Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
The Retrospect
By James Allen (1739–1808)
 
  HER warlike sons the palm of victory bore,
Where hoary Neptune’s utmost billows roar,
More far than Rome who ruled unnumber’d kings,
Where Cæsar’s eagles never stretch’d their wings,
From Polar climes where daylight scarcely gleams,        5
To where full Phœbus pours his torrid beams,
Where gorgeous Asia spreads the sumptuous loom,
Or stately nabobs rear the princely dome,
Where arid Afric gives to foreign toil
Her pearly rivers and her golden soil,        10
Far as the sachem roams the loneliest wood,
Or tempts with venturous barque Ontario’s flood,
To where fair Europe’s vernal regions rise
In medial climates, and in temperate skies.
The British powers for seven successive years,        15
Had thus triumphant circled both the spheres,
O’er the whole globe their course of glory run
Whence day emerges to where sets the sun.
No waste of life pollutes the soldier’s deed,
Nor wanton spoliage bids reflection bleed.
*      *      *      *      *
        20
  Barbarian ravage hung the pagan car,
The spoils of empires, and the waste of war,
In fields of death did Cæsar’s laurels bloom,
And shamed the triumphs of imperial Rome,
Whose wreath renown’d to mightier Timur yields,        25
Famed for the feats of more illustrious fields.
He, half the world in one great day withstood,
And bid the rising crescent set in blood.
From tyrant power preserved the realms of Greece,
And o’er Byzantium stretched the palm of peace.        30
Yet conquer’d kings in chains inglorious led,
And captive queens with sordid offal fed.
Not so the Briton gleans the field of war,
Nor such the trophies of a Brunswick’s car;
No frown of danger daunts his fearless eye,        35
Where the fight storms, and where the bravest die.
But when the thunder of the battle’s o’er,
And adverse legions tempt their fate no more,
His heart humane regrets a hero’s deeds,
And for the foe his generous bosom bleeds!        40
A sanguine spirit fires the soldier slave,
But manly pity ever warms the brave.
Say! round the circuit of this spacious earth,
What barbarous act degrades the warrior’s worth?
Through the vast regions stretch’d from either pole,        45
What aching bosom, or what anguish’d soul?
Doth hoary age a single solace mourn,
Or from whose breasts are tender nurslings torn?
What spouse bewails the bridal bed profaned,
Or what fond youth the plighted virgin stain’d?        50
What hostile fires the rural works consume,
Or waste the labors of the ingenious loom?
Still the blithe swain enjoys his fleecy care,
And still the lover woos the spotless fair,
Still nuptial life connubial virtues bless,        55
And parent bosoms the sweet babe compress.
*      *      *      *      *
  Her hallow’d courts no vulgar trophy soils,
No rapined gold, nor unillustrious spoils;
Great Brunswick’s eye dejected Bourborn waits,
And India’s monarchs throng Augusta’s gates,        60
Whole maps of conquest all the war reveal,
And at her side the vanquish’d princes kneel,
Till peace, fair goddess, spreads her balmy wings,
And grace benignly lifts the prostrate kings:
The kings arise, the gates of Janus close,        65
And Britain gives the weary world repose;
Now casts her eye through every various zone,
And counts a hundred different climes her own.
Here, right of conquest pleads a boon to fame,
And here, the sword prescribes the sovereign’s claim.        70
Not so, endear’d by nature’s kindly tie,
Beloved Columbia meets her parent’s eye,
Pleased she surveys her darling’s fair domains,
Her fleecy mountains, and her bearded plains,
Where peace and plenty rule with union sway,        75
Where Britain’s genius beams politic day.
*      *      *      *      *
  Ah! seats of Eden, nature’s care in vain!
Bright as thy sons, and as thy heavens serene!
Unbless’d, amid the circling course of clime,
In spring’s fair bloom, or autumn’s golden prime,        80
Though fruits luxuriant crown the reaper’s toil,
Or flowers spontaneous deck the enamel’d soil,
Though flocks and herds innumerable teem,
And silver Naiads sport in every stream,
Did Britain now a mother’s aid deny,        85
Or Brunswick pass thee with regardless eye?
When peopling regions wear a various face,
And laws ill-system’d ask a broader base,
When thoughtful senates feel a patriot’s care,
And lift to gracious George the wishful prayer,        90
When some ill genii, guised in friendly form,
Might dark and subtile mix the civil storm,
With specious art aerial codes prepare,
And in the senate stretch the stygian snare;
The infernal magic spell her palsied voice,        95
Perplex’d—confounded, ’midst a maze of choice;
Whilst all without to heights anarchial wrought,
The pomp of passion, or the pride of thought,
Till vulgar councils sit in bold debate,
And votes plebeian awe the wayward state,        100
Then factious fires the impassion’d heart might feel,
And rage delirious with fantastic zeal.
Till civil fury give the impious blow,
And brother’s blood in mingling currents flow!
Till kindred carnage heap the humid vale,        105
And loathed effluvia taint the passing gale:
But days so dire no son of thine shall see,
So George resolves, and such is heaven’s decree.
O! precious offspring of the queen of Isles,
Nursed in the sunbeam of thy mother’s smiles.
*      *      *      *      *      *      *
        110
  Henceforth no vulgar tongue profanely dare
The bench to dictate or control the bar!
On adamantine base the Judge shall stand,
And deal out justice with a fearless hand;
Each villain’s heart the dread tribunals awe,        115
And nature’s sanctions form the sageful law,
The sovereign’s fiat guide the policed poise,
As life grows social, and new interests rise.
Through the mixt mazes of contingent cause
Dart the keen glance and spirit all the laws.        120
The state’s great genius, whose magnific soul
Conducts, protects, and constitutes the whole.
 
