Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Blue Lights, or the Convention
By Jonathan M. Scott
 
LAND 1 of the East, whose fertile vales unfold
  The fairest product of the fruitful year;
Whose towering hills upon their summits hold
  A hardy race, to wildest freedom dear,
Unaw’d by danger, unrestrain’d by fear;        5
  How are thy prospects changed! the plough no more,
Worn bright by labor, checks the panting steer
  Through reeking furrow toiling, as of yore,
Nor clamorous seamen ply along the busy shore.
 
Around some tavern door thy children stand,        10
  Where swings the grating sign on windy day,
Cheerless and sad, a melancholy band,
  Till draughts of whiskey wile their cares away;
Then loud of tongue, impetuous for affray,
  All raise at once of wisdom full the voice,        15
And beardless valor, and experience gray,
  In hideous uproar wild increase the noise,
While oft replenish’d cups exalt the noontide joys.
 
Oh, stream Lethean! reeking from the still,
  How sweet thy stimulus at early dawn!        20
When wakes the thirsty wretch, the welcome rill
  Dispels of recollection thoughts forlorn;
For oft the aching head at rising morn,
  A sad memento of the evening past,
From long protracted slumber slowly drawn,        25
  Toward the accustom’d cup a look will cast,
And sigh, perhaps in vain, to think that cup the last.
 
War’s crimson banner broad unfurl’d,
Waves horrid o’er the western world;
Full swells the note of rolling drum,        30
Like distant thunder, hoarse and grum.
And sharp and shrill the piercing fife
Wakes the stern soul to deeds of strife.
The peaceful scythe its form forsakes,
The bending cutlass’ curve it takes;        35
Wrenched from its shape by glowing heat,
And on the groaning anvil beat;
The shining pitchfork strait is set,
Transform’d to pointed bayonet,
Disdainful of its former trade        40
And proudly glitters on parade.
 
Each wayward youngster from the field
In fancy grasps the victor shield,
With beating heart he seeks the plain,
Intent on glory and on gain;        45
Before his eyes, in beam divine,
The rising hopes of plunder shine;
For plunder, trade aside is cast—
The cobler leaves his mouldy last;
The homespun frock and beaver gray,        50
Are changed to regimentals gay;
The tailor’s work is left undone,
While ’prentice lads to combat run;
And o’er each lately smiling brow
Frowns pale and lurid anger now.        55
 
Is there a heart so wild and rude,
But sickens at commencing feud?
Then let that rugged heart sojourn
Beyond Caffraria’s utmost bourn;
Pitch with the Arab wild his tent,        60
Or on some desert island, rent
From the mainland by torrent storm,
His lonely habitation form.
Alas! those fields, which late so gay
Spread their broad surface to the day—        65
Within the broad potato patch
In vain for food the children scratch;
No longer are the swine debarr’d
From entrance to the turnip yard;
Thy fields, O Weathersfield, of yore        70
That many a pungent onion bore,
Now overgrown with noisome weeds,
No longer savory garlic feeds;
There many a harvest lost, his purse,
Devoid of cash, the swain shall curse!        75
And many a marriage long delay’d
Rue the sad year when war was made.
 
Ah, me! how many tears that day
Shrunk from their crystal source away!
And many a damsel’s cheek grew pale,        80
  And many a bosom heaved the sigh,
And many a matron told the tale,
  The dismal tale, of battle nigh.
Ah, me! unfit for warlike deed,
For cannon’s roar, or charging steed;        85
Ill suits the sabre’s ruthless blade
The hand accustom’d to the spade;
And nerves that wont to wield the hoe,
Relax before the deadly blow.
Land of my sires! that spirits stern        90
Within thy children’s bosoms burn,
Full well I know; on muster day,
When thoughts of war were far away,
How oft the sun that cloudless rose,
At eve has witness’d many a nose        95
With blood defiled; and many an eye
The rainbow’s varied tints defy.
Though, cramp’d with age, my sluggish blood
Rolls through my veins in languid flood,
Still swells with life renew’d, the vein,        100
As memory views the young campaign;
And many a scar upon my head
Recalls the day of battle fled.
 
Yet in this youthful warrior-school,
Stern wisdom held her rigid rule;        105
Unlike the sons of southern shore,
Who bathe their blades in foeman’s gore;
Whose boiling blood in realms of fire
Delighted sees his foe expire;
And from the combat lifeless drops,        110
Or limping homeward wounded hops.
With us, the brawny fist supply’d
The pistol’s place at battle tide;
By dint of lusty thump and kick,
Or aid of massy walking stick;        115
By hand, and teeth, and stubborn foot,
Was settled every dire dispute;
We wisely shunn’d the hissing ball,
And knew life lost, was loss of all.
*      *      *      *
Alas! how oft the poet’s line        120
  Has mourn’d the fickle mind of man;
The theme of every sage divine,
  Since tythes and sermons first began.
Mournful the poet, at midnight hour,
  Beholds the politician sage,        125
He sees the world his worth adore,
  His name descend to latest age;
Let morning come, the hammer’s sound
  Recalls him to his daily trade;
And while the lapstone rings around,        130
  He fairly is a cobler made.
Even thus, at ward-room table too,
Behold the chiefs of England’s crew;
Ere yet across its social bound
The tenth decanter has gone round,        135
Who but would think assembled there,
Souls that might Alexander dare;
Beat Hannibal in bloody work,
Or wrench his whiskers from the Turk;
Eclipse the Swedish Charles in war,        140
Or show with Nelson scar for scar;
Brave the wild savage war-whoop yell,
And bear the palm from William Tell?
 
Note 1. Scott, a Native of Connecticut, wrote “Blue Lights, or the Convention,” published in 1817. [back]
 
 
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