The Columbiad: Book IX
Vision suspended. Night scene, as contemplated from the mount of vision. Columbus inquires the reason of the slow progress of science, and its frequent interruptions. Hesper answers, that all things in the physical as well as the moral and intellectual world are progressive in like manner. He traces their progress from the birth of the universe to the present state of the earth and its inhabitants; asserts the future advancement of society, till perpetual peace shall be established. Columbus proposes his doubts; alleges in support of them the successive rise and downfal of ancient nations; and infers future and periodical convulsions. Hesper, in answer, exhibits the great distinction between the ancient and modern state of the arts and of society. Crusades. Commerce. Hanseatic League. Copernicus. Kepler. Newton, Galileo. Herschel. Descartes. Bacon. Printing Press. Magnetic Needle. Geographical discoveries. Federal system in America. A similar system to be extended over the whole earth. Columbus desires a view of this.
But now had Hesper from the Hero's sight
Veil'd the vast world with sudden shades of night.
Earth, sea and heaven, where'er he turns his eye,
Arch out immense, like one surrounding sky
Lamp'd with reverberant fires. The starry train
Paint their fresh forms beneath the placid main;
Fair Cynthia here her face reflected laves,
Bright Venus gilds again her natal waves,
The Bear redoubling foams with fiery joles,
And two dire dragons twine two arctic poles.
Lights o'er the land, from cities lost in shade,
New constellations, new galaxies spread,
And each high pharos double flames provides,
One from its fires, one fainter from the tides.
Centred sublime in this bivaulted sphere,
On all sides void, unbounded, calm and clear,
Soft o'er the Pair a lambent lustre plays,
Their seat still cheering with concentred rays;
To converse grave the soothing shades invite.
And on his Guide Columbus fixt his sight:
Kind messenger of heaven, he thus began,
Why this progressive laboring search of man?
If men by slow degrees have power to reach
These opening truths that long dim ages teach,
If, school'd in woes and tortured on to thought,
Passion absorbing what experience taught,
Still thro the devious painful paths they wind,
And to sound wisdom lead at last the mind,
Why did not bounteous nature, at their birth,
Give all their science to these sons of earth,
Pour on their reasoning powers pellucid day,
Their arts, their interests clear as light display?
That error, madness and sectarian strife
Might find no place to havock human life.
To whom the guardian Power: To thee is given
To hold high converse and inquire of heaven,
To mark untraversed ages, and to trace
Whate'er improves and what impedes thy race.
Know then, progressive are the paths we go
In worlds above thee, as in thine below
Nature herself (whose grasp of time and place
Deals out duration and impalms all space)
Moves in progressive march; but where to tend,
What course to compass, how the march must end,
Her sons decide not; yet her works we greet
Imperfect in their parts, but in their whole complete.
When erst her hand the crust of Chaos thirl'd,
And forced from his black breast the bursting world,
High swell'd the huge existence crude and crass,
A formless dark impermeated mass;
No light nor heat nor cold nor moist nor dry,
But all concocting in their causes lie.
Millions of periods, such as these her spheres
Learn since to measure and to call their years,
She broods the mass; then into motion brings
And seeks and sorts the principles of things,
Pours in the attractive and repulsive force,
Whirls forth her globes in cosmogyral course,
By myriads and by millions, scaled sublime,
To scoop their skies, and curve the rounds of time.
She groups their systems, lots to each his place,
Strow'd thro immensity, and drown'd in space,
All yet unseen; till light at last begun,
And every system found a centred sun,
Call'd to his neighbor and exchanged from far
His infant gleams with every social star;
Rays thwarting rays and skies o'erarching skies
Robed their dim planets with commingling dyes,
Hung o'er each heaven their living lamps serene,
And tinged with blue the frore expanse between:
Then joyous Nature hail'd the golden morn,
Drank the young beam, beheld her empire born.
