The Columbiad: Book I
Natives of America appear in vision. Their manners and characters. Columbus demands the cause of the dissimilarity of men in different countries, Hesper replies, That the human body is composed of a due proportion of the elements suited to the place of its first formation; that these elements, differently proportioned, produce all the changes of health, sickness, growth and decay; and may likewise produce any other changes which occasion the diversity of men; that these elemental proportions are varied, not more by climate than temperature and other local circumstances; that the mind is likewise in a state of change, and will take its physical character from the body and from external objects: examples. Inquiry concerning the first peopling of America. View of Mexico. Its destruction by Cortez. View of Cusco and Quito, cities of Peru. Tradition of Capac and Oella, founders of the Peruvian empire. Columbus inquires into their real history. Hesper gives an account of their origin, and relates the stratagems they used in establishing that empire.
I sing the Mariner who first unfurl'd
An eastern banner o'er the western world,
And taught mankind where future empires lay
In these fair confines of descending day;
Who sway'd a moment, with vicarious power,
Iberia's sceptre on the new found shore,
Then saw the paths his virtuous steps had trod
Pursued by avarice and defiled with blood,
The tribes he foster'd with paternal toil
Snatch'd from his hand, and slaughter'd for their spoil.
Slaves, kings, adventurers, envious of his name,
Enjoy'd his labours and purloin'd his fame,
And gave the Viceroy, from his high seat hurl'd.
Chains for a crown, a prison for a world
Long overwhelm'd in woes, and sickening there,
He met the slow still march of black despair,
Sought the last refuge from his hopeless doom,
And wish'd from thankless men a peaceful tomb:
Till vision'd ages, opening on his eyes,
Cheer'd his sad soul, and bade new nations rise;
He saw the Atlantic heaven with light o'ercast,
And Freedom crown his glorious work at last.
Almighty Freedom! give my venturous song
The force, the charm that to thy voice belong;
Tis thine to shape my course, to light my way,
To nerve my country with the patriot lay,
To teach all men where all their interest lies,
How rulers may be just and nations wise:
Strong in thy strength I bend no suppliant knee,
Invoke no miracle, no Muse but thee.
Night held on old Castile her silent reign,
Her half orb'd moon declining to the main;
O'er Valladolid's regal turrets hazed
The drizzly fogs from dull Pisuerga raised;
Whose hovering sheets, along the welkin driven,
Thinn'd the pale stars, and shut the eye from heaven.
Cold-hearted Ferdinand his pillow prest,
Nor dream'd of those his mandates robb'd of rest,
Of him who gemm'd his crown, who stretch'd his reign
To realms that weigh'd the tenfold poise of Spain;
Who now beneath his tower indungeon'd lies,
Sweats the chill sod and breathes inclement skies.
His feverish pulse, slow laboring thro his frame,
Feeds with scant force its fast expiring flame;
A far dim watch-lamp's thrice reflected beam
Throws thro his grates a mist-encumber'd gleam,
Paints the dun vapors that the cell invade,
And fills with spectred forms the midnight shade;
When from a visionary short repose,
That nursed new cares and temper'd keener woes,
Columbus woke, and to the walls addrest
The deep felt sorrows bursting from his breast:
Here lies the purchase, here the wretched spoil
Of painful years and persevering toil.
For these damp caves, this hideous haunt of
I traced new regions o'er the chartless main,
Tamed all the dangers of untraversed waves,
Hung o'er their clefts, and topt their surging graves,
Saw traitorous seas o'er coral mountains sweep,
Red thunders rock the pole and scorch the deep,
Death rear his front in every varying form,
Gape from the shoals and ride the roaring storm,
My struggling bark her seamy planks disjoin,
Rake the rude rock and drink the copious brine.
Till the tired elements are lull'd at last,
And milder suns allay the billowing blast,
Lead on the trade winds with unvarying force,
And long and landless curve our constant course.
Our homeward heaven recoils; each night forlorn
Calls up new stars, and backward rolls the morn;
The boreal vault descends with Europe's shore,
And bright Calisto shuns the wave no more,
The Dragon dips his fiery-foaming jole,
The affrighted magnet flies the faithless pole;
Nature portends a general change of laws,
My daring deeds are deemed the guilty cause;
The desperate crew, to insurrection driven,
Devote their captain to the wrath of heaven,
Resolve at once to end the audacious strife,
And buy their safety with his forfeit life.
In that sad hour, this feeble frame to save,
(Unblest reprieve) and rob the gaping wave,
The morn broke forth, these tearful orbs descried
The golden banks that bound the western tide.
