Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
Address to the Armies of the United States
By David Humphreys (1752–1818)
  YE martial bands! Columbia’s fairest pride!
To toils inured, in dangers often tried—
Ye gallant youths! whose breasts for glory burn,
Each selfish aim and meaner passion spurn:
Ye who, unmoved, in the dread hour have stood,        5
And smiled, undaunted, in the field of blood—
Who greatly dared, at freedom’s rapturous call,
With her to triumph, or with her to fall—
Now brighter days in prospect swift ascend;
Ye sons of fame, the hallow’d theme attend;        10
The past review; the future scenes explore,
And heaven’s high king with grateful hearts adore!
  What time proud Albion, thundering o’er the waves,
Frown’d on her sons, and bade them turn to slaves—
When, lost to honor, virtue, glory, shame,        15
When nought remain’d of Britain but the name—
The parent state—a parent now no more—
Let loose the hirelings of despotic power,
Urged to keen vengeance their relentless ire,
And hoped submission from their sword and fire.        20
As when dark clouds, from Andes’ towering head,
Roll down the skies, and round the horizon spread,
With thunders fraught, the blackening tempest sails,
And bursts tremendous o’er Peruvian vales:
So broke the storm on Concord’s fatal plain;        25
There fell our brothers, by fierce ruffians slain—
Inglorious deed! to wild despair then driven,
We, suppliant, made our great appeal to heaven.
Then the shrill trumpet echoed from afar,
And sudden blazed the wasting flame of war;        30
From State to State swift flew the dire alarms,
And ardent youths, impetuous, rush’d to arms:
“To arms” the matrons and the virgins sung,
To arms, their sires, their husbands, brothers sprung.
No dull delay—where’er the sound was heard,        35
Where the red standards in the air appear’d,
Where, through vast realms the cannon swell’d its roar,
Between the Acadian and Floridian shore.
  Now join’d the crowd, from their far distant farms,
In rustic guise, and unadorn’d in arms:        40
Not like their foes, in tinsel trappings gay,
And burnish’d arms that glitter’d on the day;
Who now advanced, where Charlestown reared its height,
In martial pomp, and claim’d the awful sight;
And proudly deem’d, with one decisive blow,        45
To hurl destruction on the routed foe.
Not so—just heaven had fix’d the great decree,
And bade the sons of freemen still be free;
Bade all their souls with patriot ardor burn,
And taught the coward, fear of death to spurn;        50
The threats of danger and of war to brave,
To purchase freedom, or a glorious grave.
Long raged the contest on the embattled field;
Nor those would fly, nor these would tamely yield—
Till Warren fell, in all the boast of arms,        55
The pride of genius and unrivall’d charms,
His country’s hope!—full soon the gloom was spread:
Oppress’d with numbers, and their leader dead,
Slow from the field the sullen troops retired;
Behind, the hostile flame to heaven aspired.        60
  The imperious Britons, on the well-fought ground,
No cause for joy or wanton triumph found,
But saw with grief their dreams of conquest vain,
Felt the deep wounds, and mourn’d their veterans slain.
  Nor less our woes. Now darkness gather’d round;        65
The thunder rumbled, and the tempest frown’d;
When lo! to guide us through the storm of war,
Beam’d the bright splendor of Virginia’s star.
O first of heroes, fav’rite of the skies,
To what dread toils thy country bade thee rise!        70
“Oh raised by heaven to save the invaded state!”
(So spake the sage long since thy future fate,)
’T was thine to change the sweetest scenes of life
For public cares—to guide the embattled strife;
Unnumber’d ills of every kind to dare,        75
The winter’s blast, the summer’s sultry air,
The lurking dagger, and the turbid storms
Of wasting war, with death in all his forms.
Nor aught could daunt. Unspeakably serene,
Thy conscious soul smiled o’er the dreadful scene.        80
  The foe then trembled at the well-known name;
And raptured thousands to his standard came.
His martial skill our rising armies form’d;
His patriot zeal their generous bosoms warm’d:
His voice inspired, his godlike presence led,        85
The Britons saw, and from his presence fled.
Soon reinforced from Albion’s crowded shore,
New legions came, new plains were drenched in gore;
And scarce Columbia’s arm the fight sustains,
While her best blood gush’d from a thousand veins.        90
Then thine, O Brown! that purpled wide the ground,
Pursued the knife through many a ghastly wound.