Lo the majestic movement! there they trace
Their blank infinitudes of time and space,
Vault with careering curves her central goal,
Pour forth her day and stud her evening stole,
Heedless of count; their numbers still unknown,
Unmeasured still their progress round her throne;
For none of all her firstborn sons, endow'd
With heavenly sapience and pretensions proud,
No seraph bright, whose keen considering eye
And sunbeam speed ascend from sky to sky,
Has yet explored or counted all their spheres,
Or fixt or found their past record of years.
Nor can a ray from her remotest sun,
Shot forth when first their splendid morn begun,
Borne straight, continuous thro the void of space,
Doubling each thousand years its rapid pace
And hither posting, yet have reach'd this earth,
To bring the tidings of its master's birth.
And mark thy native orb! tho later born,
Tho still unstored with light her silver horn,
As seen from sister planets, who repay
Far more than she their borrow'd streams of day,
Yet what an age her shell-rock ribs attest!
Her sparry spines, her coal-encumber'd breast!
Millions of generations toil'd and died
To crust with coral and to salt her tide,
And millions more, ere yet her soil began,
Ere yet she form'd or could have nursed her man.
Then rose the proud phenomenon, the birth
Most richly wrought, the favorite child of earth;
But frail at first his frame, with nerves ill strung,
Unform'd his footsteps, long untoned his tongue,
Unhappy, unassociate, unrefined,
Unfledged the pinions of his lofty mind,
He wander'd wild, to every beast a prey,
More prest with wrants, and feebler far than they;
For countless ages forced from place to place,
Just reproduced but scarce preserved his race.
At last, a soil more fixt and streams more sweet
Inform the wretched migrant where to seat;
Euphrates' flowery banks begin to smile,
Fruits fringe the Ganges, gardens grace the Nile;
Nile, ribb'd with dikes, a length of coast creates,
And giant Thebes begins her hundred gates,
Mammoth of human works! her grandeur known
These thousand lustres by its wrecks alone;
Wrecks that humiliate still all modern states,
Press the poized earth with their enormous weights,
Refuse to quit their place, dissolve their frame
And trust, like Ilion, to the bards their fame.
Memphis amass'd her piles, that still o'erclimb
The clouds of heaven, and task the tooth of time;
Belus and Brama tame their vagrant throngs,
And Homer, with his monumental songs,
Builds far more durable his splendid throne
Than all the Pharaohs with their hills of stone.
High roll'd the round of years that hung sublime
These wondrous beacons in the night of time;
Studs of renown! that to thine eyes attest
The waste of ages that beyond them rest;
Ages how fill'd with toils! how gloom'd with woes!
Trod with all steps that man's long march compose,
Dim drear disastrous; ere his foot could gain
A height so brilliant o'er the bestial train.
In those blank periods, where no man can trace
The gleams of thought that first illumed his race,
His errors, twined with science, took their birth,
And forged their fetters for this child of earth.
And when, as oft, he dared expand his view,
And work with nature on the line she drew,
Some monster, gender'd in his fears, unmann'd
His opening soul, and marr'd the works he plann'd.
Fear, the first passion of his helpless state,
Redoubles all the woes that round him wait,
Blocks nature's path and sends him wandering wide,
Without a guardian and without a guide.
Beat by the storm, refresht by gentle rain,
By sunbeams cheer'd or founder'd in the main,
He bows to every force he can't control,
Indows them all with intellect and soul,
With passions various, turbulent and strong,
Rewarding virtue and avenging wrong,
Gives heaven and earth to their supernal doom,
And swells their sway beyond the closing tomb.
Hence rose his gods, that mystic monstrous lore
Of blood-stain'd altars and of priestly power,
Hence blind credulity on all dark things,
False morals hence, and hence the yoke of kings.
Yon starry vault that round him rolls the spheres,
And gives to earth her seasons, days and years,
The source designates and the clue imparts
Of all his errors and of all his arts.