  Hail, times illustrious! blissful era, hail!
When patriot princes hold the public scale,
With eye judicious range the walks of state,        125
From the coarse peasant to the purpled great.
 
  Shall base-born faction, nurtured up in crimes,
Malign the laws, or fault the halcyon times?
Against the throne uprear the factious brand,
And bid the vulgar madden round the land?        130
With black illusion pest the public ear,
And spread his spells infectious demon here?
Still o’er thy realms, paternal prince, preside,
The sovereign reason, and thy people’s guide.
 
  Aloft in air the golden standards play,        135
Standards erst spread to many a glorious day,
When Britain’s host the illustrious Marlborough led,
When Tallard yielded, or when Berwick bled,
Standards, no hostile hand shall dare profane,
Nor e’er be trampled on the carnaged plain,        140
Their sacred shade the soldier’s soul inspires,
Nerves his whole heart, and kindles all his fires.
The embattled war to martial music moves
Through long known vales, and oft frequented groves,
To the clift skirt coast that girds fair Albion’s reign,        145
On whose broad margin swells the ambient main.
*      *      *      *      *      *
  Here the big heart is seen to breathe a sigh,
And the salt tear to scald the soldier’s eye;
Not that his sire betrays a parent’s pangs,
Or round his neck the spoused virgin hangs;        150
To these, to all, he freely bids adieu,
But every fear, Columbia, is for you.
For you he braves the storm, with dauntless soul,
Sees the surge burst, or mountain billow roll,
Through the long voyage unnumber’d perils past,        155
Safely he makes Cape Breton’s coast at last:
Ah! Lewis, start, dire dreams thy sleep invade,
Here falls thy favorite, here thy lilies fade.
A mint of cost in vain her ramparts rear’d,
And her proud walls thy best battalions guard.        160
Thy name, presumptuous prince, in vain she wears,
And heaves her haughty bulwarks to the stars.
Her period ’s come, now shines the fated day,
When all her glories in the dust shall lay.
But ah! what havock strews her stormy shore,        165
And floats her flowery fields with floods of gore?
Ere the last gasp, ere the decisive groan,
When British valor wins the important town.
 
  Ye youth, who glorious to the battle bled,
And you by fate to future fame decreed,        170
Now from the roving corsair’s ravage free,
The rich fraught vessels course the peaceful sea;
On the broad bank the fisher feels no fear,
New Albion thanks ye with a grateful tear.
*      *      *      *      *      *
  “You whom the duties of the day can spare,        175
In manly mirth the grateful banquet share,
Nor bids your chief refrain the rustic’s toil,
What generous victor stains his hands with spoil?
A deed so base may suit the armed slave,
But piteous pillage misbecomes the brave.”        180
The general thus, the troops in shouts reply,
The echoing plaudit thunders to the sky.
*      *      *      *      *      *      *
The genial supper spreads the unsullied green,
The bowl convivial crowns the festive scene.
In pleasing talk the guiltless eve they pass,        185
In social circles on the fragrant grass,
Till soft each eye salubrious slumbers close,
They sink unconscious in serene repose.
No dreary dream, nor morphean dozes steep
The soldiers’ senses in abortive sleep.        190
Soon as the cheerly goddess of the morn
From her light pinion sheds the silver dawn,
Each placid brow the kind oblivion flies,
And fresh as day the invigor’d warriors rise.
 
 
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