Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
The Dangerous Vice *********
By Edward Church
BEHOLD the Merchant! once with plenty bless’d,
Whom fortune favor’d, and whom friends caress’d;
Who with rich dainties his loved offspring fed,
And quaff’d enjoyments from the fountain head;
Whose stores were full, whose flagons running o’er,        5
And every smiling year was adding more;
Yet nobly all for liberty resign’d,
For equal liberty with all mankind.
Behold him now! from his possessions hurl’d,
Stripp’d by a faithless and ungrateful world;        10
Reluctant forced from clime to clime to roam,
To earn a pittance for his starving home;
Or—if at home—to want and misery driven,
Looks round—and wonders at the ways of Heaven.
By foes, by country robb’d—by treaty sold—        15
A poor, dependent slave when he is old—
Of credit, prospects, friends, and hope bereft,
And nought but family, and feelings left;
Beggar’d, forgotten, and despondent grown,
He lives a stranger, and he dies unknown.        20
  See the poor soldier! maim’d and seam’d with scars,
His hard-earn’d wages in his country’s wars,
His crazy carcase tott’ring to a fall,
Propt by a crutch, or by some friendly wall,
Or hobbling on to some sequester’d spot,        25
Muses in vain on man’s unequal lot;
Arrived—he rests him on the humble ground,
To soothe the anguish of a smarting wound:
When lo! a witness of his toils appears,
Who on his breast the pendent eagle 1 bears;        30
The houseless vet’ran lifts his misty eyes,
Descries the badge—then mutters in the skies—
“Scars are the badges which poor soldiers wear,
Who for their thankless country bravely dare.”
*      *      *      *
  Ape not the fashions of the foreign great        35
Nor make your betters at your levees wait,
Resign your awkward pomp, parade and pride,
And lay that useless etiquette aside;
The unthinking laugh, but all the thinking hate
Such vile, abortive mimicry of state;        40
Those idle lackeys, sauntering at your door,
But ill become poor servants of the poor;
Retrench your board, for e’en the guests who dine,
Have cause to murmur at your floods of wine;
Think not to bribe the wise with their own gold,        45
Though fools by flimsy lures should be cajoled;
Places on places multiply to view,
Creation on creation, ever new;
Therefore in decent competence to live,
Is all that you can ask, or justice give:        50
An humbler roof—could Madam condescend—
But heaven forbid I should the sex offend!
The chariot, too—pray who can live without,
And keep distinguished from the rabble rout?
All genteel people deem it a reproach        55
To go to plays, balls, routs, in hackney coach;
And as to walking—’t is so vulgar now—
Ladies have left it off, and scarce know how.
Women, I grant, are frequent in the street,
But real ladies, Sir, you ’ll rarely meet.        60
  But who art thou, who durst advice intrude,
So very prudent, and so very rude?
Take back thy niggard counsel, nor presume
O’er our bright sunshine to diffuse thy gloom;
Heads of Departments should be amply paid:        65
Places for this sole purpose have been made:
All are not like old Cincinnatus now,
To take up their old trades, or dirty plough.
*      *      *      *
  Ye would-be titled! whom, in evil hour—
The rash, unthinking people clothed with power,        70
Who, drunk with pride, of foreign baubles dream,
Be prudent, modest, moderate, grateful, wise,
Nor on your country’s ruin strive to rise,
Lest great Columbia’s awful god should frown,        75
And to your native dunghills hurl you down.
  Ye faithful guardians of your country’s weal,
Whose honest breasts still glow with patriot zeal!
The lawless lust of power in embryo quell,
The germe of mischief and first spawn of hell.        80
Within your sacred walls let virtue reign,
And greedy Mammon spread his snares in vain.
With unlick’d lordlings sully not your fame,
Nor daub our patriot with a lacker’d name.
O Washington! thy country’s hope and trust!        85
Alas! perhaps her last, as thou wert first;
Successors we can find—but tell us where
Of all thy virtues we shall find the heir?
  But if—which heaven avert!—we must have kings,
With all the curses the tiara brings,        90
Let us not frame the idol we adore,
But own the monster of some distant shore,
Bow to some foreign god, already grown,
Nor make a mongrel tyrant of our own,
To mimic monarchs, on his mimic throne:        95
Whom to equip with every gewgaw thing
Due to the proud regalia of a king,
Would beggar all his slaves of all their store,
And still the insatiate ape would gape for more.
*      *      *      *
  Speak boldly then—ye wise!—and act in season,        100
What but to think, tomorrow may be treason.
From small beginnings mighty mischief springs,
And soon the eaglet soars on eagle’s wings.
Stifle the tyrant in his infant birth,
Or soon he ’ll stalk a giant on the earth,        105
Tread on your necks, break all your barriers down,
Smile into life—and murder with a frown;
Disdain the balance, late the favorite theme,
And with his ponderous fiat kick the beam.
Dream not that homespun tyrants are the best,        110
Home-made or foreign, every king ’s a pest,
Sent in God’s wrath—O scatter not the seed,
Nor damn Columbia with a royal breed.
  Great Washington! Columbia’s prop and pride,
Her friend, her father, guardian god and guide;        115
If kings like thee could love, like thee could feel,
And know no wish but for their country’s weal,
Or ’mongst the human race, if we could find,
Like thee to govern and to bless mankind;
Then might Americans unblushing own        120
Such worth would almost sanctify a throne.
*      *      *      *
  Ye chosen people of the King of kings,
From whose behest your present being springs;
Who stamp’d this title on your federal birth,
Subjects in heaven—but citizens on earth;        125
Who gave you to possess these happy plains
Where peace and plenty dwell, and freedom reigns;
Freedom! the glorious prize—should ye resign,
Vengeance awaits you from the power divine;
Freedom! which heroes earn’d with their best blood,        130
And patriots bought with every other good;
Freedom! which roused the Roman’s honest zeal
Against his friend to lift the fatal steel,
Freedom! which those firm patriots deified,
Who in Rome’s senate stabb’d the parricide.        135
Freedom! for fair Columbia bravely won
By the long toils of virtuous Washington,
Ne’er basely barter for a paltry crown,
“But piously transmit the blessing down.”
Note 1. The badge of the order of the Cincinnati. [back]

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