There spreads the system that his ardent thought
First into emblems, then to spirits wrought;
Spirits that ruled all matter and all mind,
Nourish'd or famish'd, kill'd or cured mankind,
Bade him neglect the soil whereon he fed,
Work with hard hand for that which was not bread,
Erect the temple, darken deep the shrine,
Yield the full hecatomb with awe divine,
Despise this earth, and claim with lifted eyes
His health and harvest from the meteor'd skies.
Accustom'd thus to bow the suppliant head,
And reverence powers that shake his heart with dread,
His pliant faith extends with easy ken
From heavenly hosts to heaven-anointed men;
The sword, the tripod join their mutual aids,
To film his eyes with more impervious shades,
Create a sceptred idol, and enshrine
The Robber Chief in attributes divine,
Arm the new phantom with the nation's rod,
And hail the dreadful delegate of God.
Two settled slaveries thus the race control,
Engross their labors and debase their soul;
Till creeds and crimes and feuds and fears compose
The seeds of war and all its kindred woes.
Unfold, thou Memphian dungeon! there began
The lore of Mystery, the mask of man;
There Fraud with Science leagued, in early times,
Plann'd a resplendent course of holy crimes,
Stalk'd o'er the nations with gigantic pace,
With sacred symbols charm'd the cheated race,
Taught them new grades of ignorance to gain,
And punish truth with more than mortal pain,-
Unfold at last thy cope! that man may see
The mines of mischief he has drawn from thee.
-Wide gapes the porch with hieroglyphics hung,
And mimic zodiacs o'er its arches flung;
Close labyrinth'd here the feign'd Omniscient dwells,
Dupes from all nations seek the sacred cells;
Inquiring strangers, with astonish'd eyes,
Dive deep to read these subterranean skies,
To taste that holiness which faith bestows,
And fear promulgates thro its world of woes.
The bold Initiate takes his awful stand,
A thin pale taper trembling in his hand;
Thro hells of howling monsters lies the road,
To season souls and teach the ways of God.
Down the crampt corridor, far sunk from day,
On hands and bended knees he gropes his way,
Swims roaring streams, thro dens of serpents crawls,
Descends deep wells and clambers flaming walls;
Now thwart his lane a lake of sulphur gleams,
With fiery waves and suffocating steams;
He dares not shun the ford; for full in view
Fierce lions rush behind and force him thro.
Long ladders heaved on end, with banded eyes
He mounts, and mounts, and seems to gain the skies;
Then backward falling, tranced with deadly fright,
Finds his own feet and stands restored to light.
Here all dread sights of torture round him rise;
Lash'd on a wheel, a whirling felon flies;
A wretch, with members chain'd and liver bare,
Writhes and disturbs the vulture feasting there:
One strains to roll his rock, recoiling still;
One, stretch'd recumbent o'er a limpid rill,
Burns with devouring thirst; his starting eyes,
Swell'd veins and frothy lips and piercing cries
Accuse the faithless eddies, as they shrink
And keep him panting still, still bending o'er the brink.
At last Elysium to his ravisht eyes
Spreads flowery fields and opens golden skies;
Breathes Orphean music thro the dancing groves,
Trains the gay troops of Beauties, Graces, Loves,
Lures his delirious sense with sweet decoys,
Fine fancied foretaste of eternal joys,
Fastidious pomp or proud imperial state,-
Illusions all, that pass the Ivory Gate!
Various and vast the fraudful drama grows,
Feign'd are the pleasures, as unfelt the woes;
Where sainted hierophants, with well taught mimes,
Play'd first the role for all succeeding times;
Which, vamp'd and varied as the clime required,
More trist or splendid, open or retired,
Forms local creeds, with multifarious lore,
Creates the God and bids the world adore.
Lo at the Lama's feet, as lord of all,
Age following age in dumb devotion fall;
The youthful god, mid suppliant kings enshrined,
Dispensing fate and ruling half mankind,
Sits with contorted limbs, a silent slave,
An early victim of a secret grave;
His priests by myriads famish every clime
And sell salvation in the tones they chime.
