Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
The Powers of Genius
By John Blair Linn (1777–1804)
THE HUMAN fabric early from its birth
Feels some fond influence from its parent earth:
In different regions different forms we trace,
Here dwells a feeble, there an iron race;
Here genius lives and wakeful fancies play,        5
Here noiseless stupor sleeps its life away.
A rugged race the cliffs and mountains bear,
They leap the precipice and breast the air,
Follow the chamois on the pointed rock,
And clamber heights to seek their bearded flock,        10
Loud from the Baltic sounds the dreadful storm,
And gathering hosts the face of day deform:
Beneath their rage the soft Italian yields
His boasted laurels and his blooming fields.
The wandering Tartars by their rigorous land,        15
Were led to war, to victory and command.
While southern climes were sunk in deep repose,
(An easy conquest to invading foes.)
—Where spreads the quiet and luxuriant vale,
For ever fann’d by spring’s ambrosial gale;        20
Where over pebbles runs the limpid rill,
And woods o’ershade the wildly sloping hill:
There roves the swain, all gentle and serene,
And guards his sheep while browsing on the green.
He leads the dance by Cynthia’s silver light,        25
And lulls with sport the dusky ear of night;
Breathes from his pipe the dulcet strain of love,
And warbles Ellen through the mead and grove.
—In those drear climes where scorching suns prevail,
And fever rides the tainted burning gale;        30
Where draws the giant snake his loathsome train,
And poisons with his breath the yellow plain;
There languid pleasure waves his gilded wings,
And slothful ease the mental power unstrings.
Where Iceland spreads her dark and frozen wild        35
On whose fell snows no cheering sunbeam smiled,
There in their stormy, cold, and midnight cell,
The cheerless fishermen with stupor dwell:
Wrapt in their furs they slumber life away,
And mimic with their lamps the light of day.—        40
Chill through his trackless pines the hunter pass’d,
His yell arose upon the howling blast:
Before him fled, with all the speed of fear,
His wealth and victim, yonder helpless deer.
Saw you the savage man, how fell and wild,        45
With what grim pleasure as he pass’d he smiled?
Unhappy man! a wretched wigwam’s shed
Is his poor shelter, some dry skins his bed;
Sometimes alone upon the woodless height
He strikes his fire and spends his watchful night;        50
His dog with howling bays the moon’s red beam,
And starts the wild-deer in his nightly dream—
Poor savage-man, for him no yellow grain
Waves its bright billows o’er the fruitful plain;
For him no harvest yields its full supply        55
When winter hurls his tempest through the sky.
No joys he knows but those which spring from strife,
Unknown to him the charms of social life.
Rage, malice, envy, all his thoughts control,
And every dreadful passion burns his soul.—        60
Should culture meliorate his darksome home,
And cheer those wilds where he is wont to roam;
Beneath the hatchet should his forests fall
And the mild tabor warble through his hall,
Should fields of tillage yield their rich increase,        65
And through his wastes walk forth the arts of peace;
His sullen soul would feel a genial glow,
Joy would break in upon the night of wo;
Knowledge would spread her mild, reviving ray,
And on his wigwam rise the dawn of day.        70

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