With full success I calm'd the clamorous race,
Bade heaven's blue arch a second earth embrace;
And gave the astonish'd age that bounteous shore,
Their wealth to nations, and to kings their power.
Land of delights! ah, dear delusive coast,
To these fond aged eyes forever lost!
No more thy flowery vales I travel o'er,
For me thy mountains rear the head no more,
For me thy rocks no sparkling gems unfold,
Nor streams luxuriant wear their paths in gold;
From realms of promised peace forever borne,
I hail mute anguish, and in secret mourn.
But dangers past, a world explored in vain,
And foes triumphant show but half my pain.
Dissembling friends, each early joy who gave,
And fired my youth the storms of fate to brave,
Swarm'd in the sunshine of my happier days,
Pursued the fortune and partook the praise,
Now pass my cell with smiles of sour disdain,
Insult my woes and triumph in my pain.
One gentle guardian once could shield the brave;
But now that guardian slumbers in the grave.
Hear from above, thou dear departed shade;
As once my hopes, my present sorrows aid,
Burst my full heart, afford that last relief,
Breathe back my sighs and reinspire my grief;
Still in my sight thy royal form appears,
Reproves my silence and demands my tears.
Even on that hour no more I joy to dwell,
When thy protection bade the canvass swell;
When kings and churchmen found their factions vain,
Blind superstition shrunk beneath her chain,
The sun's glad beam led on the circling way,
And isles rose beauteous in Atlantic day.
For on those silvery shores, that new domain,
What crowds of tyrants fix their murderous reign!
Her infant realm indignant Freedom flies,
Truth leaves the world, and Isabella dies.
Ah, lend thy friendly shroud to veil my sight,
That these pain'd eyes may dread no more the light;
These welcome shades shall close my instant doom,
And this drear mansion moulder to a tornb.
Thus mourn'd the hapless man: a thundering sound
Roll'd thro the shuddering walls and shook the ground;
O'er all the dungeon, where black arches bend,
The roofs unfold, and streams of light descend;
The growing splendor fills the astonish'd room,
And gales etherial breathe a glad perfume.
Robed in the radiance, moves a form serene,
Of human structure, but of heavenly mien;
Near to the prisoner's couch he takes his stand,
And waves, in sign of peace, his holy hand.
Tall rose his stature, youth's endearing grace
Adorn'd his limbs and brighten'd in his face;
Loose o'er his locks the star of evening hung,
And sounds melodious moved his cheerful tongue:
Rise, trembling chief, to scenes of rapture rise;
This voice awaits thee from the western skies;
Indulge no longer that desponding strain,
Nor count thy toils, nor deem thy virtues vain.
Thou seest in me the guardian Power who keeps
The new found world that skirts Atlantic deeps,
Hesper my name, my seat the brightest throne
In night's whole heaven, my sire the living sun,
My brother Atlas with his name divine
Stampt the wild wave; the solid coast is mine.
This hand, which form'd, and in the tides of time
Laves and improves the meliorating clime,
Which taught thy prow to cleave the trackless way,
And hail'd thee first in occidental day,
To all thy worth shall vindicate thy claim,
And raise up nations to revere thy name.
In this dark age tho blinded faction sways,
And wealth and conquest gain the palm of praise;
Awed into slaves while groveling millions groan,
And blood-stain'd steps lead upward to a throne;
Far other wreaths thy virtuous temples twine,
Far nobler triumphs crown a life like thine;
Thine be the joys that minds immortal grace,
As thine the deeds that bless a kindred race.
Now raise thy sorrowed soul to views more bright,
The vision'd ages rushing on thy sight;
Worlds beyond worlds shall bring to light their stores,
Time, nature, science blend their utmost powers,
To show, concentred in one blaze of fame,
The ungather'd glories that await thy name.
As that great seer, whose animating rod
Taught Jacob's sons their wonder-working God,
Who led thro dreary wastes the murmuring band,
And reach'd the confines of their promised land,
Opprest with years, from Pisgah's towering height,
On fruitful Canaan feasted long his sight;
The bliss of unborn nations warm'd his breast,
Repaid his toils and sooth'd his soul to rest;
Thus o'er thy subject wave shalt thou behold
Far happier realms their future charms unfold,
In nobler pomp another Pisgah rise,
Beneath whose foot thy new found Canaan lies;
There, rapt in vision, hail my favorite clime,
And taste the blessings of remotest time.
So Hesper spoke; Columbus raised his head;
His chains dropt off; the cave, the castle fled.
Forth walked the Pair; when steep before them stood;
Slope from the town, a heaven-illumined road;
That thro disparting shades arose on high,
Reach'd o'er the hills, and lengthen'd up the sky,
Show'd a clear summit, rich with rising flowers,
That breathe their odors thro celestial bowers.
