Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
Address: ‘When first this clay the Forming Hand’
Delivered on the night of Mr. Holland’s benefit, during the exhibition of his picture of the siege of Derne:—1806

WHEN first this clay the Forming Hand
  Touch’d with its own ethereal fire,
  For this was given the magic lyre,
And, with the boon, this high command:—
That still, to every virtue true,        5
  Its varied sounds, or sweet or strong,
Should to the brave and good give homage due,
  And swell for these alone the soul-enthralling song.
Nor less the pencil’s wonderous art,
Enjoin’d to play this nobler part;        10
Enjoin’d, through every age, to trace
The worthies of the human race,
On Valour’s head to place unfading wreaths,
While all is glory round, and all the canvass breathes.
    Captives forlorn,        15
    From wives and children torn,
    On a far-distant shore,
    Columbia’s sons barbarian fetters wore:
To Eaton’s hand Columbia trusts her cause;
His righteous sword the warrior draws;        20
Swift on her foes she sees her thunders hurl’d,
(The thunders of a new-born world:)
His gallant march the chief pursues, and saves
His groaning brethren from the gripe of slaves.
Such scenes, to-night, with patriot warmth portray’d,        25
To grace our stage, the painter has display’d;
Here, to your eyes the zealous artist shows
How toil’d your heroes, and how fell your foes;
How generous Eaton, in his country’s might,
For you and freedom dared the mortal fight;        30
Shows how O’Bannon, brave among the brave,
Taught Moors to dread the white-men of the wave:
Undaunted Spence! for thee the colours flow;
For thee, Decatur, still they warmer glow!
O freemen! cherish the diviner arts,        35
Friends of your rights, and tutors of your hearts!
Bright in her charms, let virtue beam in view;
Loved be the substance, loved the picture too!
So shall your youth to honest deeds aspire,
So shall your country catch the glorious fire;        40
So shall your veterans, in each grateful breast,
Find the best sweet’ner of the soldier’s rest;
So shall this land, to Independence dear,
No foreign nor domestic tyrant fear.

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