Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
A Fragment
By Frederic S. Hill
 
            METHOUGHT I stood
Upon a field where slaughter once had rode
With reeking scimitar, and plumes that hung
Flapping upon his helmet, drench’d with blood;—
And there were graves, that had been digg’d        5
By soldiers’ hands—the turf turn’d up in haste,
With blades still hot from battle—and the grass
Was thick—a heart had gush’d on every root,
And it was fed with clotted gore, until
It lifted up its tall, rank spires of green,        10
Around that place of carnage, marking out
The spot where desolation’s hand had fall’n.
So where the ruins of some city lie,—
Destruction’s monuments—luxuriantly
The mantling ivy spreads its leafy arms        15
O’er every mouldering shaft—embracing close
Each fluted column, as it were to hide
The lone prostration of the beautiful.
In that unholy place, methought I stood
In midnight solitude—and one approach’d,        20
Whose step resounded ’mid the tombs, as if
The sheeted dead were troubled—and their sleep
Disturb’d and broken by the stranger’s walk.
He had a princely presence, and his glance
Might make the boldest cheek grow pale with awe;        25
His brow was that of majesty—and yet
An unquell’d spirit seem’d at work within—
A mighty spirit for that bosom heaved,
And there were flashes passing o’er that brow
Like lightning o’er a marble firmament.        30
He trod upon a grave—there was a sound—
A bursting sound beneath the hollow earth,
And he who lay there, woke—and rose;—and yet
No terror smote that proud one’s heart—nor stay’d
The beating of his pulses, but he gazed        35
In calmness at the form, who beckon’d him
Forth from that Golgotha. The spectre led,
And they toil’d on, in paths that mortal foot
Till then had never press’d. The cataract,
That like the wrath of God bore down—was cross’d;        40
And when the tempest in its fury came,
They battled onward—and the strife was like
The combat of a band of giants, when
They fight for domination, and put forth,
Their utmost strength, until their sinews snap,        45
And the blood rushes like a lava stream.
That youthful warrior follow’d still the track
Of him clothed in unearthly robes, until
They reach’d a mountain’s base; then in a voice
That caused my flesh to quake, and the cold sweat        50
To stand upon my brow, he bade him mount
The precipice, and scale the jutting cliff.
There was a rustling of the panoply
Which he had on—an outstretch’d arm—and then
Blue lightning shot across a dome that stood        55
Upon that rocky parapet—I saw
A fiery inscription on the base
Of that aspiring temple———
AMBITION—————
 
 
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