The Columbiad: Book II
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.
High o'er his world as thus Columbus gazed,
And Hesper still the changing scene emblazed,
Round all the realms increasing lustre flew,
And raised new wonders to the Patriarch's view.
He saw at once, as far as eye could rove,
Like scattering herds, the swarthy people move
In tribes innumerable; all the waste,
Wide as their walks, a varying shadow cast.
As airy shapes, beneath the moon's pale eye,
People the clouds that sail the midnight sky,
Dance thro the grove and flit along the glade,
And cast their grisly phantoms on the shade;
So move the hordes, in thickets half conceal'd,
Or vagrant stalking thro the fenceless field,
Here tribes untamed, who scorn to fix their home,
O'er shadowy streams and trackless deserts roam;
While others there in settled hamlets rest,
And corn-clad vales a happier state attest.
The painted chiefs, in guise terrific drest,
Rise fierce to war, and beat their savage breast;
Dark round their steps collecting warriors pour,
Some fell revenge begins the hideous roar;
From hill to hill the startling war-song flies,
And tribes on tribes in dread disorder rise,
Track the mute foe and scour the howling wood,
Loud as a storm, ungovern'd as a flood;
Or deep in groves the silent ambush lay,
Lead the false flight, decoy and seize their prey,
Their captives torture, butcher and devour,
Drink the warm blood and paint their cheeks with gore.
Awhile he paused, with dubious thoughts opprest,
And thus to Hesper's ear his doubts addrest:
Say, to what class of nature's sons belong
The countless tribes of this untutor'd throng?
Where human frames and brutal souls combine,
No force can tame them, and no arts refine.
Can these be fashion'd on the social plan,
Or boast a lineage with the race of man?
When first we found them in yon hapless isle,
They seem'd to know and seem'd to fear no guile;
A timorous herd, like harmless roes, they ran,
And call'd us Gods, from whom their tribes began.
But when, their fears allay'd, in us they trace
The well-known image of a mortal race,
When Spanish blood their wondering eyes beheld,
A frantic rage their changing bosoms swell'd;
They roused their bands from numerous hills afar,
To feast their souls on ruin, waste and war.
Nor plighted vows nor sure defeat control
The same indignant savageness of soul.
Tell then, my Seer, from what dire sons of earth
The brutal people drew their ancient birth;
If these forgotten shores and useless tides
Have form'd them different from the world besides,
Born to subjection, when in happier time
A nobler race should reach their fruitful clime;
Or, if a common source all nations claim,
Their lineage, form and faculties the same,
What sovereign secret cause, yet undisplay'd,
This wondrous change in nature's work has made;
Why various powers of soul and tints of face
In different lands diversify the race;
To whom the Guide: Unnumbered causes lie,
In earth and sea, in climate, soil and sky,
That fire the soul, or damp the genial flame,
And work their wonders on the human frame.
See beauty, form and color change with place;
Here charms of health the lively visage grace;
There pale diseases float in every wind,
Deform the figure, and degrade the mind.
From earth's own elements thy race at first
Rose into life, the children of the dust;
These kindred elements, by various use,
Nourish the growth and every change produce;
In each ascending stage the man sustain,
His breath, his food, his physic and his bane.
In due proportions where these atoms lie,
A certain form their equal aids supply;
And while unchanged the efficient causes reign,
Age following age the certain form maintain.
But where crude atoms disproportion'd rise,
And cast their sickening vapors round the skies,
Unlike that harmony of human frame,
That moulded first and reproduce the same,
The tribes ill form'd, attempering to the clime,
Still vary downward with the years of time;
More perfect some, and some less perfect yield
Their reproductions in this wondrous field;
Till fixt at last their characters abide,
And local likeness feeds their local pride.
The soul too, varying with the change of clime,
Feeble or fierce, or groveling or sublime,
Forms with the body to a kindred plan,
And lives the same, a nation or a man.
