Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
The Times
By Benjamin Church (1734–1778)
 
POLLIO, be kind! nor chide an early crime,
Spawn of chagrin, and labor’d waste of time;
This heart misguides me with a bent so strong,
It mocks restraint, and boldly errs in song:
Thus crimes indulged, such vigorous growth obtain,        5
Your friendly caution frowns rebuke in vain.
 
  ’T is not great Churchill’s ghost that claims your ear
For even ghosts of wit are strangers here;
The patriot-soul to other climes removed,
Well-pleased enjoys that liberty he loved;        10
No pang resents for W—— to exile driven,
Exults that worth and Pratt are dear to heaven:
Young sure it is not, from whose honey’d lays
Streams a rank surfeit of redundant praise;
For guilt like his what genius shall atone?        15
Curse the foul verse that daubs a Stuart’s throne.
 
  Cursed lack of genius, or thou soon should’st know,
This humble cot conceals a tyrant’s foe;
By nature artless, unimproved by pains,
No favor courts me, and no fear restrains,        20
Wild as the soil, and as the heavens severe,
All rudely rough, and wretchedly sincere;
Whose frowning stars have thrown me God knows where,
A wild exotic neighbor to the bear;
One glebe supports us, brethren cubs we run,        25
Shoot into form, as fostered by the sun;
No tutoring hand the tender sapling train’d
Through walks of science, nor his growth sustain’d;
Such fruit he yields, luxuriant wildings bear,
Coarse as the earth, and unconfined as air:        30
No muse I court, an alien to the Nine,
Thou chaste instructress, Nature! thou art mine;
Come, blessed parent, mistress, muse, and guide,
With thee permit me wander, side by side;
Smit with thy charms, my earliest joy I trace,        35
Fondly enamor’d of thy angel face;
Succeeding labors smother not the flame,
Still, still the dear attachment lives the same.
 
  No idle task the earliest muse began,
But mark’d the morals, e’er she praised the man;        40
To struggling worth supplied no feeble aid,
And wove the honest wreath for virtue’s head,
Uncourtly grave, or through the lessen’d page
Shed wisdom’s lore, and humanized the age;
Pour’d wholesome treasures from her magic tongue,        45
Instructed, ruled, corrected, blest, by song:
How changed! how lost! in these degenerate days,
She stuns me with the clamor of her praise:
Is there a villain eminent in state,
Without one gleam of merit?—she ’ll create;        50
Is there a scoundrel, has that scoundrel gold?
There the full tide of panegyric ’s roll’d;
From venal quills shall stream the sugar’d shower,
And bronze the wretched lordling—if in power:
Stamp me that blockhead, which (kind heaven be blest!)        55
My Maker form’d my temper to detest,
If sacred numbers I again desert,
The native bias of an honest heart,
Basely to truckle to a wretch in rule,
Or spread a feast for gods, to cram a fool.        60
Not for a monarch would I forge a lie,
To nestle in the sunshine of his eye.
The paths of error if in youth I trod,
Dress’d a gay idol in the garb of God,
The pageant shrinks, I weep my folly past,        65
Heaven frown me dead, but there I ’ve sinn’d my last.
George, scarce one lustrum numbers out its days,
Since every tongue was busy in thy praise;
(O make it nameless in the tale of time,
Nor consecrate to ages such a crime;        70
We loved him, love him still, by heavens do more,
But make us British subjects, we ’ll adore.)
Successful war has added wide domain,
And crowded oceans scarce his fleets sustain.
United Gaul and Spain his easy prey,        75
And but compact to give their realms away;
Where’er he bids, consenting Britons fly,
For George they conquer, or for George they die;
Bless the glad hour, the glorious strife approve,
That sounds his glory, and proclaims their love;        80
Ah, sad reverse! with doubling sighs I speak,
A flood of sorrow coursing down my cheek,
The salient heart for George forgets to bound,
Dark disaffection sheds her gloom around;
Fair liberty, our soul’s most darling prize,        85
A bleeding victim flits before our eyes:
Was it for this our great forefathers rode
O’er a vast ocean to this bleak abode!
When liberty was into contest brought,
And loss of life was but a second thought;        90
By pious violence rejected thence,
To try the utmost stretch of providence;
The deep, unconscious of the furrowing keel,
Essay’d the tempest to rebuke their zeal;
The tawny natives and inclement sky        95
Put on their terrors, and command to fly;
They mock at danger; what can those appal?
To whom fair liberty is all in all.
See the new world their purchase, blest domain,
Where lordly tyrants never forged the chain;        100
The prize of valor, and the gift of prayer,
Hear this and redden, each degenerate heir!
Is it for you their honor to betray,
And give the harvest of their blood away?
Look back with reverence, awed to just esteem,        105
Preserve the blessings handed down from them;
If not, look forwards, look with deep despair,
And dread the curses of your beggar’d heir:
What bosom beats not, when such themes excite?
Be men, be gods, be stubborn in the right.        110
 
