Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Philosophic Solitude
By William Livingston (1723–1790)
 
LET ardent heroes seek renown in arms,
Pant after fame, and rush to war’s alarms;
To shining palaces let fools resort,
And dunces cringe to be esteem’d at court:
Mine be the pleasure of a rural life,        5
From noise remote, and ignorant of strife;
Far from the painted belle, and white-gloved beau,
The lawless masquerade, and midnight show,
From ladies, lap-dogs, courtiers, garters, stars,
Fops, fiddlers, tyrants, emperors, and czars.        10
 
  Full in the centre of some shady grove,
By nature form’d for solitude and love;
On banks array’d with ever blooming flowers,
Near beauteous landscapes, or by roseate bowers;
My neat, but simple mansion I would raise,        15
Unlike the sumptuous domes of modern days;
Devoid of pomp, with rural plainness form’d,
With savage game, and glossy shells adorn’d.
 
  No costly furniture should grace my hall;
But curling vines ascend against the wall,        20
Whose pliant branches should luxuriant twine,
While purple clusters swell’d with future wine:
To slake my thirst a liquid lapse distil
From craggy rocks, and spread a limpid rill.
Along my mansion spiry firs should grow,        25
And gloomy yews extend the shady row;
The cedars flourish, and the poplars rise
Sublimely tall, and shoot into the skies;
Among the leaves refreshing zephyrs play,
And crowding trees exclude the noon-tide ray;        30
Whereon the birds their downy nests should form,
Securely shelter’d from the battering storm;
And to melodious notes their choir apply,
Soon as Aurora blush’d along the sky;
While all along the enchanting music rings,        35
And every vocal grove responsive sings.
 
  Me to sequester’d scenes, ye muses, guide,
Where nature wantons in her virgin pride;
To mossy banks edged round with opening flowers,
Elysian fields, and amaranthine bowers,        40
T’ ambrosial founts, and sleep-inspiring rills,
To herbaged vales, gay lawns, and sunny hills.
 
  Welcome, ye shades! all hail, ye vernal blooms!
Ye bowery thickets, and prophetic glooms!
Ye forests, hail! ye solitary woods!        45
Love-whispering groves, and silver-streaming floods!
Ye meads, that aromatic sweets exhale!
Ye birds, and all ye sylvan beauties, hail!
Oh how I long with you to spend my days,
Invoke the muse, and try the rural lays!        50
 
  No trumpets there with martial clangor sound,
No prostrate heroes strew the crimson’d ground;
No groves of lances glitter in the air,
Nor thundering drums provoke the sanguine war:
But white-robed peace, and universal love,        55
Smile in the field, and brighten every grove.
There all the beauties of the circling year,
In native ornamental pride appear.
Gay, rosy-bosom’d spring, and April showers
Wake from the womb of earth the rising flowers:        60
In deeper verdure summer clothes the plain,
And autumn bends beneath the golden grain;
The trees weep amber, and the whispering gales
Breeze o’er the lawn, or murmur through the vales.
The flowery tribes in gay confusion bloom,        65
Profuse of sweets, and fragrant with perfume.
On blossoms blossoms, fruits on fruits arise,
And varied prospects glad the wand’ring eyes.
In these fair seats I ’d pass the joyous day,
Where meadows flourish and where fields look gay;        70
From bliss to bliss with endless pleasure rove,
Seek crystal streams, or haunt the vernal grove,
Woods, fountains, lakes, the fertile fields, or shades,
Aerial mountains, or subjacent glades.
*      *      *      *      *
  When rising Phœbus ushers in the morn,        75
And golden beams the impurpled skies adorn;
Waked by the gentle murmur of the floods;
Or the soft music of the waving woods,
Rising from sleep with the melodious choir,
To solemn sounds I ’d tune the hallow’d lyre.        80
Thy name, O God! should tremble on my tongue,
Till every grove proved vocal to my song:
(Delightful task! with dawning light to sing
Triumphant hymns to heaven’s eternal King.)
Some courteous angel should my breast inspire,        85
Attune my lips, and guide the warbled wire,
While sportive echoes catch the sacred sound,
Swell every note, and bear the music round;
While mazy streams meandering to the main,
Hang in suspense to hear the heavenly strain,        90
And hush’d to silence all the feather’d throng,
Attentive listen to the tuneful song.
 