Yet think not clime alone the tint controls,
On every shore, by altitude of poles;
A different cast the glowing zone demands,
In Paria's groves, from Tombut's burning sands,
Unheeded agents, for the sense too fine,
With every pulse, with every thought combine,
Thro air and ocean, with their changes run,
Breathe from the ground, or circle with the sun.
Where these long continents their shores outspread,
See the same form all different tribes pervade;
Thro all alike the fertile forests bloom,
And all, uncultured, shed a solemn gloom;
Thro all great nature's boldest features rise,
Sink into vales or tower amid the skies;
Streams darkly winding stretch a broader sway,
The groves and mountains bolder walks display;
A dread sublimity informs the whole,
And rears a dread sublimity of soul.
Yet time and art shall other changes find,
And open still and vary still the mind.
The countless clans that tread these dank abodes,
Who glean spontaneous fruits and range the woods,
Fixt here for ages, in their swarthy face
Display the wild complexion of the place.
Yet when the hordes to happy nations rise,
And earth By culture warms the genial skies,
A fairer tint and more majestic grace
Shall flush their features and exalt the race;
While milder arts, with social joys refined,
Inspire new beauties in the growing mind.
Thy followers too, old Europe's noblest pride,
When future gales shall wing them o'er the tide,
A ruddier hue and deeper shade shall gain,
And stalk, in statelier figures, on the plain.
While nature's grandeur lifts the eye abroad
O'er these last labors of the forming God,
Wing'd on a wider glance the venturous soul
Bids greater powers and bolder thoughts unrol;
The sage, the chief, the patriot unconfined,
Shield the weak world and meliorate mankind.
But think not thou, in all the range of man,
That different pairs each different cast began;
Or tribes distinct, by signal marks confest,
Were born to serve or subjugate the rest.
The Hero heard, and thus resumed the strain:
Who led these wanderers o'er the dreary main?
Could their weak sires, unskill'd in human lore,
Build the bold bark, to seek an unknown shore?
A shore so distant from the world beside,
So dark the tempests, and so wild the tide,
That Greece and Tyre, and all who tempt the sea,
Have shunn'd the task, and left the fame to me.
When first thy roving race, the Power replied,
Learn'd by the stars the devious sail to guide,
From stormy Hellespont explored the way,
And sought the limits of the Midland sea;
Before Alcides form'd his impious plan
To check the sail, and bound the steps of man,
This hand had led them to this rich abode,
And braved the wrath of that strong demigod.
Driven from the Calpian strait, a hapless train
Roll'd on the waves that sweep the western main;
Storms from the orient bhcken'd heaven with shade,
Nor sun nor stars could yield their wonted aid.
For many a darksome day o'erwhelm'd and tost,
Their sails, their oars in swallowing surges lost,
At length, the clouds withdrawn, they sad descry
Their course directing from their native sky.
No hope remains; far onward o'er the zone
The trade wind bears them with the circling sun;
Till wreck'd and stranded here, the sylvan coast
Receives to lonely seats the suffering host.
The fruitful vales invite their steps to roam,
Renounce their sorrows and forget their home;
Revolving years their ceaseless wanderings led,
And from their sons descending nations spread.
These in the torrid tracts began their sway,
Whose cultured fields their growing arts display;
The northern tribes a later stock may boast,
A race descended from the Asian coast.
High in the Arctic, where Anadir glides,
A narrow strait the impinging worlds divides;
There Tartar fugitives from famine sail,
And migrant tribes these fruitful shorelands hail.
He spoke; when Behren's pass before them lay,
And moving nations on the margin stray,
Thick swarming, venturous; sail and oar they ply,
Climb on the surge and o'er the billows fly.
As when autumnal storms awake their force.
The storks foreboding tempt their southern course;
From all the fields collecting throngs arise,
Mount on the wing and crowd along the skies:
Thus, to his eye, from bleak Tartaria's shore,
Thro isles and seas, the gathering people pour,
Change their cold regions for a happier strand,
Leap from the wave and tread the welcome land;
In growing tribes extend their southern sway,
And wander wide beneath a warmer day.