O'er the proud Pyrenees it looks sublime,
Subjects the Alps, and levels Europe's clime;
Spain, lessening to a chart, beneath it swims,
And shrouds her dungeons in the void she dims.
Led by the Power, the Hero gain'd the height,
New strength and brilliance flush'd his mortal sight;
When calm before them flow'd the western main,
Far stretch'd, immense, a sky-encircled plain.
No sail, no isle, no cloud invests the bound,
Nor billowy surge disturbs the vast profound;
Till, deep in distant heavens, the sun's blue ray
Topt unknown cliffs and call'd them up to day;
Slow glimmering into sight wide regions drew,
And rose and brighten'd on the expanding view;
Fair sweep the waves, the lessening ocean smiles,
In misty radiance loom a thousand isles;
Near and more near the long drawn coasts arise,
Bays stretch their arms and mountains lift the skies,
The lakes, high mounded, point the streams their way,
Slopes, ridges, plains their spreading skirts display,
The vales branch forth, high walk approaching groves,
And all the majesty of nature moves.
O'er the wild hemisphere his glances fly,
Its form unfolding as it still draws nigh,
As all its salient sides force far their sway,
Crowd back the ocean and indent the day.
He saw, thro central zones, the winding shore
Spread the deep Gulph his sail had traced before,
The Darien isthmus check the raging tide,
Join distant lands, and neighboring seas divide;
On either hand the shores unbounded bend,
Push wide their waves, to each dim pole ascend;
The two twin continents united rise,
Broad as the main, and lengthen'd with the skies.
Long gazed the Mariner; when thus the Guide:
Here spreads the world thy daring sail descried,
Hesperia call'd, from my anterior claim;
But now Columbia, from thy patriarch name.
So from Phenicia's peopled strand of yore
Europa sail'd, and sought an unknown shore;
There stampt her sacred name; and thence her race,
Hale, venturous, bold, from Jove's divine embrace,
Ranged o'er the world, predestined to bestride
Earth's elder continents and each far tide.
Ages unborn shall bless the happier day,
That saw thy streamer shape the guideless way,
Their bravest heroes trace the path you led,
And sires of nations thro the regions spread.
Behold yon isles, where first thy flag unfurl'd
In bloodless triumph o'er the younger world;
As, awed to silence, savage bands gave place,
And hail'd with joy the sun-descended race.
Retrace the banks yon rushing waters lave;
There Orinoco checks great ocean's wave;
Thine is the stream; it cleaves the well known coast,
Where Paria's walks thy former footsteps boast.
But these no more thy wide discoveries bound;
Superior prospects lead their swelling round;
Nature's remotest scenes before thee roll,
And years and empires open on thy soul.
To yon dim rounds first elevate thy view;
See Quito's plains o'erlook their proud Peru;
On whose huge base, like isles amid sky driven,
A vast protuberance props the cope of heaven;
Earth's loftiest turrets there contend for height,
And all our Andes fill the bounded sight.
From south to north what long blue swells arise,
Built thro the clouds, and lost in ambient skies!
Approaching slow they heave expanding bounds,
The yielding concave bends sublimer rounds;
Whose wearied stars, high curving to the west,
Pause on the summits for a moment's rest;
Recumbent there they renovate their force,
And roll rejoicing on their downward course.
Round each bluff base the sloping ravine bends;
Hills forms on hills, and croupe o'er croupe extends;
Ascending, whitening, how the crags are lost,
O'erhung with headcliffs of eternal frost!
Broad fields of ice give back the morning ray,
Like walls of suns, or heaven's perennial day.
There folding storms on eastern pinions ride,
Veil the black void, and wrap the mountains side,
Rude thunders rake the crags, the rains descend,
And the long lightnings o'er the vallies bend;
While blasts unburden'd sweep the cliffs of snow,
The whirlwinds wheel above, the floods convolve
There molten rocks explosive rend their tomb;
Volcanos, laboring many a nation's doom,
Wild o'er the regions pour their floods of fire;
The shores heave backward, and the seas retire.
There lava waits my late reluctant call,
To roar aloft and shake some guilty wall;
Thy pride, O Lima, swells the sulphurous wave,
And fanes and priests and idols crowd thy grave.
But cease, my son, these dread events to trace,
Nor learn the woes that here await thy race.
Anorth from that broad gulph, where verdant rise
Those gentler mounds that skirt the temperate skies,
A happier hemisphere invites thy view;
Tis there the old world shall embrace the new:
There Europe's better sons their seat shall trace,
And change of government improve the race.