Ah hapless friend! permit the tender tear
To flow e’en now, for none flowed on thy bier,
Where cold and mangled, under northern skies,        95
To famish’d wolves a prey thy body lies;
Which erst so fair and tall in youthful grace,
Strength in thy nerves, and beauty in thy face,
Stood like a tower, till struck by the swift ball;
Then what avail’d (to ward the untimely fall)        100
The force of limbs, the mind so well inform’d,
The taste refined, the breast with friendship warm’d,
(That friendship which our earliest years begun)
Or what the laurels that thy sword had won,
When the dark bands from thee, expiring, tore        105
Thy long hair mingled with the spouting gore?
Nor less, brave Scammel, frown’d thine angry fate,
(May deathless shame that British deed await!)
On York’s famed field, amid the first alarms,
Ere yet fair victory crown’d the allied arms,        110
Fell chance betray’d thee to the hostile band,
The hapless victim of the assassin hand!
Lo! while I tell the execrable deed,
Fresh in his side the dark wound seems to bleed;
The small red current still for vengeance cries,        115
And asks, “Why sleeps the thunder in the skies?”
On him, ye heavens, let all your vengeance fall,
On the curst wretch who wing’d the insidious ball.
But thou, blest shade, be sooth’d! be this thy praise,
Ripe were thy virtues, though too few thy days!        120
Be this thy fame, through life of all approved,
To die lamented, honor’d, and beloved.
  And see, far south, where yonder hearse appears,
An army mourning, and a land in tears!
There Laurens, passing to an early tomb,        125
Looks like a flower, just withering in its bloom.
Thy father’s pride, the glory of our host!
Thy country’s sorrow, late thy country’s boast!
O Laurens! generous youth! twice hadst thou bled;
Could not the ball with devious aim have sped?        130
And must thy friends, now peace appears so near,
Weep the third stroke that cuts a life so dear;
That blots the prospect of our rising morn,
And leaves thy country, as thy sire, forlorn?
Companions loved! long as the life-blood flows,        135
Or vital warmth in this fond bosom glows,
While there I cherish your remembrance dear,
Oft will I drop the tributary tear.
  But what avails to trace the fate of war
Through fields of blood, and paint each glorious scar?        140
Why should the strain your former woes recall,
The tears that wept a friend or brother’s fall,
When by your side first in the adventurous strife,
He dauntless rush’d, too prodigal of life?
Enough of merit has each honor’d name,        145
To shine, untarnish’d, on the rolls of fame;
To stand the example of each distant age,
And add new lustre to the historic page:
For soon their deeds, illustrious, shall be shown
In breathing bronze, or animated stone,        150
Or where the canvass, starting into life,
Revives the glories of the crimson strife.
  Ye sons of genius, who the pencil hold,
Whose master strokes, beyond description bold,
Of other years and climes the history trace,        155
Can ye for this neglect your kindred race?
Columbia calls—her parent voice demands
More grateful offerings from your filial hands.
And soon some bard shall tempt the untried themes,
Sing how we dared, in fortune’s worst extremes;        160
What cruel wrongs the indignant patriot bore,
What various ills your feeling bosoms tore,
What boding terrors gloom’d the threat’ning hour,
When British legions, arm’d with death-like power,
Bade desolation mark their crimson’d way,        165
And lured the savage to his destined prey;
When fierce Germania her battalions pour’d,
And rapine’s sons, with wasting fire and sword,
Spread death around: where’er your eyes ye turn’d,
Fled were the peasants, and the village burn’d.        170
How did your hearts for others’ sufferings melt!
What torturing pangs your bleeding country felt!
What! when you fled before superior force,
Each succor lost, and perish’d each resource!
When nature, fainting from the want of food,        175
On the white snow your steps were mark’d in blood!
When through your tatter’d garbs you met the wind,
Despair before, and ruin frown’d behind!
When nought was seen around, but prospects drear,
The insulting foe hung dreadful on your rear,        180
And boastful ween’d, that day to close the scene,
And quench your name, as though it ne’er had been.
  Why, Britian, raged thy insolence and scorn?
Why burst thy vengeance on the wretch forlorn?
The cheerless captive to slow death consign’d,        185
Chill’d with keen frost, in prison glooms confined;
Of hope bereft, by thy vile minions curst,
With hunger famish’d, and consumed with thirst,
Without one friend—when death’s last horror stung,
Roll’d the wild eye, and gnaw’d the anguish’d tongue.        190
  Why, Britain, in thy arrogance and pride,
Didst thou heaven’s violated laws deride,
Mock human misery with contemptuous sneers,
And fill thy cup of guilt with orphan’s tears?