  Where am I hurried? Pollio, I forbear,
Again I ’m calm, and claim thy sober ear;
To independence bend the filial knee,
And kiss her sister sage economy.
Economy, you frown! “O hide our shame!        115
’T is vile profusion’s ministerial name,
To pinch the farmer groaning at the press,
Commission leeches to adopt the peace;
That peace obtain’d Scotch armies to augment,
And sink the nation’s credit two per cent;        120
With barren Scottish bards the lists to load,
Both place and pension partially bestowed;
Nay more, the cave of famine to translate
Within the purlieus of the royal gate;
While brats from northern hills, full, battening lie,        125
Their meagre southern masters pining by.”
Peace, peace, my Pollio! sluice thy sorrows here;
Thy country’s ghost now points thee to its bier.
Of foreign wrongs, and unfelt woes no more,
While dogs cry havock on thy natal shore;        130
Yon funeral torch that dimly gilds my cell,
Comes fraught with mischiefs, terrible to tell;
It dawns in sables——too officious ray!
Yet, yet compassionately roll away;
All, all is o’er, but anguish, slavery, fear,        135
The chains already clanking in my ear;
O death! though awful, but prevent this blow,
No more thou ’rt censured for the human foe;
O’er life’s last ebbs, thy dregs of sorrow fling,
Point all my pangs, and stab with every sting;        140
I ’ll bless the alternative, if not a slave,
And scorn the wretch who trembles at the grave.
 
  Art thou persuaded, for a moment cool,
That nature made thee slave, and mark’d thee fool,
That what we won by hardy war, was given,        145
That non-resistance is secure of heaven;
That persecution in our infant state,
Was nursing kind compassion in the great;
That emigration was not to secure
Our liberties, but to enslave the more;        150
That charters, privileges, patents, powers,
Were ours till now, and now no longer ours;
To claim exemption by the charter seal,
Will rashly violate the common weal;
Juries are nuisances, and traffic worse,        155
And to be blind, sagacity of course;
The stamp and land tax are as blessings meant,
And opposition is our free consent;
That where we are not, we most surely are,
That wrong is right, black white, and foul is fair;        160
That Mansfield ’s honest, and that Pitt ’s a knave,
That Pratt ’s a villain, and that Wilkes ’s a slave;
That godlike Temple is not greatly good,
Nor Bute a rigid jacobite by blood;
That sordid Grenville lately is become        165
The patron of our liberties at home,
(For whom, now hear me, gods! be hell inflamed,
And murderers of their country doubly d——d)
Now stretch thy pliant faith, adopt this creed,
And be a J-r-d Ing-rs-l indeed;        170
If thou art wretched, crawling in the dust,
Condemn’d, despised, and herded with the just:
Frown, honest Satire! menace what you will,
Rogues rise luxuriant, and defeat you still;
Fatigued with numbers, and oppress’d with gall,        175
One general curse must overwhelm them all:
But O ye vilest vile, detested few!
Eager, intent, and potent to undo;
Come out, ye parricides! here take your stand,
Your solemn condemnation is at hand;        180
Behold your crimes, and tremblingly await
The grumbling thunder of your country’s hate;
Accursed as ye are! how durst ye bring
An injured people to distrust their king?
Accursed as ye are, how could ye dare,        185
To lisp delusion in your monarch’s ear?
How do I laugh, when such vain coxcombs lower,
Some grave pretence of dread, from lawless power;
To hear a scribbling fry, beneath my hate,
Adopt the fraud, and sanctify deceit;        190
With mean importance, point regardless stings,
To aid injustice, menace mighty things;
Nay to such height of insolence they ’re flown,
The knaves crave shelter underneath a throne;
A throne all-gracious, such is George’s praise,        195
Nor shall oppression blast his sacred bays.
 