See India's Triad frame their blood-penn'd codes,
Old Ganges change his gardens for his gods,
Ask his own waves from their celestial hands,
And choke his channel with their sainted sands.
Mad with the mandates of their scriptured word,
And prompt to snatch from hell her dear dead lord,
The wife, still blooming, decks her sacred urns,
Mounts the gay pyre, and with his body burns.
Shrined in his golden fane the Delphian stands,
Shakes distant thrones and taxes unknown lands.
Kings, consuls, khans from earth's whole regions come,
Pour in their wealth, and then inquire their doom;
Furious and wild the priestess rends her veil,
Sucks, thro the sacred stool, the maddening gale,
Starts reddens foams and screams and mutters loud,
Like a fell fiend, her oracles of God.
The dark enigma, by the pontiff scroll'd
In broken phrase, and close in parchment roll'd,
From his proud pulpit to the suppliant hurl'd,
Shall rive an empire and distract the world.
And where the mosque's dim arches bend on high,
Mecca's dead prophet mounts the mimic sky;
Pilgrims, imbanded strong for mutual aid,
Thro dangerous deserts that their faith has made,
Train their long caravans, and famish'd come
To kiss the shrine and trembling touch the tomb,
By fire and sword the same fell faith extend,
And howl their homilies to earth's far end.
Phenician altars reek with human gore,
Gods hiss from caverns or in cages roar,
Nile pours from heaven a tutelary flood,
And gardens grow the vegetable god.
Two rival powers the magian faith inspire,
Primeval Darkness and immortal Fire;
Evil and good in these contending rise,
And each by turns the sovereign of the skies.
Sun, stars and planets round the earth behold
Their fanes of marble and their shrines of gold;
The sea, the grove, the harvest and the vine
Spring from their gods and claim a birth divine;
While heroes, kings and sages of their times,
Those gods on earth, are gods in happier climes;
Minos in judgment sits, and Jove in power,
And Odin's friends are feasted there with gore.
Man is an infant still; and slow and late
Must form and fix his adolescent state,
Mature his manhood, and at last behold
His reason ripen and his force unfold.
From that bright eminence he then shall cast
A look of wonder on his wanderings past,
Congratulate himself, and o'er the earth
Firm the full reign of peace predestined at his birth.
So Hesper taught; and farther had pursued
A theme so grateful as a world renew'd;
But dubious thoughts disturb'd the Hero's breast,
Who thus with modest mien the Seer addrest:
Say, friend of man, in this unbounded range,
Where error vagrates and illusions change,
What hopes to see his baleful blunders cease,
And earth commence that promised age of peace?
Like a loose pendulum his mind is hung,
From wrong to wrong by ponderous passion swung,
It vibrates wide, and with unceasing flight
Sweeps all extremes and scorns the mean of right.
Tho in the times you trace he seems to gain
A steadier movement and a path more plain,
And tho experience will have taught him then
To mark some dangers, some delusions ken,
Yet who can tell what future shocks may spread
New shades of darkness round his lofty head,
Plunge him again in some broad gulph of woes,
Where long and oft he struggled, wreck'd and rose?
What strides he took in those gigantic times
That sow'd with cities all his orient climes!
When earth's proud floods he tamed, made many a shore,
And talk'd with heaven from Babel's glittering tower!
Did not his Babylon exulting say,
I sit a queen, for ever stands my sway?
Thebes, Memphis, Nineveh, a countless throng,
Caught the same splendor and return'd the song;
Each boasted, promised o'er the world to rise,
Spouse of the sun, eternal as the skies.
Where shall we find them now? the very shore
Where Ninus rear'd his empire is no more:
The dikes decay'd, a putrid marsh regains
The sunken walls, the tomb-encumber'd plains,
Pursues the dwindling nations where they shrink,
And skirts with slime its deleterious brink.
The fox himself has fled his gilded den,
Nor holds the heritage he won from men;
Lapwing and reptile shun the curst abode,
And the foul dragon, now no more a god,
Trails off his train; the sickly raven flies;
A wide strong-stencht Avernus chokes the skies.