But why, the Chief replied, if ages past
Led the bold vagrants to so mild a waste;
If human souls, for social compact given,
Inform their nature with the stamp of heaven.
Why the wild woods for ever must they rove,
Nor arts nor social joys their passions move?
Long is the lapse of ages, since thy hand
Conducted here thy first adventurous band.
On other shores, in every eastern clime,
Since that unletter'd, distant tract of time,
What arts have sprung, imperial powers to grace!
What sceptres sway'd the many-master'd race!
Guilt, grandeur, glory from their seats been hurl'd,
And dire divulsions shook the changing world!
Ere Rome's first Eagle clave the frighted air,
Ere Sparta form'd her deathlike sons of war,
Ere Tyre and Ilion saw their towers arise,
Or Memphian pyramids usurp'd the skies,
These tribes have forester'd the fruitful zone,
Their seats unsettled, and their name unknown.
Hesper to this replied: A scanty train,
In that far age, approach'd the wide domain;
The wide domain, with game and fruitage crown'd,
Supplied their food uncultured from the ground.
By nature form'd to rove, the humankind,
Of freedom fond, will ramble unconfined,
Till all the region fills, and rival right
Restrains their steps, and bids their force unite;
When common safety builds a common cause,
Conforms their interest and inspires their laws;
By mutual checks their different manners blend,
Their fields bloom joyous, and their walls ascend.
Here to the vagrant tribes no bounds arose,
They form'd no union, as they fear'd no foes;
Wandering and wild, from sire to son they stray,
A thousand ages, scorning every sway.
And what a world their seatless nations led!
A total hemisphere around them spread;
See the lands lengthen, see the rivers roll,
To each far main, to each extended pole!
But lo, at last the destined course is run,
The realms are peopled and their arts begun.
Where yon mid region elevated lies,
A few famed cities glitter to the skies;
There move, in eastern pomp, the toils of state,
And temples heave, magnificently great.
The Hero turn'd to greet the novel sight;
When three far splendors, yet confusedly bright,
Rose like a constellation; till more near,
Distinctly mark'd their different sites appear;
Diverging still, beneath their roofs of gold,
Three cities gay their mural towers unfold.
So, led by visions of his guiding God,
The seer of Patmos o'er the welkin trod,
Saw the new heaven its flamy cope unbend,
And walls and gates and spiry domes descend;
His well known sacred city grows, and gains
Her new built towers, her renovated fanes;
With golden skies and suns and rainbows crown'd,
Jerusalem looks forth and lights the world around.
Bright on the north imperial Mexic rose;
A mimic morn her sparkling vanes disclose,
Her opening streets concentred hues display,
Give back the sun, and shed internal day;
The circling wall with guardian turrets frown'd,
And look'd defiance to the realms around;
A glimmering lake without the wall retires,
Inverts the towers, and seems a grove of spires.
Proud o'er the midst, on columns lifted high,
A giant structure claims a loftier sky;
O'er the tall gates sublimer arches bend,
Courts larger lengthen, bolder walks ascend,
Starr'd with superior gems the porches shine,
And speak the royal residence writhin.
There, deck'd in state robes, on his golden throne,
Mid suppliant kings, dread Montezuma shone;
Mild in his eye a temper'd grandeur sate,
High seem'd his soul, with conscious power elate;
In aspect open, social and serene,
Enclosed by favorites, and of friends unseen.
Round the rich throne, in various lustre dight,
Gems undistinguished cast a changing light;
Sapphire and emerald soften down the scene,
Cold azure mingling with the vernal green,
Pearl, amber, ruby warmer flames unfold,
And diamonds brighten from the burning gold;
Thro all the dome the living blazes blend,
And shoot their rainbows where the arches bend.