Thro all the midsky zones, to yon blue pole,
Their green hills lengthen, their bright rivers roll;
And swelling westward, how their champaigns run!
How slope their uplands to the morning sun!
So spoke the blest Immortal; when more near
His northern wilds in all their breadth appear;
Lands yet unknown, and streams without a name
Rise into vision and demand their fame.
As when some saint first gains his bright abode,
Vaults o'er the spheres and views the works of God,
Sees earth, his kindred orb, beneath him roll,
Here glow the centre, and there point the pole;
O'er land and sea his eyes delighted rove,
And human thoughts his heavenly joys improve;
With equal scope the raptured Hero's sight
Ranged the low vale, or climb'd the cloudy height,
As, fixt in ardent look, his opening mind,
Explored the realms that here invite mankind.
From sultry Mobile's gulph-indented shore
To where Ontario hears his Laurence roar,
Stretch'd o'er the broadback'd hills, in long array.
The tenfold Alleganies meet the day.
And show, far sloping from the plains and streams,
The forest azure streak'd with orient beams.
High moved the scene, Columbus gazed sublime,
And thus in prospect hail'd the happy clime:
Blest be the race my guardian guide shall lead
Where these wide vales their various bounties spread!
What treasured stores the hills must here combine!
Sleep still ye diamonds, and ye ores refine;
Exalt your heads ye oaks, ye pines ascend,
Till future navies bid your branches bend;
Then spread the canvass o'er the watery way,
Explore new worlds and teach the old your sway.
He said, and northward cast his curious eyes
On other cliffs of more exalted size.
Where Maine's bleak breakers line the dangerous coast,
And isles and shoals their latent horrors boast,
High lantern'd in his heaven the cloudless White
Heaves the glad sailor an eternal light;
Who far thro troubled ocean greets the guide,
And stems with steadier helm the stormful tide.
Nor could those heights unnoticed raise their head,
That swell sublime o'er Hudson's shadowy bed;
Tho fiction ne'er has hung them in the skies,
Tho White and Andes far superior rise,
Yet hoary Kaatskill, where the storms divide,
Would lift the heavens from Atlas' laboring pride.
Land after land his passing notice claim,
And hills by hundreds rise without a name;
Hills yet unsung, their mystic powers untold;
Celestials there no sacred senates hold;
No chain'd Prometheus feasts the vulture there,
No Cyclop forges thro their summits glare,
To Phrygian Jove no victim smoke is curl'd,
Nor ark high landing quits a deluged world.
But were these masses piled on Asia's shore,
Taurus would shrink, Hemodia strut no more,
Indus and Ganges scorn their humble sires,
And rising suns salute superior fires;
Whose watchful priest would meet, with matin blaze,
His earlier God, and sooner chaunt his praise.
For here great nature, with a bolder hand,
Roll'd the broad stream, and heaved the lifted land;
And here from finish'd earth, triumphant trod
The last ascending steps of her creating God.
He saw these mountains ope their watery stores,
Floods quit their caves and seek the distant shores;
Wilcl thro disparting plains their waves expand,
And lave the banks where future towns must stand.
Whirl'd from the monstrous Andes' bursting sides,
Maragnon leads his congregating tides;
A thousand Alps for him dissolve their snow,
A thousand Rhones obedient bend below,
From different zones their ways converging wind,
Sweep beds of ore, and leave their gold behind,
In headlong cataracts indignant rave,
Rush to his banks and swell the swallowing wave.
Ucayla, first of all his mighty sons,
From Cusco's walls a wearied journey runs;
Pastaza mines proud Pambamarca's base,
And holds thro sundering hills his lawless race;
Aloft, where Cotopaxa flames on high,
The roaring Napo quits his misty sky,
Down the long steeps in whitening torrents driven,
Like Nile descending from his fabled heaven;
Mound after mound impetuous Tigris rends,
Curved Ista folds whole countries in his bends;
Vast Orinoco, summon'd forth to bring
His far fetch'd honors to the sateless king,
Drives on his own strong course to gain the shore,
But sends Catuba here with half his store;
Like a broad Bosphorus here Negro guides
The gather'd mass of fifty furious tides;
From his waste world, by nameless fountains fed,
Wild Purus wears his long and lonely bed;
O'er twelve degrees of earth Madera flows,
And robs the south of half its treasured snows;
Zingus, of equal length and heavier force,
Rolls on, for months, the same continuous course
To reach his master's bank; that here constrains
Topayo, charged with all Brazilians rains;
While inland seas, and lakes unknown to fame,
Send their full tributes to the monarch stream;
Who, swell'd with growing conquest, wheels abroad,
Drains every land, and gathers all his flood;
Then far from clime to clime majestic goes,
Enlarging, widening, deepening as he flows;
Like heaven's broad milky way he shines alone,
Spreads o'er the globe its equatorial zone,
Weighs the cleft continent, and pushes wide
Its balanced mountains from each crumbling side.
