of import vast, in which the honors blend
Of honor’s champion and of freedom’s friend;
Yet Justice fails the sacred name to save        270
From profanation of the fool and knave,
Who, jackdaws still, the peacock’s pomp assume,
And strut in pride with half a pilfer’d plume.
*      *      *      *      *      *
  Prompt with demurrers, skilful in abatements,
To circumvention train’d, and bold in statements,        275
Each villain’s hireling, used by every knave,
Of meanest wretches even a meaner slave,
To rob too cowardly, too proud to steal,
The pettifogger preys on public weal,
And makes some Justice, a commission’d fool,        280
For paltry aims a secret legal tool,
Or deeper cheats, to gain him larger fees,
Performs by quibbles, sophistry and pleas.
As princes, heedless whether wrong or right,
Their forces sell in foreign wars to fight;        285
So he, for fees or popular applause,
Fits out his arguments for any cause,
Like hireling Hessians still enlists for pay,
Nor cares who falls or conquers in the fray.
Does Law’s plain letter stare him in the face;        290
Its spirit then must take the letter’s place;
But if the spirit shall oppose his aim,
The letter then must perfect reverence claim.
His declaration do clear proofs deny,
Does Reason give his sophistry the lie;        295
Then Reason’s false and not to be believed,
And every witness perjured or deceived.
If, notwithstanding his absurd harangues,
Neglect attends him or dark want o’erhangs,
Fictitious indorsees his costs may swell,        300
Or clients under par their notes may sell!
Or if by clients, whom his frauds have warn’d,
Avoided, fear’d, despised, abhorr’d, and scorn’d,
Yet may his malice rob some wealthy foe,
Whilst perjury aids to lay the victim low.        305
If vengeance urge or avarice allure,
No virtue’s safe and no estate secure.
O’er your whole life the never-sleeping spy,
Whilst memory notes, directs his piercing eye,
And if, perchance, with careless feet you stray        310
From law’s oft doubtful and much winding way,
At once the villain, dead to honest shame,
Urges his bloodhounds on your wealth and fame,
Turns pimp to catchpolls, and would take with joy
From off a hangman’s hands his vile employ.        315
  When bless’d with soul and gifted with a mind,
And such there are, we honest lawyers find,
Those whose high office is to guard the laws,
And vindicate from wrong the righteous cause,
We yield the meed of merited applause:        320
Yes more, even those whom headstrong passions urge,
To tempt of daring vice the utmost verge,
Who, great in crimes, in their eccentric course,
Superior art display or mightier force,
If Genius beam its animating fire,        325
We cannot help to pity and admire;
But when thick skull d, dispassionate, and mean,
A creeping villain or dull rogue is seen,
If not from sense of justice quite exempt,
We load the wretch with hatred and contempt.        330
A lawyer he! O no; he sinks the name
To lowest depths of infamy and shame.
Much more the humble appellation fits
Of petty scribe of low, vexations writs,
Whom ne’er a single ray of fancy warms        335
To cheer the gloom of precedents and forms,
Extortion’s drudge, a mere machine, which Jews,
In works too vile for them, may freely use.
  Provoked by insults or some trifling wrong,
To vengeance urged law’s mazy path along,        340
The fretful litigant resolves to fit
Th’ offending neighbor with a “special writ.”
Varus, a lawyer skill’d in legal arts,
Of high repute for management and parts,
Of boldest courage to maintain a lie,        345
In reasoning subtle, in evasion sly,
To feeling dead, in principle a knave,
Forever craving as the insatiate grave,
And now mayhap by hunger urged to seize
On any job which gives a chance for fees,        350
His client’s burning fury feeds with oil,
Urges the suit and lights him to the spoil.
’Squire Quirk, the Justice, to dispense the laws
Sits in the pride of power to judge the cause,
Grave as an owl in solemn state presides,        355
And as sly Varus bids, the cause decides:
Vain all authorities, and justice vain,
Not Dexter’s self a single point could gain:
Cold as the snows which freeze around the pole,
No eloquence could warm his frigid soul;        360
Dark as the shades of Milton’s Stygian night,
His mind admits no glimmering ray of light;
Too dull for reasoning and too proud for shame,
No power can move him from his steadfast aim.