On every ceiling, painted light and gay,
Symbolic forms their graphic art display;
Recording, confident of endless fame,
Each feat of arms, each patriarchal name;
Like Memphian hieroglyphs, to stretch the span
Of memory frail in momentary man.
Pour'd thro the gates a hundred nations greet,
Throng the rich mart and line each ample street,
Ply different labors, walls and structures rear,
Or till the fields, or train the ranks of war.
Thro spreading states the skirts of empire bend,
New temples rise and other plains extend;
Thrice ten wide provinces, in culture gay,
Bless the same king, and daily firm the sway.
A smile benignant kindling in his eyes,
O happy realm! the glad Columbus cries,
Far in the midland, safe from every foe,
Thy arts shall flourish as thy virtues grow,
To endless years thy rising fame extend,
And sires of nations from thy sons descend.
May no gold-thirsty race thy temples tread,
Insult thy rites, nor heap thy plains with dead;
No Bovadilla seize the tempting spoil,
No dark Ovando, no religious Boyle,
In mimic priesthood grave, or robed in state,
Overwhelm thy glories in oblivious fate!
Vain are thy hopes, the sainted Power replied,
These rich abodes from Spanish hordes to hide,
Or teach hard guilt and cruelty to spare
The guardless prize of sacrilegious war.
Think not the vulture, mid the field of slain,
Where base and brave promiscuous strow the plain,
Where the young hero in the pride of charms
Pours brighter crimson o'er his spotless arms,
Will pass the tempting prey, and glut his rage
On harder flesh, and carnage black with age;
O'er all alike he darts his eager eye,
Whets the blunt beak and hovers down the sky,
From countless corses picks the dainty food,
And screams and fattens in the purest blood.
So the vile hosts, that hither trace thy way,
On happiest tribes with fiercest fury prey.
Thine the dread task, O Cortez, here to show
What unknown crimes can heighten human woe,
On these fair fields the blood of realms to pour,
Tread sceptres down, and print thy steps in gore,
With gold and carnage swell thy sateless mind,
And live and die the blackest of mankind.
He gains the shore. Behold his fortress rise,
His fleet high flaming suffocates the skies.
The march begins; the nations in affright
Quake as he moves, and wage the fruitless fight;
Thro the rich provinces he bends his way,
Kings in his chain, and kingdoms for his prey;
Full on the imperial town infuriate falls,
And pours destruction o'er its batter'd walls.
In quest of peace great Montezuma stands,
A sovereign supplicant with lifted hands,
Brings all his treasure, yields the regal sway,
Bids vassal millions their new lord obey;
And plies the victor with incessant prayer,
Thro ravaged realms the harmless race to spare.
But treasures, tears and sceptres plead in vain,
Nor threats can move him, nor a world restrain;
While blind religion's prostituted name
And monkish fury guide the sacred flame.
O'er crowded fanes their fires unhallow'd bend,
Climb the wide roofs, the lofty towers ascend,
Pour thro the lowering skies the smoky flood,
And stain the fields, and quench the blaze in blood.
Columbus heard; and, with a heaving sigh,
Dropt the full tear that started in his eye:
O hapless day! his trembling voice replied,
That saw my wandering pennon mount the tide.
Had but the lamp of heaven to that bold sail
Ne'er mark'd the passage nor awoke the gale,
Taught foreign prows these peopled shores to find,
Nor led those tigers forth to fang mankind;
Then had the tribes beneath these bounteous skies
Seen their walls widen and their harvests rise;
Down the long tracts of time their glory shone,
Broad as the day and lasting as the sun.
The growing realms, behind thy shield that rest,
Paternal monarch, still thy power had blest,
Enjoy'd the pleasures that surround thy throne,
Survey'd thy virtues and improved their own.
Forgive me, prince; this luckless arm hath led
The storm unseen that hovers o'er thy head;
Taught the dark sons of slaughter where to roam,
To seize thy crown and seal the nation's doom.