So pride and ignorance fall a certain prey
To the stanch bloodhound of despotic sway.
Then past a long drear night, with here and there
A doubtful glimmering from a single star;
Tyre, Carthage, Syracuse the gleam increase,
Till dawns at last the effulgent morn of Greece,
Here all his Muses meet, all arts combine
To nerve his genius and his works refine;
Morals and laws and arms, and every grace
That e'er adorn'd or could exalt the race,
Wrought into science and arranged in rules,
Swell the proud splendor of her cluster'd schools,
Build and sustain the state with loud acclaim,
And work those deathless miracles of fame
That stand unrivall'd still; for who shall dare
Another field with Marathon compare?
Who speaks of eloquence or sacred song,
But calls on Greece to modulate his tongue?
And where has man's fine form so perfect shone
In tint or mould, in canvass or in stone?
Yet from that splendid height o'erturn'd once more,
He dasht in dust the living lamp he bore.
Dazzled with her own glare, decoy'd and sold
For homebred faction and barbaric gold,
Greece treads on Greece, subduing and subdued,
New crimes inventing, all the old renew'd,
Canton o'er canton climbs; till, crush'd and broke,
All yield the sceptre and resume the yoke.
Where shall we trace him next, the migrant man,
To try once more his meliorating plan?
Shall not the Macedonian, where he strides
O'er Asian worlds and Nile's neglected tides,
Prepare new seats of glory, to repay
The transient shadows with perpetual day?
His heirs erect their empires, and expand
The beams of Greece thro each benighted land;
Seleucia spreads o'er ten broad realms her sway,
And turns on eastern climes the western ray;
Palmyra brightens earth's commercial zone,
And sits an emblem of her god the sun;
While fond returning to that favorite shore
Where Ammon ruled and Hermes taught of yore,
All arts concentrate, force and grace combine
To rear and blend the useful with the fine,
Restore the Egyptian glories, and retain,
Where science dawn'd, her great resurgent reign.
From Egypt chased again, he seeks his home,
More firmly fixt in sage considerate Rome.
Here all the virtues long resplendent shone
All that was Greek, barbarian and her own;
She school'd him sound, and boasted to extend
Thro time's long course and earth's remotest end
His glorious reign of reason; soon to cease
The clang of arms, and rule the world in peace.
Great was the sense he gain'd, and well defined
The various functions of his tutor'd mind;
Could but his sober sense have proved his guide,
And kind experience pruned the shoots of pride.
A field magnificent before him lay;
Land after land received the spreading ray;
Franchise and friendship travell'd in his train,
Bandits of earth and pirates of the main
Rose into citizens, their rage resign'd.
And hail'd the great republic of mankind.
If ever then state slaughter was to pause,
And man from nature learn to frame his laws.
This was the moment; here the sunbeam rose
To hush the human storm and let the world repose.
But drunk with pomp and sickening at the light,
He stagger d wild on this delirious height;
Forgot the plainest truths he learnt before,
And barter'd moral for material power.
From Calpe's rock to India's ardent skies,
O'er shuddering earth his talon'd Eagle flies,
To justice blind, and heedless where she drove,
As when she bore the brandisht bolt of Jove.
Rome loads herself with chains, seals fast her eyes,
And tells the insulted nations when to rise;
And rise they do, like sweeping tempests driven,
Swarm following swarm, o'ershading earth and heaven,
Roll back her outrage, and indignant shed
The world's wide vengeance on her sevenfold head.
Then dwindling back to littleness and shade
Man soon forgets the gorgeous glare he made,
Sinks to a savage serf or monkish drone,
Roves in rude hordes or counts his beads alone,
Wars with his arts, obliterates his lore,
And burns the books that rear'd his race before.
Shrouded in deeper darkness now he veers
The vast gyration of a thousand years,
Strikes out each lamp that would illume his way,
Disputes his food with every beast of prey;
Imbands his force to fence his trist abodes,
A wretched robber with his feudal codes.
