Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Address to Connecticut River
By John G. C. Brainard (1796–1828)
 
FROM that Ione lake, the sweetest of the chain
That links the mountain to the mighty main,
Fresh from the rock and welling by the tree,
Rushing to meet and dare and breast the sea,
Fair, noble, glorious, river! in thy wave        5
The sunniest slopes and sweetest pastures lave,
The mountain torrent, with its wintry roar
Springs from its home and leaps upon thy shore;—
The promontories love thee—and for this
Turn their rough cheeks and stay thee for thy kiss.        10
Stern, at thy source, thy northern Guardians stand,
Rude rulers of the solitary land,
Wild dwellers by thy cold sequester’d springs,
Of earth the feathers and of air the wings;
Their blasts have rock’d thy cradle, and in storm        15
Cover’d thy couch and swathed in snow thy form—
Yet, bless’d by all the elements that sweep
The clouds above, or the unfathom’d deep,
The purest breezes scent thy blooming hills,
The gentlest dews drop on thy eddying rills,        20
By the moss’d bank, and by the aged tree,
The silver streamlet smoothest glides to thee,
The young oak greets thee at the waters’ edge,
Wet by the wave, though anchor’d in the ledge.
—’T is there the otter dives, the beaver feeds,        25
Where pensive osiers dip their willowy weeds,
And there the wild-cat purs amid her brood,
And trains them, in the sylvan solitude,
To watch the squirrel’s leap, or mark the mink
Paddling the water by thy quiet brink;—        30
Or to out-gaze the grey owl in the dark,
Or hear the young fox practising to bark.
  Dark as the frost-nipp’d leaves that strow’d the ground,
The Indian hunter here his shelter found;
Here cut his bow and shaped his arrows true,        35
Here built his wigwam and his bark canoe,
Spear’d the quick salmon leaping up the fall,
And slew the deer without the rifle ball.
Here his young squaw her cradling tree would choose,
Singing her chant to hush her swart pappoose,        40
Here stain her quills and string her trinkets rude,
And weave her warrior’s wampum in the wood.
—No more shall they thy welcome waters bless,
No more their forms thy moonlit banks shall press,
No more be heard, from mountain or from grove,        45
His whoop of slaughter, or her song of love.
  Thou didst not shake, thou didst not shrink, when late
The mountain-top shut down its ponderous gate,
Tumbling its tree-grown ruins to thy side,
And avalanche of acres at a slide.        50
Nor dost thou stay, when winter’s coldest breath
Howls through the woods and sweeps along the heath—
One mighty sigh relieves thy icy breast,
And wakes thee from the calmness of thy rest.
  Down sweeps the torrent ice—it may not stay        55
By rock or bridge, in narrow or in bay—
Swift, swifter to the heaving sea it goes
And leaves thee dimpling in thy sweet repose.
—Yet as the unharm’d swallow skims his way,
And lightly drops his pinions in thy spray,        60
So the swift sail shall seek thy inland seas,
And swell and whiten in thy purer breeze,
New paddles dip thy waters, and strange oars
Feather thy waves and touch thy noble shores.
  Thy noble shores! where the tall steeple shines,        65
At midday, higher than thy mountain pines,
Where the white schoolhouse with its daily drill
Of sunburnt children, smiles upon the hill,
Where the neat village grows upon the eye,
Deck’d forth in nature’s sweet simplicity—        70
Where hard-won competence, the farmer’s wealth,
Gains merit honor, and gives labor health,
Where Goldsmith’s self might send his exiled band
To find a new ‘Sweet Auburn’ in our land.
  What art can execute or taste devise,        75
Decks thy fair course and gladdens in thine eyes—
As broader sweep the bendings of thy stream,
To meet the southern sun’s more constant beam.
Here cities rise, and sea-wash’d commerce hails
Thy shores and winds, with all her flapping sails,        80
From tropic isles, or from the torrid main—
Where grows the grape, or sprouts the sugar-cane—
Or from the haunts, where the striped haddock play,
By each cold northern bank and frozen bay.
Here safe return’d from every stormy sea,        85
Waves the striped flag, the mantle of the free,
—That star-lit flag, by all the breezes curl’d
Of yon vast deep whose waters grasp the world.
  In what Arcadian, what Utopian ground
Are warmer hearts or manlier feelings found,        90
More hospitable welcome, or more zeal
To make the curious ‘tarrying’ stranger feel
That, next to home, here best may he abide,
To rest and cheer him by the chimney-side;
Drink the hale farmer’s cider, as he hears        95
From the grey dame the tales of others years.
Cracking his shagbarks, as the aged crone,
Mixing the true and doubtful into one,
Tells how the Indian scalp’d the helpless child
And bore its shrieking mother to the wild,        100
Butcher’d the father hastening to his home,
Seeking his cottage—finding but his tomb.
How drums and flags and troops were seen on high,
Wheeling and charging in the northern sky,
And that she knew what these wild tokens meant,        105
When to the Old French War her husband went.
How, by the thunder-blasted tree, was hid
The golden spoils of far famed Robert Kid;
And then the chubby grandchild wants to know
About the ghosts and witches long ago,        110
That haunted the old swamp.
                The clock strikes ten—
The prayer is said, nor unforgotten then
The stranger in their gates. A decent rule
Of Elders in thy puritanic school.        115
  When the fresh morning wakes him from his dream,
And daylight smiles on rock, and slope, and stream,
Are there not glossy curls and sunny eyes,
As brightly lit and bluer than thy skies,
Voices as gentle as an echoed call        120
And sweeter than the soften’d waterfall
That smiles and dimples in its whispering spray,
Leaping in sportive innocence away:—
And lovely forms, as graceful and as gay
As wild-brier, budding in an April day        125
—How like the leaves—the fragrant leaves it bears,
Their simple purposes and simple cares.
  Stream of my sleeping fathers! when the sound
Of coming war echoed thy hills around,
How did thy sons start forth from every glade,        130
Snatching the musket where they left the spade.
How did their mothers urge them to the fight,
Their sisters tell them to defend the right,—
How bravely did they stand, how nobly fall,
The earth their coffin and the turf their pall—        135
How did the aged pastor light his eye,
When, to his flock, he read the purpose high
And stern resolve, whate’er the toil may be,
To pledge life, name, fame, all—for Liberty.
—Cold is the hand that penn’d that glorious page—        140
Still in the grave the body of that sage
Whose lip of eloquence and heart of zeal,
Made Patriots act and listening statesmen feel—
Brought thy Green Mountains down upon their foes,
And thy white summits melted of their snows,        145
While every vale to which his voice could come,
Rang with the fife and echoed to the drum.
  Bold River! better suited are thy waves
To nurse the laurels clustering round their graves,
Than many a distant stream, that soaks the mud        150
Where thy brave sons have shed their gallant blood,
And felt, beyond all other mortal pain,
They ne’er should see their happy home again.
  Thou had’st a poet once,—and he could tell,
Most tunefully, whate’er to thee befell,        155
Could fill each pastoral reed upon thy shore—
—But we shall hear his classic lays no more!
He loved thee, but he took his aged way,
By Erie’s shore, and Perry’s glorious day,
To where Detroit looks out amidst the wood,        160
Remote beside the dreary solitude.
  Yet for his brow thy ivy leaf shall spread,
Thy freshest myrtle lift its berried head,
And our gnarl’d Charter-oak put forth a bough,
Whose leaves shall grace thy Trumbull’s honor’d brow.        165
 
 
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