Arm, sleeping empire, meet the murderous band,
Drive back the invaders, save the sinking land.-
But vain the call! behold the streaming blood!
Forgive me, Nature! and forgive me, God!
While sorrows thus his patriarch pride control,
Hesper reproving sooths his tender soul:
Father of this new world, thy tears give o'er,
Let virtue grieve and heaven be blamed no more.
Enough for man, with persevering mind,
To act his part and strive to bless his kind;
Enough for thee, o'er thy dark age to soar,
And raise to light that long-secluded shore.
For this my guardian care thy youth inspired,
To virtue rear'd thee, and with glory fired,
Bade in thy plan each distant world unite,
And wing'd thy vessel for the venturous flight.
Nor think the labors vain; to good they tend;
Tyrants like these shall ne'er defeat their end;
Their end that opens far beyond the scope
Of man's past efforts and his present hope.
Long has thy race, to narrow shores confined,
Trod the same round that fetter'd fast the mind;
Now, borne on bolder plumes, with happier flight,
The world's broad bounds unfolding to the sight,
The mind shall soar; the coming age expand
Their arts and lore to every barbarous land;
And buried gold, drawn copious from the mine,
Give wings to commerce and the world refine.
Now to yon southern cities turn thy view,
And mark the rival seats of rich Peru.
See Quito's airy plains, exalted high,
With loftier temples rise along the sky;
And elder Cusco's shining roofs unfold,
Flame on the day, and shed their suns of gold.
Another range, in these pacific climes,
Spreads a broad theatre for unborn crimes;
Another Cortez shall their treasures view,
His rage rekindle and his guilt renew;
His treason, fraud, and every fell design,
O curst Pizarro, shall revive in thine.
Here reigns a prince, whose heritage proclaims
A long bright lineage of imperial names;
Where the brave roll of Incas love to trace
The distant father of their realm and race,
Immortal Capac. He, in youthful pride,
With young Oella his illustrious bride,
Announced their birth divine; a race begun
From heaven, the children of their God the Sun;
By him sent forth a polish'd state to frame,
Crush the fiend Gods that human victims claim,
With cheerful rites their pure devotions pay
To the bright orb that gives the changing day.
On this great plan, as children of the skies,
They plied their arts and saw their hamlets rise.
First of their works, and sacred to their fame.
Yon proud metropolis received its name,
Cusco the seat of states, in peace design'd
To reach o'er earth, and civilize mankind.
Succeeding sovereigns spread their limits far,
Tamed every tribe, and sooth'd the rage of war;
Till Quito bow'd; and all the heliac zone
Felt the same sceptre, and confirm'd the throne.
Near Cusco's walls, where still their hallow'd isle
Bathes in its lake and wears its verdant smile,
Where these prime parents of the sceptred line
Their advent made, and spoke their birth divine,
Behold their temple stand; its glittering spires
Light the glad waves and aid their father's fires.
Arch'd in the walls of gold, its portal gleams
With various gems of intermingling beams;
And flaming from the front, with borrow'd ray,
A diamond circlet gives the rival day;
In whose bright face forever looks abroad
The labor'd image of the radiant God.
There dwells the royal priest, whose inner shrine
Conceals his lore; tis there his voice divine
Proclaims the laws; and there a cloister'd quire
Of holy virgins keep the sacred fire.
Columbus heard; and curious to be taught
What pious fraud such wondrous changes wrought,
Ask'd by what mystic charm, in that dark age,
They quell'd in savage souls the barbarous rage,
By leagues of peace combined a wide domain,
And taught the virtues in their laws to reign.
Long is the tale; but tho their labors rest
By years obscured, in flowery fiction drest,
My voice, said Hesper, shall revive their name,
And give their merits to immortal fame.
Led by his father's wars, in early prime
Young Capac left his native northern clime;
The clime where Quito since hath rear'd her fanes,
And now no more her barbarous rites maintains.
