Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Lines on the Massacre
By James Allen (1739–1808)
 
  FROM realms of bondage, and a tyrant’s reign,
Our godlike fathers bore no slavish chain.
To Pharaoh’s face the inspired patriarchs stood,
To seal their virtue, with a martyr’s blood:
But lives so precious, such a sacred seed,        5
The source of empires, heaven’s high will decreed;
He snatch’d the saints from Pharaoh’s impious hand,
And bid his chosen seek this distant land:
Thus to these climes the illustrious exiles sped,
’T was freedom prompted, and the Godhead led.        10
Eternal woods the virgin soil defaced,
A dreary desert, and a howling waste;
The haunt of tribes no pity taught to spare,
And they opposed them with remorseless war,
But heaven’s right arm led forth the faithful train,        15
The guardian Godhead swept the insidious plain,
Till the scour’d thicket amicable stood,
Nor dastard ambush trench’d the dusky wood:
Our sires then earn’d no more precarious bread,
Nor ’midst alarms their frugal meals were spread.        20
Fair boding hopes inured their hands to toil,
And patriot virtue nursed the thriving soil,
Nor scarce two ages have their periods run,
Since o’er their culture smiled the genial sun;
And now what states extend their fair domains,        25
O’er fleecy mountains, and luxuriant plains!
Where happy millions their own fields possess,
No tyrant awes them, and no lords oppress;
The hand of rule, divine discretion guides,
And white-robed virtue o’er her path presides,        30
Each policed order venerates the laws,
And each, ingenuous, speaks in freedom’s cause;
Not Spartan spirit, nor the Roman name,
The patriot’s pride, shall rival these in fame;
Here all the sweets that social life can know,        35
From the full fount of civil sapience flow;
Here golden Ceres clothes th’ autumnal plain,
And art’s fair empress holds her new domain;
Here angel Science spreads her lucid wing,
And hark, how sweet the new-born muses sing;        40
Here generous Commerce spreads her liberal hand,
And scatters foreign blessings round the land.
Shall meagre mammon, or proud lust of sway,
Reverse these scenes—will heaven permit the day?
Shall in this era all our hopes expire,        45
And weeping freedom from her fanes retire?
Here shall the tyrant still our peace pursue,
From the pain’d eyebrow drink the vital dew?
Not nature’s barrier wards our father’s foe,
Seas roll in vain, and boundless oceans flow.        50
 
  Stay, Pharaoh, stay, that impious hand forbear,
Nor tempt the genius of our souls too far;
How oft, ungracious! in thy thankless stead,
’Mid scenes of death, our generous youth have bled;
When the proud Gaul thy mightiest powers repell’d,        55
And drove your legions trembling from the field,
We rent the laurel from the victor’s brow,
And round your temples taught the wreath to grow,
Say, when thy slaughter’d bands the desert dyed,
Where lone Ohio rolls her gloomy tide,        60
Whose dreary banks their wasting bones inshrine,
What arm avenged them?—thankless! was it thine?
But generous valor scorns a boasting word,
And conscious virtue reaps her own reward,
Yet conscious virtue bids thee now to speak,        65
Though guilty blushes kindle o’er thy cheek:
If wasting wars, and painful toils at length,
Had drain’d our veins, and wither’d all our strength,
How couldst thou, cruel, form the vile design,
And round our necks the wreath of bondage twine!        70
And if some lingering spirit roused to strife,
Bid ruffian murder drink the dregs of life?
Shall future ages e’er forget the deed?
And shall n’t for this imperious Britain bleed?
When comes the period heaven predestines must,        75
When Europe’s glories shall be whelm’d in dust,
When our proud fleets the naval wreath shall wear,
And o’er her empires hurl the bolts of war,
Unnerved by fate, the boldest heart shall fail,
And ’mid their guards auxiliar kings grow pale;        80
In vain shall Britain lift her suppliant eye,
An alien’d offspring feels no filial tie,
Her tears in vain shall bathe the soldier’s feet,
Remember, ingrate, Boston’s crimson’d street;
Whole hecatombs of lives the deed shall pay,        85
And purge the murders of that guilty day.
 
  But why to future periods look so far,
What force e’er faced us, that we fear’d to dare?
Then, canst thou think, e’en on this early day,
Proud force shall bend us to a tyrant’s sway?        90
A foreign foe opposed our sword in vain,
And thine own troops we ’ve rallied on the plain,
If then our lives thy lawless sword invade,
Think’st thou, enslaved, we ’d kiss the pointed blade?
Nay, let experience speak—be this the test,        95
’T is from experience that we reason best.
When first thy mandate show’d the shameless plan,
To rank our race beneath the class of man,
Low as the brute to sink the human line,
Our toil our portion, and the harvest thine,        100
Modest but firm, we plead the sacred cause,
On nature based, and sanction’d by the laws;
But your deaf ear the conscious plea denied,
Some demon counsel’d—and the sword replied;
Your navy then our haven cover’d o’er,        105
And arm’d battalions trespass’d on our shore.
Through the prime streets, they march’d in war’s array,
At noon’s full blaze, and in the face of day:
With dumb contempt we pass’d the servile show,
While scorn’s proud spirit scowl’d on every brow;        110
Day after day successive wrongs we bore,
Till patience, wearied, could support no more,
Till slaughter’d lives our native streets profaned,
And thy slave’s hand our hallow’d crimson stain’d,
No sudden rage the ruffian soldier tore,        115
Or swam the pavement with his vital gore.
Deliberate thought did all our souls compose,
Till veil’d in glooms the lowery morning rose;
No mob then furious urged the impassion’d fray,
Nor clamorous tumult dinn’d the solemn day.        120
In full convene the city senate sate,
Our fathers’ spirit ruled the firm debate;—
The freeborn soul no reptile tyrant checks,
’T is heaven dictates when the people speaks;
Loud from their tongues the awful mandate broke,        125
And thus inspired, the sacred senate spoke;
“Ye miscreant troops, begone! Our presence fly,
Stay, if ye dare, but if ye dare, ye die!”
“Ah! too severe,” the fearful chief replies,
“Permit one half—the other instant flies.”—        130
“No parle, avaunt, or by our fathers’ shades,
Your reeking lives shall glut our vengeful blades,
Ere morning’s light begone,—or else we swear,
Each slaughter’d corse shall feed the birds of air!”
Ere morning’s light had streak’d the skies with red,        135
The chieftain yielded, and the soldier fled.
’T is thus experience speaks—the test forbear,
Nor show these states your feeble front of war,
But still your navies lord it o’er the main,
Their keels are natives of our oaken plain;        140
E’en the proud mast that bears your flag on high,
Grew on our soil, and ripen’d in our sky:
“Know then thyself, presume not us to scan,”
Your power precarious, and your isle a span.
 
  Yet could our wrongs in just oblivion sleep,        145
And on each neck revived affection weep,
The brave are generous, and the good forgive,
Then say you ’ve wrong’d us, and our parent live;
But face not fate, oppose not heaven’s decree,
Let not that curse, our mother, light on thee.        150
 
 
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