Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
Paraphrase of Job
By Richard Devens (1749–1835)
  WHOSE 1 art, where human foot ne’er access found,
Adorns, in wild diversity, the ground?
Makes lonely walks to bloom confusedly gay,
And with rich fragrance to perfume the day?
Through all her lately flourishing increase,        5
When vegetation droops, canst thou release
From wasting drought the summer? Will the rain
Rush at thy bidding, down in floods amain?
When the black clouds th’ impetuous torrent pour,
Canst thou in middle-deluge stop the shower?        10
Whose thunder, when fierce flames the welkin wrap,
Stuns nature’s ear with the tremendous clap?
Didst thou the rainbow fix? its hues impart—
Those hues that distance the exploits of art?
Who generates the hoary frost? and who        15
Bespangles morning with his orient dew?
Hath mist a sire? canst thou congeal the main?
From whom descend the pearly streams of rain?
Dost thou ordain the seasons of the year?
And govern all the changes of the air?        20
Who gives the live-green earth its vernal hue?
Dost thou the odor of the fields renew?
Ripen the harvest? drive the eastern blast?
And lay the opulence of autumn waste?
Give meads with yellow pomp to cheer the sight?        25
Or deck in majesty of winter’s white?
By whom instructed do the planets know,
Where orient or meridian beams must glow?
Who taught Arcturus, round the northern pole,
His destined circuit with his suns to roll?        30
Or Mazaroth to wind athwart the night,
In his appointed hours, his length of light?
When th’ early Pleiades benignly gleam,
Canst thou in bands of crystal bind the stream?
The beauties of th’ enamell’d spring withhold,        35
And blast the foliage with autumnal cold?
Oppress’d by Sirius, when the fields complain,
His unpropitious influence restrain?
With vernal showers the parching wind allay,
And chase the fervor of th’ inclement day?        40
Or when Orion glares upon thy view,
Make earth to bloom and vegetate anew?
*      *      *      *      *
  Breathes the minutest rover of the air,
Held by thy power, or nourish’d by thy care?
Who feeds the ravens, when the croaking brood        45
Raise hoarsely querulous their plaint to God?
Didst thou the ostrich clothe with plumes so neat,
Who leaves her eggs exposed to heedless feet?
Hatch’d by the genial influence of the sun,
Alone, the unfledged brood are left to run.        50
In flight she scorns the rider and his steed;
Through eddies of the sand upspurn’d, her speed
Impetuously she skims; than winds more fleet;
She triumphs in th’ alertness of her feet.
The peacock view, still exquisitely fair,        55
When clouds forsake, and when invest the air:
His gems now brightened by a noontide ray;
He proudly waves his feathers to the day.
A strut, majestically slow, assumes,
And glories in the beauty of his plumes.        60
The hawk, before autumnal tempests rise,
Pursues the summer through the southern skies:
Knows she from bleak inclement months to flee,
And find perpetual August, taught by thee?
Who lifts the eagle on her lofty way,        65
To rove exulting in a cloudless day?
On high and craggy cliffs she dwells alone;
Their strength remains impregnably her own:
With darting haste, behold her ample size,
Full to th’ enjoy’d, though distant victim hies:        70
Couch’d horrid now she nimbly hovers o’er
Her untorn prey, in raptures of its gore.
Back to her nest she shapes her upward flight,
Her young suck up the blood, with dire delight.
Note 1. Devens was born at Charlestown, Massachusetts, October 23d, 1749. He displayed in early life such a passion for letters as to induce his father to give him a collegiate education. He was sent to Princeton college in 1764, and received a degree in 1768. The three following years he spent in teaching schools in New Jersey and New York; after which he was appointed tutor and professor of mathematics at Princeton college. He exercised the duties of these offices till 1774, when in consequence of too intense application to his studies, he fell into a state of mental derangement, in which he has continued from his 24th year to the present day.
  He wrote a Paraphrase of a part of the Book of Job, published in 1773, and subsequently in 1795 with alterations. [back]

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