Sire Ocean hears his proud Maragnon roar,
Moves up his bed, and seeks in vain the shore,
Then surging strong, with high and hoary tide,
Whelms back the Stream and checks his rolling pride.
The stream ungovernable foams with ire,
Climbs, combs tempestuous, and attacks the Sire;
Earth feels the conflict o'er her bosom spread,
Her isles and uplands hide their wood-crown'd head;
League after league from land to water change,
From realm to realm the seaborn monsters range;
Vast midland heights but pierce the liquid plain,
Old Andes tremble for their proud domain;
Till the fresh Flood regains his forceful sway,
Drives back his father Ocean, lash'd with spray;
Whose ebbing waters lead the downward sweep,
And waves and trees and banks roll whirling to the deep.
Where suns less ardent cast their golden beams,
And minor Andes pour a waste of streams,
The marsh of Moxoe scoops the world, and fills
(From Bahia's coast to Cochabamba's hills)
A thousand leagues of bog; he strives in vain
Their floods to centre and their lakes retain;
His gulphs o'ercharged their opening sides display,
And southern vales prolong the seaward way.
Columbus traced, with swift exploring eye,
The immense of waves that here exalted lie,
The realms that mound the unmeasured magazine,
The far blue main, the climes that stretch between.
He saw Xaraya's diamond banks unfold,
And Paraguay's deep channel paved with gold,
Saw proud Potosi lift his glittering head,
And pour down Plata thro his tinctured bed.
Rich with the spoils of many a distant mine,
In his broad silver sea their floods combine;
Wide over earth his annual freshet strays,
And highland drains with lowland drench repays;
Her thirsty regions wait his glad return,
And drink their future harvest from his urn.
Where the cold circles gird the southern sky.
Brave Magellan's wild channel caught his eye;
The long cleft ridges wall'd the spreading way.
That gleams far westward to an unknown sea.
Soon as the distant swell was seen to roll,
His ancient wishes reabsorb'd his soul;
Warm from his heaving heart a sudden sigh
Burst thro his lips; he turn'd his moisten'd eye,
And thus besought his Angel: speak, my guide,
Where leads the pass? and what yon purple tide?
How the dim waves in blending ether stray!
No lands behind them rise, no pinions on them play.
There spreads, belike, that other unsail'd main
I sought so long, and sought, alas, in vain;
To gird this watery globe, and bring to light
Old India's coast; and regions wrapt in night.
Restore, celestial friend, my youthful morn,
Call back my years, and let my fame return;
Grant me to trace, beyond that pathless sea,
Some happier shore from lust of empire free;
To find in that far world a peaceful bower,
From envy safe and curst Ovando's power.
Earth's happiest realms let not their distance hide,
Nor seas forever roll their useless tide.
For nations yet unborn, that wait thy time,
Demand their seats in that secluded clime;
Ah, grant me still, their passage to prepare.
One venturous bark, and be my life thy care.
So pray'd the Hero; Hesper mild replies,
Divine compassion softening in his eyes,
Tho still to virtuous deeds thy mind aspires,
And these glad visions kindle new desires,
Yet hear with reverence what attends thy state,
Nor wish to pass the eternal bounds of fate.
Led by this sacred light thou soon shalt see
That half mankind shall owe their seats to thee,
Freedom's first empire claim its promised birth
In these rich rounds of sea-encircled earth;
Let other years, by thine example prest,
Call forth their heroes to explore the rest.
Thro different seas a twofold passage lies
To where sweet India scents a waste of skies.
The circling course, by Madagascar's shores,
Round Afric's cape, bold Gama now explores;
Thy well plann'd path these gleamy straits provide,
Nor long shall rest the daring search untried.
This idle frith must open soon to fame,
Here a lost Lusitanian fix his name,
From that new main in furious waves be tost,
And fall neglected on the barbarous coast.
But lo the Chief! bright Albion bids him rise,
Speed in his pinions, ardor in his eyes!
Hither, O Drake, display thy hastening sails,
Widen ye passes, and awake ye gales,
March thou before him, heaven-revolving sun,
Wind his long course, and teach him where to run;
Earth's distant shores, in circling bands unite,
Lands, learn your fame, and oceans, roll in light,
Round all the watery globe his flag be hurl'd,
A new Columbus to the astonish'd world.