At length, it seems, some parsimonious rays
Collect from each far heaven a feeble blaze,
Dance o'er his Europe, and again excite
His numerous nations to receive the light.
But faint and slow the niggard dawn expands,
Diffused o'er various far dissunder'd lands,
Dreading, as well it may, to prove once more
The same sad chance so often proved before.
And why not lapse again? Celestial Seer,
Forgive my doubts, and ah remove my fear!
Man is my brother; strong I feel the ties,
From strong solicitude my doubts arise;
My heart, while opening with the boundless scope
That swells before him and expands his hope,
Forebodes another fall; and tho at last
Thy world is planted and with light o'ercast,
Tho two broad continents their beams combine
Round his whole globe to stream his day divine,
Perchance some folly, yet uncured, may spread
A storm proportion'd to the lights they shed,
Veil both his continents, and leave again
Between them stretch'd the impermeable main;
All science buried, sails and cities lost,
Their lands uncultured, as their seas uncrost.
Till on thy coast, some thousand ages hence,
New pilots rise, bold enterprise commence,
Some new Columbus (happier let him be,
More wise and great and virtuous far than me)
Launch on the wave, and tow'rd the rising day
Like a strong eaglet steer his untaught way,
Gird half the globe, and to his age unfold
A strange new world, the world we call the old.
From Finland's glade to Calpe's storm-beat head
He'll find some tribes of scattering wildmen spread;
But one vast wilderness will shade the soil,
No wreck of art, no sign of ancient toil
Tell where a city stood; nor leave one trace
Of all that honors now, and all that shames the race.
If such the round we run, what hope, my friend,
To see our madness and our miseries end?-
Here paused the Patriarch: mild the Saint return'd,
And as he spoke, fresh glories round him burn'd:
My son, I blame not but applaud thy grief;
Inquiries deep should lead to slow belief.
So small the portion of the range of man
His written stories reach or views can span,
That wild confusion seems to clog his march,
And the dull progress made illudes thy search.
But broad beyond compare, with steadier hand
Traced o'er his earth, his present paths expand.
In sober majesty and matron grace
Sage Science now conducts her filial race;
And if, while all their arts around them shine,
They culture more the solid than the fine,
Tis to correct their fatal faults of old,
When, caught by tinsel, they forgot the gold;
When their strong brilliant imitative lines
Traced nature only in her gay designs,
Rear'd the proud column, toned her chanting lyre,
Warm'd the full senate with her words of fire,
Pour'd on the canvass every pulse of life,
And bade the marble rage with human strife.
These were the arts that nursed unequal sway,
That priests would pamper and that kings would pay,
That spoke to vulgar sense, and often stole
The sense of right and freedom from the soul.
While, circumscribed in some concentred clime,
They reach'd but one small nation at a time,
Dazzled that nation, pufft her local pride,
Proclaim'd her hatred to the world beside,
Drew back returning hatred from afar,
And sunk themselves beneath the storms of war.
As, when the sun moves o'er the flaming zone,
Collecting clouds attend his fervid throne,
Superior splendors, in his morn display'd,
Prepare for noontide but a heavier shade;
Thus where the brilliant arts alone prevail'd,
Their shining course succeeding storms assail'd;
Pride, wrong and insult hemm'd their scanty reign,
A Nile their stream, a Hellespont their main,
Content with Tiber's narrow shores to wind,
They fledged their Eagle but to fang mankind;
Ere great inventions found a tardy birth,
And with their new creations blest the earth.
Now sober'd man a steadier gait assumes,
Broad is the beam that breaks the Gothic glooms.
At once consenting nations lift their eyes,
And hail the holy dawn that streaks the skies;
Arabian caliphs rear the spires of Spain,
The Lombards keel their Adriatic main,
Great Charles, invading and reviving all,
Plants o'er with schools his numerous states of Gaul;
And Alfred opes the mines whence Albion draws
The ore of all her wealth,-her liberty and laws.