The widow’s wailing, and the wretch’s groan,        195
Rise in remembrance to the eternal throne,
While the red flame, through the broad concave driven,
Calls down the vengeance of insulted heaven.
And didst thou think, by cruelty refined,
To damp the ardor of the heaven-born mind,        200
With haughty threats to force the daring train
To bow, unnerved, in slavery’s galling chain;
Make countless freemen—then no longer free,
Shrink at thy frown, and bend the servile knee?
And couldst thou dream? then wake, dissolve thy charms,        205
Roused by their wrongs, see desperate hosts in arms!
No fear dismays, nor danger’s voice appals,
While kindred blood for sacred vengeance calls:
Their swords shall triumph o’er thy vaunted force,
And curb the conqueror in his headlong course.        210
  What spoils of war, thy sons, Columbia, claim’d!
What trophies rose, where thy red ensigns flamed!
Where the great chief, o’er Delaware’s icy wave,
Led the small band, in dangers doubly brave;
On high designs, and ere the dawning hour,        215
Germania’s veterans own’d the victor’s power;
Or on the muse’s plain, where round thy tomb,
O gallant Mercer! deathless laurels bloom;
Or where, anon, in northern fields renown’d,
The tide of slaughter stain’d the sanguine ground;        220
When the bold freemen, gathering from afar,
Foil’d the proud foe, and crush’d the savage war:
On that brave band their country’s plaudit waits,
And consecrates to fame the name of Gates.
Nor less the valor of the impetuous shock,        225
Which seized the glorious prize on Hudson’s rock,
Where Wayne, e’en while he felt the whizzing ball,
Pluck’d the proud standard from the vanquish’d wall.
Now turn your eyes, where southern realms are seen,
From ruin rescued by the immortal Greene:        230
See toils of death, where many a hero bleeds,
Till rapid victory to defeat succeeds.
On numerous plains, whose streams, unknown to song,
Till this great era, roll’d obscure along,
Their names shall now, to fame familiar grown,        235
Outlast the pile of monumental stone.
Or see on fair Virginia’s strand arise,
The column pointing to the favoring skies,
Inscribed with deeds the federate arms have done,
And graved with trophies from Britannia won:        240
Here stand the conquering bands: the vanquish’d throng
Through the long lines in silence move along:
The stars and lilies, here in laurels drest,
And there, dark shrouds the banner’d pride invest:
These twice twelve banners once in pomp unfurl’d,        245
Spread death and terror round the southern world:
In various colors from the staff unroll’d,
The lion frown’d, the eagle flamed in gold;
Hibernia’s heart, reluctant, here was hung,
And Scotia’s thistle there spontaneous sprung:        250
These twice twelve flags no more shall be display’d,
Save in the dome where warlike spoils are laid;
Since, where the fathers in high council meet,
This hand has placed them prostrate at their feet.
  So beam the glories of the victor band!        255
And such the dawning hope that cheers our land!
Since Gallia’s sire, intent on cares of state,
Sublimely good, magnanimously great!
Protector of the rights of human kind,
Weigh’d the dread contest in his royal mind,        260
And bade his fleets o’er the broad ocean fly,
To succor realms beneath another sky!
Since his blest troops, in happiest toils allied,
Have fought, have bled, have conquer’d by your side:
The mingled stream, in the same trench that flow’d,        265
Cements the nations by their heroes’ blood,
  Yet still, Columbians, see what choice remains,
Ignoble bondage and inglorious chains,
Or all the joys which liberty can give,
For which you dare to die, or wish to live.        270
On the drawn sword your country’s fate depends:
Your wives, your children, parents, brothers, friends,
With all the tender charities of life,
Hang on the issue of the arduous strife.
  To bolder deeds, and victory’s fierce delights,        275
Your country calls, and heaven itself invites.
Charm’d by their potent voice, let virtue’s flame,
The sense of honor, and the fear of shame,
The thirst of praise, and freedom’s envied cause,
The smiles of heroes, and the world’s applause,        280
Impel each breast, in glory’s dread career,
Firm as your rock-raised hills, to persevere.
  Now the sixth year of independence smiles,
The glorious meed of all our warlike toils;
Auspicious power, with thy broad flag unfurl’d,        285
Shed thy stern influence on our western world!
With thy congenial flame our hearts inspire,
With manly patience and heroic fire,
The rudest shock of fortune s storm to bear:
Each ill to suffer; every death to dare;        290
To rush undaunted in the adventurous van,
And meet the Britons, man opposed to man;
With surer aim repel their barbarous rage;
Shield the poor orphan, and the white-hair’d sage;
Defend the matron, and the virgin’s charms,        295
And vindicate our sacred rights with arms.