He saw these vales in richer blooms array'd,
And tribes more numerous haunt the woodland shade,
Saw rival clans their local Gods adore,
Their altars staining with their children's gore,
Yet mark'd their reverence for the Sun, whose beam
Proclaims his bounties and his power supreme;
Who sails in happier skies, diffusing good,
Demands no victim and receives no blood.
In peace return'd with his victorious sire,
New charms of glory all his soul inspire;
To conquer nations on a different plan,
And build his greatness on the good of man.
By nature form'd for hardiest deeds of fame,
Tall, bold and full-proportion'd rose his frame;
Strong moved his limbs, a mild majestic grace
Beam'd from his eyes and open'd in his face;
O'er the dark world his mind superior shone,
And seem'd the semblance of his parent Sun.
But tho fame's airy visions lift his eyes,
And future empires from his labors rise;
Yet softer fires his daring views control,
And mixt emotions fill his changing soul.
Shall genius rare, that might the world improve,
Bend to the milder voice of careless love,
That bounds his glories, and forbids to part
From bowers that woo'd his fluctuating heart?
Or shall the toils imperial heroes claim
Fire his brave bosom with a patriot flame,
Bid sceptres wait him on Peruvia's shore,
And loved Oella meet his eyes no more?
Still unresolved he sought the lonely maid,
Who plied her labors in the silvan shade;
Her locks loose rolling mantle deep her breast,
And wave luxuriant round her slender waist,
Gay wreaths of flowers her pensive brows adorn,
And her white raiment mocks the light of morn.
Her busy hand sustains a bending bough,
Where cotton clusters spread their robes of snow,
From opening pods unbinds the fleecy store,
And culls her labors for the evening bower.
For she, the first in all Hesperia, fed
The turning spindle with the twisting thread;
The woof, the shuttle follow'd her command,
Till various garments grew beneath her hand.
And now, while all her thoughts with Capac rove
Thro former scenes of innocence and love,
In distant fight his fancied dangers share,
Or wait him glorious from the finish'd war;
Blest with the ardent hope, her sprightly mind
A vesture white had for the prince design'd;
And here she seeks the wool to web the fleece,
The sacred emblem of returning peace.
Sudden his near approach the maid alarms;
He flew enraptured to her yielding arms,
And lost, dissolving in a softer flame,
His distant empire and the fire of fame.
At length, retiring thro the homeward field,
Their glowing souls to cooler converse yield;
O'er various scenes of blissful life they ran,
When thus the warrior to the maid began:
Long have we mark'd the inauspicious reign
That waits our sceptre in this rough domain;
A soil ungrateful and a wayward race,
Their game but scanty, and confined their space.
Where late my steps the southern war pursued,
The fertile plains grew boundless as I view'd;
More numerous nations trod the grassy wild,
And joyous nature more delightful smiled.
No changing seasons there the flowers deform,
No dread volcano and no mountain storm;
Rains ne'er invade, nor livid lightnings play,
Nor clouds obscure the radiant King of day.
But while his orb, in ceaseless glory bright,
Rolls the rich day and fires his stars by night,
Unbounded fulness flows beneath his reign,
Seas yield their treasures, fruits adorn the plain;
His melting mountains spread their annual flood,
Night sheds her dews, the day-breeze fans the God.
Tis he inspires me with the vast design
To form those nations to a sway divine;
Destroy the rites of every demon Power,
Whose altars smoke with sacrilegious gore;
To laws and labor teach the tribes to yield,
And richer fruits to grace the cultured field.
But great, my charmer, is the task of fame,
Their faith to fashion and their lives to tame;
Full many a spacious wild these eyes must see
Spread dreary bounds between my love and me;
And yon bright Godhead circle thrice the year,
Each lonely evening number'd with a tear.
Long robes of white my shoulders must embrace,
To speak my lineage of ethereal race;
That simple men may reverence and obey
The radiant offspring of the Power of day.