He spoke; and silent tow'rd the northern sky
Wide o'er the hills the Hero cast his eye,
Saw the long floods thro devious channels pour,
And wind their currents to the opening shore;
Interior seas and lonely lakes display
Their glittering glories to the beams of day.
Thy capes, Virginia, towering from the tide,
Raise their blue banks, and slope thy barriers wide,
To future sails unfold an inland way,
And guard secure thy multifluvian Bay;
That drains uncounted realms, and here unites
The liquid mass from Alleganian heights.
York leads his wave, imbank'd in flowery pride,
And nobler James falls winding by his side;
Back to the hills, thro many a silent vale,
While Rappahanok seems to lure the sail,
Patapsco's bosom courts the hand of toil,
Dull Susquehanna laves a length of soil;
But mightier far, in sealike azure spread,
Potowmak sweeps his earth disparting bed.
Long dwelt his eye where these commingling pour'd,
Their waves unkeel'd, their havens unexplored;
Where frowning forests stretch the dusky wing,
And deadly damps forbid the flowers to spring;
No seasons clothe the field with cultured grain,
No buoyant ship attempts the chartless main;
Then with impatient voice: My Seer, he cried,
When shall my children cross the lonely tide?
Here, here my sons, the hand of culture bring,
Here teach the lawn to smile, the grove to sing:
Ye laboring floods, no longer vainly glide,
Ye harvests load them, and ye forests ride;
Bear the deep burden from the joyous swain,
And tell the world where peace and plenty reign.
Hesper to this return'd him no reply,
But raised new visions to his roving eye.
He saw broad Delaware the shores divide,
He saw majestic Hudson pour his tide;
Thy stream, my Hartford, thro its misty robe,
Play'd in the sunbeams, belting far the globe;
No watery glades thro richer vallies shine,
Nor drinks the sea a lovelier wave than thine.
Mystick and Charles refresh their seaward isles,
And gay Piscateway pays his passing smiles;
Swift Kenebec, high bursting from his lakes,
Shoots down the hillsides thro the clouds he makes;
And hoarse resounding, gulphing wide the shore,
Dread Laurence labors with tremendous roar;
Laurence, great son of Ocean! lorn he lies,
And braves the blasts of hyperborean skies.
Where hoary winter holds his howling reign,
And April flings her timid showers in vain,
Groans the choked Flood, in frozen fetters bound,
And isles of ice his angry front surround.
As old Enceladus, in durance vile,
Spreads his huge length beneath Sicilia's isle,
Feels mountains, crush'd by mountains, on him prest,
Close not his veins, nor still his laboring breast;
His limbs convulse, his heart rebellious rolls,
Earth shakes responsive to her utmost poles,
While rumbling, bursting, boils his ceaseless ire,
Flames to mid heaven, and sets the skies on fire.
So the contristed Laurence lays him low,
And hills of sleet and continents of snow
Rise on his crystal breast; his heaving sides
Crash with the weight, and pour their gushing tides,
Asouth, whence all his hundred branches bend,
Relenting airs with boreal blasts contend;
Far in his vast extremes he swells and thaws,
And seas foam wide between his ice-bound jaws.
Indignant Frost, to hold his captive, plies
His hosted fiends that vex the polar skies,
Unlocks his magazines of nitric stores,
Azotic charms and muriatic powers;
Hail, with its glassy globes, and brume congeal'd,
Rime's fleecy flakes, and storm that heaps the field
Strike thro the sullen Stream with numbing force,
Obstruct his sluices and impede his course.
In vain he strives; his might interior fails;
Nor spring's approach, nor earth's whole heat avails;
He calls his hoary Sire; old Ocean roars
Responsive echoes thro the Shetland shores.
He comes, the Father! from his bleak domains,
To break with liquid arms the sounding chains;
Clothed in white majesty, he leads from far
His tides high foaming to the wintry war.
Billows on billows lift the maddening brine,
And seas and clouds in battling conflict join,
O'erturn the vast gulph glade with rending sweep,
And crash the crust that bridged the boiling deep;
Till forced aloft, bright bounding thro the air,
Moves the blear ice, and sheds a dazzling glare;
The torn foundations on the surface ride,
And wrecks of winter load the downward tide.
The loosen'd ice-isles o'er the main advance,
Toss on the surge, and thro the concave dance;
Whirl'd high, conjoin'd, in crystal mountains driven,
Alp over Alp, they build a midway heaven;
Whose million mirrors mock the solar ray,
And give condensed the tenfold glare of day.
As tow'rd the south the mass enormous glides.
