Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
Lines on the Death of Washington
By Theodore Dwight (1764–1846)
  FAR, far from hence be satire’s aspect rude,
No more let laughter’s frolic-face intrude,
But every heart be fill’d with deepest gloom,
Each form be clad with vestments of the tomb.
From Vernon’s sacred hill dark sorrows flow,        5
Spread o’er the land, and shroud the world in wo.
From Mississippi’s proud, majestic flood,
To where St. Croix meanders through the wood,
Let business cease, let vain amusements fly,
Let parties mingle, and let faction die,        10
The realm perform, by warm affection led,
Funereal honors to the mighty dead.
  Where shall the heart for consolation turn,
Where end its grief, or how forget to mourn?
Beyond these clouds appears no cheering ray,        15
No morning star proclaims th’ approach of day.
Ask hoary Age from whence his sorrows come,
His voice is silent, and his sorrow dumb;
Enquire of Infancy why droops his head,
The prattler lisps—“great Washington is dead.”        20
Why bend yon statesmen o’er their task severe?
Why drops yon chief the unavailing tear?
What sullen grief hangs o’er yon martial band?
What deep distress pervades the extended land?
In sad responses sounds from shore to shore—        25
“Our Friend, our Guide, our Father is no more.”
  Let fond remembrance turn his aching sight,
Survey the past, dispel oblivion’s night,
By Glory led, pursue the mazy road,
Which leads the traveller to her high abode,        30
Then view that great, that venerated name,
Inscribed in sunbeams on the roll of Fame.
No lapse of years shall soil the sacred spot,
No future age its memory shall blot;
Millions unborn shall mark its sacred fire,        35
And latest Time behold it and admire.
  A widow’d country! what protecting form
Shall ope thy pathway through the gathering storm!
What mighty hand thy trembling bark shall guide,
Through Faction’s rough and overwhelming tide!        40
The hour is past—thy Washington no more
Descries, with angel-ken, the peaceful shore.
Freed from the terrors of his awful eye,
No more fell Treason seeks a midnight sky,
But crawling forth, on deadliest mischief bent,        45
Rears her black front, and toils with cursed intent.
Behold! arranged in long, and black array,
Prepared for conflict, thirsting for their prey,
Our foes advance,—nor force nor danger dread,
Their fears all vanish’d when his spirit fled.        50
Oft, when our bosoms, fill’d with dire dismay,
Saw mischief gather round our country’s way;
When furious Discord seized her flaming brand,
And threatened ruin to our infant land;
When faction’s imps sow’d thick the seeds of strife,        55
And aim’d destruction at the bliss of life;
When war with bloody hand her flag unfurl’d,
And her loud trump alarm’d the western world;
His awful voice bade all contention cease,
At his commands the storms were hush’d to peace.        60
  But who can speak, what accents can relate,
The solemn scenes which marked the great man’s fate!
Ye ancient sages, who so loudly claim
The brightest station on the list of Fame,
At his approach with diffidence retire,        65
His higher worth acknowledge, and admire.
When keenest anguish rack’d his mighty mind,
And the fond heart the joys of life resign’d,
No guilt, nor terror stretch’d its hard control,
No doubt obscured the sunshine of the soul.        70
Prepared for death, his calm and steady eye,
Look’d fearless upward to a peaceful sky;
While wondering angels point the airy road,
Which leads the Christian to the house of God.

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