Ausonian cities interchange and spread
The lights of learning on the wings of trade;
Bologna's student walls arise to fame,
Germania, thine their rival honors claim;
Halle, Gottinge, Upsal, Kiel and Leyden smile,
Oxonia, Cambridge cheer Britannia's isle;
Where, like her lark, gay Chaucer leads the lay,
The matin carol of his country's day.
Blind War himself, that erst opposed all good,
And whelm'd meek Science in her votaries' blood,
Now smooths, by means unseen, her modest way,
Extends her limits and secures her sway.
From Europe's world his mad crusaders pour
Their banded myriads on the Asian shore;
The mystic Cross, thro famine toil and blood,
Leads their long marches to the tomb of God.
Thro realms of industry their passage lies,
And labor'd affluence feasts their curious eyes;
Till fields of slaughter whelm the broken host,
Their pride appall'd, their warmest zealots lost,
The wise remains to their own shores return,
Transplant all arts that Hagar's race adorn,
Learn from long intercourse their mutual ties,
And find in commerce where their interest lies.
From Drave's long course to Biscay's bending shores,
Where Adria sleeps, to where the Bothnian roars,
In one great Hanse, for earth's whole trafic known,
Free cities rise, and in their golden zone
Bind all the interior states; nor princes dare
Infringe their franchise with voracious war.
All shield them safe, and joy to share the gain
That spreads o'er land from each surrounding main,
Makes Indian stuffs, Arabian gums their own,
Plants Persian gems on every Celtic crown,
Pours thro their opening woodlands milder day,
And gives to genius his expansive play.
This blessed moment, from the towers of Thorn
New splendor rises; there the sage is born!
The sage who starts these planetary spheres,
Deals out their task to wind their own bright years,
Restores his station to the parent Sun,
And leads his duteous daughters round his throne.
Each mounts obedient on her wheels of fire,
Whirls round her sisters, and salutes the sire,
Guides her new car, her youthful coursers tries,
Curves careful paths along her alter'd skies,
Learns all her mazes thro the host of even,
And hails and joins the harmony of heaven.
-Fear not, Copernicus! let loose the rein,
Launch from their goals, and mark the moving train;
Fix at their sun thy calculating eye,
Compare and count their courses round their sky.
Fear no disaster from the slanting force
That warps them staggering in elliptic course;
Thy sons with steadier ken shall aid the search,
And firm and fashion their majestic march,
Kepler prescribe the laws no stars can shun,
And Newton tie them to the eternal sun.
By thee inspired, his tube the Tuscan plies,
And sends new colonies to stock the skies,
Gives Jove his satellites, and first adorns
Effulgent Phosphor with his silver horns.
Herschel ascends himself with venturous wain,
And joins and flanks thy planetary train,
Perceives his distance from their elder spheres,
And guards with numerous moons the lonely round he steers.
Yes, bright Copernicus, thy beams, far hurl'd,
Shall startle well this intellectual world,
Break the delusive dreams of ancient lore,
New floods of light on every subject pour,
Thro Physic Nature many a winding trace,
And seat the Moral on her sister's base.
Descartes with force gigantic toils alone,
Unshrines old errors and propounds his own;
Like a blind Samson, gropes their strong abodes,
Whelms deep in dust their temples and their gods,
Buries himself with those false codes they drew,
And makes his followers frame and fix the true.
Bacon, with every power of genius fraught,
Spreads over worlds his mantling wings of thought,
Draws in firm lines, and tells in nervous tone
All that is yet and all that shall be known,
Withes Proteus Matter in his arms of might,
And drags her tortuous secrets forth to light,
Bids men their unproved systems all forgo,
Informs them what to learn, and how to know,
Waves the first flambeau thro the night that veils
Egyptian fables and Phenician tales,
Strips from all-plundering Greece the cloak she wore,
And shows the blunders of her borrow'd lore.