And brineless rivers furrow down its sides;
The thirsty sailor steals a glad supply,
And sultry trade winds quaff the boreal sky.
But oft insidious death, with mist o'erstrown,
Rides the dark ocean on this icy throne;
When ships thro vernal seas with light airs steer
Their midnight march, and deem no danger near.
The steerman gaily helms his course along,
And laughs and listens to the watchman's song,
Who walks the deck, enjoys the murky fog,
Sure of his chart, his magnet and his log;
Their shipmates dreaming, while their slumbers last,
Of joys to come, of toils and dangers past.
Sudden a chilling blast comes roaring thro
The trembling shrouds, and startles all the crew;
They spring to quarters, and perceive too late
The mount of death, the giant strides of fate.
The fullsail'd ship, with instantaneous shock,
Dash'd into fragments by the floating rock,
Plunges beneath its basement thro the wave,
And crew and cargo glut the watery grave.
Say, Palfrey, brave good man, was this thy doom?
Dwells here the secret of thy midsea tomb?
But, Susan, why that tear? my lovely friend,
Regret may last, but grief should have an end.
An infant then, thy memory scarce can trace
The lines, tho sacred, of thy father's face;
A generous spouse has well replaced the sire;
New duties hence new sentiments require.
Now where the lakes, those midland oceans, lie,
Columbus turn'd his heaven-illumined eye.
Ontario's banks, unable to retain
The five great Caspians from the distant main,
Burst with the ponderous mass, and forceful whirl'd
His Laurence forth, to balance thus the world.
Above, bold Erie's wave sublimely stood,
Look'd o'er the cliff, and heaved his headlong flood;
Where dread Niagara bluffs high his brow,
And frowns defiance to the world below.
White clouds of mist expanding o'er him play,
That tinge their skirts in all the beams of day;
Pleased Iris wantons in perpetual pride,
And bends her rainbows o'er the dashing tide.
Far glimmering in the north, bleak Huron runs,
Clear Michigan reflects a thousand suns,
And bason'd high, on earth's broad bosom gay,
The bright Superior silvers down the day.
Blue mounds beyond them far in ether fade,
Deep groves between them cast a solemn shade,
Slow moves their settling mist in lurid streams,
And dusky radiance streaks the solar beams.
Fixt on the view the great discoverer stood,
And thus addrest the messenger of good:
But why these seats, that seem reserved to grace
The social toils of some illustrious race,
Why spread so wide and form'd so fair in vain?
And why so distant rolls the bounteous main?
These happy regions must forever rest,
Of man unseen, by native beasts possest;
And the best heritage my sons could boast
Illude their search in far dim deserts lost,
For see, no ship can point her pendants here,
No stream conducts nor ocean wanders near;
Frost, crags and cataracts their north invest,
And the tired sun scarce finds their bounds awest.
To whom the Seraph: Here indeed retires
The happiest land that feels my fostering fires;
Here too shall numerous nations found their seat,
And peace and freedom bless the kind retreat.
Led by this arm thy sons shall hither come,
And streams obedient yield the heroes room,
Spread a broad passage to their well known main,
Nor sluice their lakes, nor form their soils in vain.
Here my bold Missisippi bends his way,
Scorns the dim bounds of yon bleak boreal day,
And calls from western heavens, to feed his stream,
The rains and floods that Asian seas might claim.
Strong in his march, and charged with all the fates
Of regions pregnant with a hundred states.
He holds in balance, ranged on either hand,
Two distant oceans and their sundering land;
Commands and drains the interior tracts that lie
Outmeasuring Europe's total breadth of sky.
High in the north his parent fountains wed,
And oozing urns adorn his infant head;
In vain proud Frost his nursing lakes would close,
And choke his channel with perennial snows;
From all their slopes he curves his countless rills,
Sweeps their long marshes, saps their settling hills;
Then stretching, straighteningsouth, he gaily gleams,
Swells thro the climes, and swallows all their streams;
From zone to zone, o'er earth's broad surface curl'd,
He cleaves his course, he furrows half the world,
Now roaring wild thro bursting mountains driven,
Now calm reflecting all the host of heaven;
Where Cynthia pausing, her own face admires,
And suns and stars repeat their dancing fires.
Wide o'er his meadowy lawns he spreads and feeds
His realms of canes, his waving world of reeds;
Where mammoth grazed the renovating groves,
Slaked his huge thirst, and chill'd his fruitless loves;
Where elks, rejoicing o'er the extinguished race,
By myriads rise to fill the vacant space.
Earth's widest gulph expands to meet his wave,
Vast isles of ocean in his current lave;
Glad Thetis greets him from his finish'd course,
And bathes her Nereids in his freshening source.