  Father of Light! exhaustless source of good!
Supreme, eternal, self-existent God!
Before the beamy sun dispensed a ray,        95
Flamed in the azure vault, and gave the day;
Before the glimmering moon with borrow’d light
Shone queen amid the silver host of night,
High in the heavens, thou reign’dst superior Lord,
By suppliant angels worshipp’d and adored.        100
With the celestial choir then let me join
In cheerful praises to the power divine.
To sing thy praise, do thou, O God! inspire
A mortal breast with more than mortal fire.
In dreadful majesty thou sitt’st enthroned,        105
With light encircled, and with glory crown’d:
Through all infinitude extends thy reign,
For thee, nor heaven, nor heaven of heavens contain;
But though thy throne is fix’d above the sky
Thy omnipresence fills immensity.        110
Saints robed in white, to thee their anthems bring,
And radiant martyrs hallelujahs sing:
Heaven’s universal host their voices raise
In one eternal chorus to thy praise;
And round thy awful throne with one accord        115
Sing, holy, holy, holy is the Lord.
At thy creative voice, from ancient night
Sprang smiling beauty, and yon worlds of light:
Thou spak’st—the planetary chorus rolled,
And all the expanse was starr’d with beamy gold;        120
“Let there be light,” said God,—light instant shone,
And from the orient burst the golden sun;
Heaven’s gazing hierarchies with glad surprise
Saw the first morn invest the recent skies,
And straight the exulting troops thy throne surround        125
With thousand thousand harps of heavenly sound;
Thrones, powers, dominions, (ever-shining trains!)
Shouted thy praises in triumphant strains:
“Great are thy works,” they sing, and all around
“Great are thy works,” the echoing heavens resound.        130
The effulgent sun, insufferably bright,
Is but a beam of thy o’erflowing light;
The tempest is thy breath: the thunder hurl’d,
Tremendous roars thy vengeance o’er the world;
Thou bow’st the heavens; the smoking mountains nod,        135
Rocks fall to dust, and nature owns her God;
Pale tyrants shrink, the atheist stands aghast,
And impious kings in horror breathe their last.
To this great God, alternately I ’d pay
The evening anthem, and the morning lay.        140
 
For sovereign gold I never would repine,
Nor wish the glittering dust of monarchs mine.
What though high columns heave into the skies,
Gay ceilings shine, and vaulted arches rise,
Though fretted gold and sculptured roof adorn,        145
The rubbies redden, and the jaspers burn!
Or what, alas! avails the gay attire
To wretched man, who breathes but to expire!
Oft on the vilest riches are bestow’d,
To show their meanness in the sight of God.        150
High from a dunghill, see a Dives rise,
And Titan-like insult the avenging skies:
The crowd in adulation calls him lord,
By thousands courted, flatter’d, and adored:
In riot plunged, and drunk with earthly joys,        155
No higher thought his grovelling soul employs;
The poor he scourges with an iron rod,
And from his bosom banishes his God.
But oft in height of wealth and beauty’s bloom,
Deluded man is fated to the tomb!        160
For, lo, he sickens, swift his color flies,
And rising mists obscure his swimming eyes:
Around his bed his weeping friends bemoan,
Extort the unwilling tear, and wish him gone;
His sorrowing heir augments the tender shower,        165
Deplores his death—yet hails the dying hour.
Ah, bitter comfort! sad relief to die!
Though sunk in down, beneath a canopy!
His eyes no more shall see the cheerful light,
Weigh’d down by death in everlasting night:        170
And now the great, the rich, the proud, the gay,
Lies breathless, cold—unanimated clay!
He that just now was flatter’d by the crowd
With high applause, and acclamation loud;
That steel’d his bosom to the orphan’s cries,        175
And drew down torrents from the widow’s eyes;
Whom, like a God, the rabble did adore—
Regard him now—and lo! he is no more.
 
  My eyes no dazzling vestments should behold,
With gems instarr’d, and stiff with woven gold;        180
But the tall ram his downy fleece afford,
To clothe in modest garb his frugal lord.
Thus the great father of mankind was dress’d,
When shaggy hides composed his flowing vest;
Doom’d to the cumbrous load for his offence,        185
When clothes supplied the want of innocence;
But now his sons (forgetful whence they came,)
Glitter in gems, and glory in their shame.
 
  Oft would I wander through the dewy field,
Where clustering roses balmy fragrance yield;        190
Or in lone grots for contemplation made,
Converse with angels, and the mighty dead:
For all around unnumber’d spirits fly,
Waft on the breeze, or walk the liquid sky,
Inspire the poet with repeated dreams,        195
Who gives his hallow’d muse to sacred themes,
Protect the just, serene their gloomy hours,
Becalm their slumbers, and refresh their powers.
Methinks I see the immortal beings fly,
And swiftly shoot athwart the streaming sky:        200
Hark! a melodious voice I seem to hear,
And heavenly sounds invade my listening ear.
“Be not afraid of us, innoxious band,
Thy cell surrounding by divine command;
Erewhile like thee we led our lives below,        205
(Sad lives of pain, of misery, and woe!)
Long by affliction’s boisterous tempests tost,
We reach’d at length the ever-blissful coast:
Now in the embowering groves and lawns above,
We taste the raptures of immortal love,        210
Attune the golden harp in roseate bowers,
Or bind our temples with unfading flowers.
Oft on kind errands bent, we cut the air
To guard the righteous, heaven’s peculiar care!
Avert impending harms, their minds compose,        215
Inspire gay dreams, and prompt their soft repose.
When from thy tongue divine hosannas roll,
And sacred raptures swell thy rising soul,
To heaven we bear thy prayers like rich perfumes,
Where, by the throne, the golden censer fumes.        220
And when with age thy head is silver’d o’er,
And cold in death, thy bosom beats no more,
Thy soul exulting shall desert its clay,
And mount triumphant to eternal day.”
 
 
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