When these my deeds the faith of nations gain,
And happy millions bless thy Capac's reign,
Then shall he feign a journey to the Sun,
To bring the partner of his well-earn'd throne;
So shall descending kings the line sustain,
Till earth's whole regions join the vast domain.
Will then my fair, at my returning hour,
Forsake these wilds and hail a happier bower?
Will she consenting now resume her smiles,
Send forth her warrior to his glorious toils;
And, sweetly patient, wait the flight of days,
That crown our labors with immortal praise?
Silent the damsel heard; her moistening eye
Spoke the full soul, nor could her voice reply;
Till softer accents sooth'd her wounded ear,
Composed her tumult and allay'd her fear:
Think not, heroic maid, my steps would part
While silent sorrows heave that tender heart.
Oella's peace more dear shall prove to me
Than all the realms that bound the raging sea;
Nor thou, bright Sun, shalt bribe my soul to rest,
And leave one struggle in her lovely breast.
Yet think in tribes so vast, my gentle fair,
What millions merit our instructive care;
How age to age leads on their joyless gloom,
Habitual slaughter their poor piteous doom;
No social ties their wayward passions prove,
Nor peace nor pleasure treads the howling grove;
Mid thousand heroes and a thousand fair
No fond Oella meets her Capac there.
Yet, taught by thee domestic joys to prize,
With softer charms the virgin race shall rise,
Awake new virtues, every grace improve,
And form their minds for happiness and love.
Ah think, as future years thro time descend,
What wide creations on thy voice depend;
And, like the Sun, whose all-delighting ray
To those mild regions gives his purest day,
Diffuse thy bounties, let me instant fly;
In three short moons the generous task I'll try;
Then swift returning, I'll conduct my fair
Where realms submissive wait her fostering care.
And will my prince, my Capac, borne away,
Thro those dark wilds in quest of empire stray,
Where tigers fierce command the shuddering wood,
And men like tigers thirst for human blood?
Think'st thou no dangerous deed the course attends,
Alone, unaided by thy sire and friends?
Even chains and death may meet my hero there,
Nor his last groan could reach Oella's ear.
But no! nor death nor chains shall Capac prove
Unknown to her, while she has power to rove.
Close by thy side, where'er thy wanderings stray,
My equal steps shall measure all the way;
With borrow'd soul each chance of fate I'll dare,
Thy toils to lessen and thy dangers share.
Quick shall my ready hand two garments weave,
Whose sunny whiteness shall the tribes deceive;
Thus clad, their homage shall secure our sway.
And hail us children of the God of day.
The lovely counsel pleased. The smiling chief
Approved her courage and dispell'd her grief;
Then to their homely bower in haste they move.
Begin their labors and prepare to rove.
Soon grow the robes beneath her forming care,
And the fond parents wed the wondrous pair;
But whelm'd in grief beheld the following dawn,
Their joys all vanish'd and their children gone.
Nine days they march'd; the tenth effulgent morn
Saw their white forms that sacred isle adorn.
The work begins; they preach to every band
The well-form'd fiction, and their faith demand;
With various miracles their powers display,
To prove their lineage and confirm their sway.
They form to different arts the hand of toil,
To whirl the spindle and to spade the soil,
The Sun's bright march with pious finger trace,
And his pale sister with her changing face;
Show how their bounties clothe the labor'd plain,
The green maize shooting from its golden grain,
How the white cotton tree's expanding lobes
File into threads, and swell to fleecy robes;
While the tamed Llama aids the wondrous plan,
And lends his garment to the loins of man.
The astonish'd tribes believe, with glad surprise,
The Gods descended from the favoring skies,
Adore their persons robed in shining white.
Receive their laws and leave each horrid rite,
Build with assisting hands the golden throne,
And hail and bless the sceptre of the Sun.
Joel Barlow's Other Poems
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Comments about this poem (The Columbiad: Book II by Joel Barlow )
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