To his broad bed their tributary stores
Wisconsin here, there lonely Peter pours;
Croix, from the northeast wilds his channel fills,
Ohio, gather'd from his myriad hills,
Yazoo and Black, surcharged by Georgian springs,
Rich Illinois his copious treasure brings;
Arkansa, measuring back the sun's long course,
Moine, Francis, Rouge augment the father's force.
But chief of all his family of floods
Missouri marches thro his world of woods;
He scorns to mingle with the filial train,
Takes every course to reach alone the main;
Orient awhile his bending swreep he tries,
Now drains the southern, now the northern skies,
Searches and sunders far the globe's vast frame,
Reluctant joins the sire, and takes at last his name.
There lies the path thy future sons shall trace,
Plant here their arts, and rear their vigorous race:
A race predestined, in these choice abodes,
To teach mankind to tame their fluvial floods,
Retain from ocean, as their work requires,
These great auxiliars, raised by solar fires,
Force them to form ten thousand roads, and girth
With liquid belts each verdant mound of earth,
To aid the colon's as the carrier's toil,
To drive the coulter, and to fat the soil,
Learn all mechanic arts, and oft regain
Their native hills in vapor and in rain.
So taught the Saint. The regions nearer drew,
And raised resplendent to their Hero's view
Rich nature's triple reign; for here elate
She stored the noblest treasures of her state,
Adorn'd exuberant this her last domain,
As yet unalter'd by her mimic man,
Sow'd liveliest gems, and plants of proudest grace,
And strung with strongest nerves her animated race.
Retiring far round Hudson's frozen bay,
Earth's lessening circles shrink beyond the day;
Snows ever rising with the toils of time
Choke the chill shrubs that brave the dismal clime;
The beasts all whitening roam the lifeless plain,
And caves unfrequent scoop the couch for man.
Where Spring's coy steps in cold Canadia stray,
And joyless seasons hold unequal sway,
He saw the pine its daring mantle rear,
Break the rude blast, and mock the brumal year,
Shag the green zone that bounds the boreal skies,
And bid all southern vegetation rise.
Wild o'er the vast impenetrable round
The untrod bowers of shadowy nature frown'd;
Millennial cedars wave their honors wide,
The fir's tall boughs, the oak's umbrageous pride,
The branching beech, the aspen's trembling shade
Veil the dim heaven, and brown the dusky glade.
For in dense crowds these sturdy sons of earth,
In frosty regions, claim a stronger birth;
Where heavy beams the sheltering dome requires,
And copious trunks to feed its wintry fires.
But warmer suns, that southern zones emblaze,
A cool thin umbrage o'er their woodland raise;
Floridia's shores their blooms around him spread.
And Georgian hills erect their shady head;
Whose flowery shrubs regale the passing air
With all the untasted fragrance of the year.
Beneath tall trees, dispersed in loose array,
The rice-grown lawns their humble garb display;
The infant maize, unconscious of its worth,
Points the green spire and bends the foliage forth;
In various forms unbidden harvests rise,
And blooming life repays the genial skies.
Where Mexic hills the breezy gulph defend,
Spontaneous groves with richer burdens bend.
Anana's stalk its shaggy honors yields,
Acassia's flowers perfume a thousand fields,
Their cluster'd dates the mast-like palms unfold,
The spreading orange waves a load of gold,
Connubial vines o'ertop the larch they climb,
The long-lived olive mocks the moth of time,
Pomona's pride, that old Grenada claims,
Here smiles and reddens in diviner flames;
Pimento, citron scent the sky serene,
White woolly clusters fringe the cotton's green,
The sturdy fig, the frail deciduous cane
And foodful cocoa fan the sultry plain.
Here, in one view, the same glad branches bring
The fruits of autumn and the flowers of spring;
No wintry blasts the unchanging year deform,
Nor beasts unshelter'd fear the pinching storm;
But vernal breezes o'er the blossoms rove,
And breathe the ripen'd juices thro the grove.
Beneath the crystal wave's inconstant light
Pearls burst their shells to greet the Hero's sight;
From opening earth in living lustre shine
The various treasures of the blazing mine;
Hills cleft before him all their stores unfold,
The pale platina and the burning gold;
Silver whole mounds, and gems of dazzling ray
Illume the rocks and shed the beams of day.
Joel Barlow's Other Poems
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Comments about this poem (The Columbiad: Book I by Joel Barlow )
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
Edna St. Vincent Millay
(22 February 1892 – 19 October 1950)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(c. 600 BCE)
(27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953)
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