  Witness, ye fathers! whose protracted time,
Fruitful of story, chronicles the clime;
These howling deserts, hospitably tame,
Erst snatch’d ye, martyrs, from the hungry flame;        200
’T was heaven’s own cause, beneath whose sheltering power,
Ye grew the wonder of the present hour;
With anxious ear we ’ve drank your piteous tale,
Where woes unnumber’d long and loud prevail;
Here savage demons, sporting with your pains,        205
There boding mischief in a Stuart reigns;
Mark the glad era, when prevailing foes,
The state’s fell harpies, doubling woes on woes,
Had wing’d destruction—vengeance slept no more,
But flung the tyrant from the British shore:        210
Learn hence, ye minions! reverence to the law,
Salvation died not with the great Nassau.
And shall such sons, from such distinguished sires,
Nurtured to hardships, heirs of all their sires,
Shall they, O pang of heart! thus tamely bear,        215
Who stalk erect, and toss their heads in air?
Let beasts of burthen meanly woo the chain,
We talk of masters with a proud disdain.
“Prythee forbear, rash youth! conceal thy fears,
A modest silence best becomes thy years;        220
Submit, be prudent—in some future hour,
You ’ll feel the iron-gripe of ruthless power:”
Truce, spawn of phlegm! thy frozen heart conceal,
Benumb’d, unerring, and unapt to feel;
No deed of glory can that soul entice,        225
Involved in adamantine walls of ice;
Within that bosom is a nook so warm,
That vice or virtue kindles to a storm?
Could nature ever lure thee into sin?
Or bursts of passion thaw the frost within?        230
Thou happy cynic! still thy senses lull,
Profoundly cautious, and supinely dull;
And should some hero start his rash career,
Eccentric to thy lazy, drowsy sphere;
Be wondrous wise, thy frigid temper bless,        235
That never wrought thee to a bold excess:
Call truth a libel, treason, honest zeal,
So strange is virtue, and so few can feel;
Call Churchill blockhead, Freedom, madness, rage,
Call injured Wilkes a monster of the age;        240
To make me blest, unite this lay with those,
And then, then kindly rate yourselves my foes.
 
  Fop, witling, favorite, stampman, tyrant, tool,
Or all those mighty names in one, thou fool!
Let mean ambition, sordid lust of pride,        245
League thee, vile pander! to a tyrant’s side.
Sport with thy country’s groans, and be the first
To stab the bosom which a traitor nursed;
Rifle the womb, and on those bowels prey,
To plague mankind, that spawn’d thee into day;        250
Be eminent, thy little soul exert,
And call forth all the rancor of thy heart:
But should the eye of merit on thee lower,
(Though lowly crush’d beneath the wheel of power,)
Thou art my pity, monster! I forgive,        255
And beg one only curse, that thou mayst live.
 
  Where lies our remedy, in humble prayer?
Our lordly butchers have forgot to hear;
’T is rank rebellion, rashness to complain,
And all submission tighter tugs the chain:        260
Go ask your heart, your honest heart regard,
And manumission is your sure reward;
Would’st thou be blest, thy sovereign pride lay by,
To tyrant custom give the hardy lie;
Yon shag will warm thee, in thy country fleece        265
Sleeps independence lined with balmy peace;
Would’st thou be blest? be diligent! be wise!
And make a chaste sufficiency suffice:
Ye lovely fair! whom heaven’s blest charms array,
The proud Sultanas of some future day;        270
Sweet as ye are, complete in every grace,
That spreads angelic softness o’er the face;
Go ply the loom—there lies the happy art,
By new avenues to attack the heart;
With labors of your own, but deck those charms,        275
We ’ll rush with transport to your blissful arms.
Amid this wreck——from all aspersions clear,
Nay blush not, Peter, honest truths to hear;
Base adulation never stain’d my lay,
But modest merit must be brought to day;        280
What though thy great desert mounts far above
The mean expression of thy country’s love;
In praise like thine the rustic muse will soar,
Then damn’d to endless silence sing no more.
“With great contempt of power, alone to stand,        285
Thy life, and spotless honors in thy hand;
To wage unequal wars—and dare the worst,
And if thy country perish, perish first;
With pious vigilance the state to guard,
And eminent in virtue, shun reward;        290
No force of avarice warps thy steady heart,
To meanness, falsehood, or dishonest art;
A tyrant’s mandate, thy supreme disdain,
Our last, best bulwark in a Scottish reign.”
These are the honors we to fame consign,        295
Nay blush not, Peter—these are surely thine.
 
  To close—dread sovereign at whose sacred seat,
Justice and mercy, spotless maidens meet;
George! parent! king! our guardian, glory, pride,
And thou, fair regent! blooming by his side!        300
Thy offspring pleads a parent’s fostering care,
Reject not, frown not, but in mercy spare;
Besprent with dust, the lowly suppliant lies,
A helpless, guilty, injured sacrifice:
If e’er our infant efforts could delight,        305
Or growing worth found favor in thy sight,
If warm affection due returns may plead,
Or faith unshaken ever intercede;
With modest boldness we thy smiles demand,
Nor wish salvation from another hand;        310
Depress’d, not helpless, while a Brunswick reigns,
Whose righteous sceptre, no injustice stains.
 
 
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