One vast creation, lately borne abroad,
Cheers the young nations like a nurturing God,
Breathes thro them all the same wide-searching soul.
Forms, feeds, refines and animates the whole,
Guards every ground they gain, and forward brings
Glad Science soaring on cerulean wings,
Trims her gay plumes, directs her upward course,
Props her light pinions and sustains her force,
Instructs all men her golden gifts to prize,
And catch new glories from her beamful eyes,-
Tis the prolific Press; whose tablet, fraught
By graphic Genius with his painted thought,
Flings forth by millions the prodigious birth,
And in a moment stocks the astonish'd earth.
Genius, enamor'd of his fruitful bride,
Assumes new force and elevates his pride.
No more, recumbent o'er his finger'd style,
He plods whole years each copy to compile,
Leaves to ludibrious winds the priceless page,
Or to chance fires the treasure of an age;
But bold and buoyant, with his sister Fame,
He strides o'er earth, holds high his ardent flame,
Calls up Discovery with her tube and scroll,
And points the trembling magnet to the pole.
Hence the brave Lusitanians stretch the sail,
Scorn guiding stars, and tame the midsea gale;
And hence thy prow deprest the boreal wain,
Rear'd adverse heavens, a second earth to gain,
Ran down old Night, her western curtain thirl'd,
And snatch'd from swaddling shades an infant world.
Rome, Athens, Memphis, Tyre! had you butknown
This glorious triad, now familiar grown,
The Press, the Magnet faithful to its pole,
And earth's own Movement round her steadfast goal,
Ne'er had your science, from that splendid height,
Sunk in her strength, nor seen succeeding night.
Her own utility had forced her sway,
All nations caught the fast-extending ray,
Nature thro all her kingdoms oped the road,
Resign'd her secrets and her wealth bestow'd;
Her moral codes a like dominion rear'd,
Freedom been born and folly disappear'd,
War and his monsters sunk beneath her ban,
And left the world to reason and to man.
But now behold him bend his broader way,
Lift keener eyes and drink diviner day,
All systems scrutinize, their truths unfold,
Prove well the recent, well revise the old,
Reject all mystery, and define with force
The point he aims at in his laboring course,-
To know these elements, learn how they wind
Their wondrous webs of matter and of mind,
What springs, what guides organic life requires,
To move, rule, rein its ever-changing gyres,
Improve and utilise each opening birth,
And aid the labors of this nurturing earth.
But chief their moral soul he learns to trace,
That stronger chain which links and leads the race;
Which forms and sanctions every social tie,
And blinds or clears their intellectual eye.
He strips that soul from every filmy shade
That schools had caught, that oracles had made,
Relumes her visual nerve, develops strong
The rules of right, the subtle shifts of wrong;
Of civil power draws clear the sacred line,
Gives to just government its right divine,
Forms, varies, fashions, as his lights increase,
Till earth is fill'd with happiness and peace.
Already taught, thou know'st the fame that waits
His rising seat in thy confederate states.
There stands the model, thence he long shall draw
His forms of policy, his traits of law;
Each land shall imitate, each nation join
The well-based brotherhood, the league divine,
Extend its empire with the circling sun,
And band the peopled globe beneath its federal zone.
As thus he spoke, returning tears of joy
Suffused the Hero's cheek and pearl'd his eye:
Unveil, said he, my friend, and stretch once more
Beneath my view that heaven-illumined shore;
Let me behold her silver beams expand,
To lead all nations, lighten every land,
Instruct the total race, and teach at last
Their toils to lessen and their chains to cast,
Trace and attain the purpose of their birth,
And hold in peace this heritage of earth.
The Seraph smiled consent, the Hero's eye
Watch'd for the daybeam round the changing sky.
Joel Barlow's Other Poems
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Comments about this poem (The Columbiad: Book IX by Joel Barlow )
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(26 April 1564 - 23 April 1616)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
(13 September 1916 – 23 November 1990)
(22 August 1893 - 7 June 1967)
(28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827)
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