Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
Connecticut River
By Lydia H. Sigourney (1791–1865)
FAIR RIVER! not unknown to classic song;—
Which still in varying beauty roll’st along,
Where first thy infant fount is faintly seen,
A line of silver ’mid a fringe of green;
Or where, near towering rocks, thy bolder tide,        5
To win the giant-guarded pass, doth glide;
Or where, in azure mantle, pure and free,
Thou giv’st thy cool hand to the waiting sea;—
Though broader streams our sister realms may boast,
Herculean cities, and a prouder coast,        10
Yet, from the bound where hoarse St Lawrence roars
To where La Plata rocks the sounding shores;
From where the urns of slimy Nilus shine,
To the blue waters of the rushing Rhine;
Or where Ilissus glows like diamond spark,        15
Or sacred Ganges whelms its votaries dark,
No brighter skies the eye of day may see,
No soil more verdant, nor a race more free.
—See, where, amid their cultured vales, they stand,
The generous offspring of a simple land;        20
Too rough for flattery, and all fear above,
King, priest, and prophet, in the homes they love.
On equal laws their anchor’d hopes are stay’d,
By all interpreted, and all obey’d.
Alike the despot and the slave they hate,        25
And rise firm columns of a happy state.
To them content is bliss; and labor, health;
And knowledge, power; and true religion, wealth.
  The farmer, here, with honest pleasure sees
His orchards blushing to the fervid breeze,        30
His bleating flocks, the shearer’s care who need,
His waving woods, the winter fire that feed,
His hardy steers, that break the yielding soil,
His patient sons, who aid their father’s toil,
The ripening fields, for joyous harvest drest,        35
And the white spire that points a world of rest.
—His thrifty mate, solicitous to bear
An equal burden in the yoke of care,
With vigorous arm the flying shuttle heaves,
Or from the press the golden cheese receives;        40
Her pastime, when the daily task is o’er,
With apron clean, to seek her neighbor’s door,
Partake the friendly feast, with social glow,
Exchange the news, and make the stocking grow;
Then, hale and cheerful, to her home repair,        45
When Sol’s slant ray renews her evening care,
Press the full udder for her children’s meal,
Rock the tired babe, or wake the tuneful wheel.
  See, toward yon dome, where village science dwells,
What time the warning clock its summons swells,        50
What tiny feet the well known path explore,
And gaily gather from each sylvan door.
The new wean’d child, with murmur’d tone proceeds,
Whom her scarce taller baby-brother leads,
Transferr’d as burdens, that the house-wife’s care        55
May tend the dairy, or the fleece prepare.
Light-hearted group! who gambol wild and high,
The daisy pluck, or chase the butterfly,
Till by some traveller’s wheels aroused from play,
The stiff salute, with face demure, they pay,        60
Bare the curl’d brow, or stretch the ready hand,
The untutor’d homage of an artless land.
The stranger marks, amid the joyous line,
The little baskets whence they hope to dine;
And larger books, as if their dexterous art        65
Dealt most nutrition to the noblest part.
Long may it be, ere luxury teach the shame
To starve the mind, and bloat the unwieldy frame!
  Scorn not this lowly race, ye sons of pride!
Their joys disparage, nor their hopes deride;        70
From germs like these have mighty statesmen sprung,
Of prudent counsel, and persuasive tongue;
Bold patriot souls, who ruled the willing throng,
Their powerful nerves by early labor strong;
Inventive minds, a nation’s wealth that wrought,        75
And white-hair’d sages, skill’d in studious thought
Chiefs, who the field of battle nobly trod,
And holy men, who fed the flock of God.
  Here, ’mid the graves by time so sacred made,
The poor, lost Indian slumbers in the shade;        80
He, whose canoe with arrowy swiftness clave,
In ancient days, yon pure, cerulean wave;
Son of that spirit, whom in storms he traced,
Through darkness follow’d, and in death embraced,—
He sleeps an outlaw, ’mid his forfeit land,        85
And grasps the arrow in his moulder’d hand.
Here too, those warrior sires with honor rest,
Who bared in freedom’s cause the valiant breast,
Sprang from their half drawn furrow, as the cry
Of threaten’d liberty came thrilling by,        90
Look’d to their God, and rear’d in bulwark round
Breasts free from guile, and hands with toil embrown’d,
And bade a monarch’s thousand banners yield—
Firm at the plough, and glorious in the field;
Lo! here they rest, who every danger braved,        95
Unmark’d, untrophied, ’mid the soil they saved.
—Round scenes like these, doth warm remembrance glide,
Where emigration rolls its ceaseless tide.
On western wilds, which thronging hordes explore,
Or ruder Erie’s serpent-haunted shore,        100
Or far Huron, by unshorn forests crown’d,
Or red Missouri’s unfrequented bound,
The exiled man, when midnight shades invade,
Couch’d in his hut, or camping on the glade,
Starts from his dream, to catch, in echoes clear,        105
The boatman’s song that pleased his boyish ear;
While the sad mother, ’mid her children’s mirth,
Paints with fond tears a parent’s distant hearth,
Or charms her rustic babes, with tender tales
Of thee, blest River! and thy velvet vales;        110
Her native cot, where ripening berries swell,
The village school, and sabbath’s holy bell;
And smiles to see the infant soul expand
With proud devotion for that father land.

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