Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
Address to the Supreme Being
By John Adams (1705–1740)
For his assistance in my Poetical Compositions.

TO Thee, great GOD! I lift my humble strains,
My verse inspire; let judgment hold the reins,
And curb my fancy’s fierce unruly fire,
Which else would, wild, to boundless flights aspire.
May I not write too little, or too much,        5
But paint with care, not with a hasty touch.
May all my thoughts be rather just than high,
And never let me rave when I should fly.
But yet secure me from the low extreme,
Of writing meaner than becomes my theme.        10
Through all my works, let order clearly shine,
And let me know the reason of each line.
Give me to trace out nature in each thought,
And let each piece be to perfection brought;
A subject for my genius fit to choose,        15
Not vainly light, nor yet profanely loose,
But innocent, at least, if not sublime,
And let my numbers smoothly flow in rhyme.
May each production, writ with strength and ease,
The ear, the judgment, and the fancy please.        20
But if my soul, by a superior flame,
Was never fir’d to merit lasting fame,
Awaken’d, let me see my fond mistake,
And with just anger from my folly break.
Nor let me in the poet lose the priest,        25
But know both what and when to write is best;
From wasting, to redeem my vacant hours,
And to refine the roughness of my powers.
The brightest ancients let me read and know,
And let their spirit in my numbers flow;        30
And all the moderns, who, by thee inspired,
Will be, as long as nature lasts, admired:
By nobler patterns so to form my lays,
As from the thinking few to merit praise.
  But most, dear God, assist my towering lyre,        35
To sound thy name upon its trembling wire;
Be thou the subject of my lofty verse,
And, thine unbounded work, the universe:
The streaming purple, gushing from his heart,
Which made the Saviour’s suffering soul depart.        40
Doubly immortal, then, shall be my fame,
Heaven shall contain my soul, and earth my name.

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