  Resolved, in folly’s and in knavery’s spite,        365
In other courts to vindicate his right,
The aggrieved defendant, now on fortune’s wheel,
Still by reviews, new trial, and appeal,
Through every change of law is whirl’d around,
And whirls and changes still, but gains no ground.        370
At last his wealth, by fritters worn away,
By lawyers’ fees and witnesses in pay,
Through long delays although he wins his cause,
He falls beneath the bulwark of the laws;
Yet blame not them, themselves most wise and pure,        375
But those who use them to oppress the poor:
They ’re speculators, usurers, and knaves,
And those who condescend to be their slaves,
On whom should rest th’ accumulated weight
Of private anger and of public hate.
*      *      *      *      *      *      *
        380
  Yet O! beware of Party Spirit’s rage,
The course of direst ills to every age,
The lowering cloud o’er freedom’s brilliant star,
Heavy with ruin, black with civil war.
As where in deserts of Arabian lands        385
Some gushing spring spouts up amidst the sands,
Its dewy freshness feeds the towering palms,
And clothes the spot with all of Nature’s charms:
But when the hot Sirocco rushes by,
The withering beauties catch the blast and die:        390
So, ’midst a world of tyranny and dread,
Where blooming Freedom droops its flowery head,
In this blest land, its blushing honors blow,
And ripening fruits in rich luxuriance grow;
But Party Spirit’s pestilential power        395
Wilts the fair growth and blights the charming flower,
While factious feuds and unforgiving hate
Waste half the civil honors of our state.
The Ins and Outs a constant warfare wage,
With all the malice of vindictive rage,        400
With all the ardor avarice inspires,
And all ambition’s stimulating fires.
To either side unnumber’d followers throng,
Some right in motive, most in action wrong,
Assailants fierce, accoutred cap a pie,        405
In pride’s and prejudice’s panoply.
With loud declaiming demagogues at head,
Or now and then, perchance, by statesmen led,
Resolved, though conquer’d, still to scorn to yield,
They take with clash of arguments the field:        410
Truth tilts with Error and she hurls amain
Her forceful weapons, but she hurls in vain;
On Folly’s mail they fall with thundering sound,
And blunted fall unhonor’d by a wound.
*      *      *      *      *      *
  Some meanly selfish, a more venal crew,        415
With nought but power or riches in their view,
While frowning virtue interdicts in vain,
Use basest means the favorite end to gain.
At patriot merit slander’s shafts they aim,
With vacant heads and noisy tongues declaim,        420
Decry the statesman, puff the stupid knave,
Support the traitor, stigmatize the brave,
Call wisdom folly, honor’s self defame,
Discolor truth and everything misname.
And why? Forsooth a rival to disgrace,        425
To win a salary or to steal a place.
*      *      *      *      *      *
Aloof, the Patriot eyes the scene below,
With calm contempt or with indignant glow.
His wide philanthropy spreads unconfined,
Beyond a Party’s bounds to all mankind;        430
His liberal mind a general system frames,
And in that system knows no private aims,
No views to self, no patronage of friends,
No mean contrivances for paltry ends.
No factious tumults move his steadfast soul,        435
No lures entice him, and no threats control;
Through changing times, ’midst all the scenes of State,
As stern as Justice, and as fix’d as Fate,
He stands sublime and nobly stems the storm
Of Folly’s rage and popular alarm,        440
Till, all his greatness by the world confess’d,
Fear’d by the vicious, by the good caress’d,
He meets at last the meed he spurn’d to claim,
The unsought prize of office and of same;
Yet office adds to him no higher grace,        445
’T is he reflects his brightness on his place.
Diffusive blessings widely swell around,
And public weal with party spoils is crown’d.
  Ye virtuous yeomen, guardians of the land,
Be yours the heart, the ever ready hand,        450
Such worth to aid, such wisdom to select,
Such truth to shield, such honor to protect.
What though no gay armorials declare
Of titled knaves that he’s the legal heir?
His rank is first by Heraldry of heaven,        455
To whom the powers of intellect are given.
What though no pomp his humble state allows?
He ’s truly rich whom virtue’s wealth endows:
Placed on the level where your fortunes rest,
He knows your wants, he feels when you’re oppress’d,        460
Enjoys your good, participates your pains,
Sinks as you fall, and as you prosper gains.
Such, your wise choice, in happy union blend
The servant, statesman, patriot, and friend.
Your forms of government, by Wisdom given,        465
Have met the approving smile of favoring heaven.
Your rightful heir, posterity demands
Your sainted sires’ entailment at your hands.
O guard it with the Vestal’s sleepless care,
And leave it even more perfect and more fair.        470
 
 
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