This the great genius of our land requires,
This the blest shades of our illustrious sires,
This the brave sons of future years demand,
Cheers the faint heart, and nerves the feeble hand;        300
This sacred hope, that points beyond the span
Which bounds this transitory life of man,
Where glory lures us with her bright renown,
The hero’s triumph, and the patriot’s crown;
The fair reward to suffering virtue given,        305
Pure robes of bliss, and starry thrones in heaven.
  Changed are the scenes; now fairer prospects rise,
And brighter suns begin to gild our skies,
The exhausted foe, his last poor effort tried,
Sees nought remain, save impotence and pride:        310
His golden dreams of fancied conquest o’er,
(And Gallia thundering round his native shore,
Iberia aiding with Potosi’s mines,
While brave Batavia in the conflict joins)
Reluctant turns, and, deep involved in woes,        315
In other climes prepares for other foes.
  Anon, the horrid sounds of war shall cease,
And all the western world be hush’d in peace:
The martial clarion shall be heard no more,
Nor the loud cannon’s desolating roar:        320
No more our heroes pour the purple flood,
No corse be seen with garments roll’d in blood;
No shivering wretch shall roam without a shed;
No pining orphans raise their cry for bread;
No tender mother shriek at dreams of woe,        325
Start from her sleep, and see the midnight foe;
The lovely virgin, and the hoary sire,
No more behold the village flame aspire,
While the base spoiler, from a father’s arms,
Plucks the fair flower, and riots on its charms.        330
  E’en now, from half the threaten’d horrors freed,
See from our shores the lessening sails recede:
See the red flags, that to the wind unfurl’d,
Waved in proud triumph round the vanquish’d world,
Inglorious fly; and see their haggard crew,        335
Despair, rage, shame, and infamy pursue.
  Hail, heaven-born peace! thy grateful blessings pour
On this glad land, and round the peopled shore:
Thine are the joys that gild the happy scene,
Propitious days, and festive nights serene;        340
With thee gay pleasure frolics o’er the plain,
And smiling plenty leads thy prosperous train.
  Then oh, my friends! the task of glory done,
The immortal prize by your bold efforts won:
Your country’s saviours, by her voice confess’d,        345
While unborn ages rise and call you blest—
Then let us go where happier climes invite,
To midland seas, and regions of delight;
With all that ’s ours, together let us rise,
Seek brighter plains and more indulgent skies;        350
Where fair Ohio rolls his amber tide,
And nature blossoms in her virgin pride;
Where all that beauty’s hand can form to please,
Shall crown the toils of war with rural ease.
The shady coverts and the sunny hills,        355
The gentle lapse of ever-murmuring rills,
The soft repose amid the noon-tide bowers,
The evening walk among the blushing flowers,
The fragrant groves that yield a sweet perfume,
And vernal glories in perpetual bloom,        360
Await you there; and heaven shall bless the toil,
Your own the produce, as your own the soil.
  No tyrant lord shall grasp a thousand farms,
Curse the mild clime, and spoil its fairest charms:
No blast severe your ripening fields deform,        365
No volleyed hail-stones, and no driving storm:
No raging murrain on your cattle seize,
And nature sicken with the dire disease.
But golden years, anew, begin their reigns,
And cloudless sunshine gild salubrious plains.        370
Herbs, fruits and flowers shall clothe the uncultured field,
Nectareous juice the vine and orchard yield;
Rich dulcet creams the copious goblets fill,
Delicious honey from the trees distil;
The garden smile, spontaneous harvests spring,        375
The valleys warble, and the woodlands ring.
  Along the meads, or near the shady groves,
There sport the flocks, there feed the fattening droves;
There strays the steed, through bloomy vales afar,
Who erst moved lofty in the ranks of war.        380
  There, free from envy, cankering care and strife,
Flow the calm pleasures of domestic life:
There mutual friendship soothes each placid breast,
Blest in themselves, and in each other blest.
From house to house the social glee extends,        385
For friends in war, in peace are doubly friends:
Their children taught to emulate their sires,
Catch the warm glow, and feel the kindred fires,
Till by degrees the mingling joys improve,
Grow with their years, and ripen into love:        390
Nor long the blushing pair in secret sigh,
And drink sweet poison from the love-sick eye;
Blest be their lot, when in his eager arms
The enamor’d youth folds the fair virgin’s charms;
On her ripe lip imprints the burning kiss,        395
And seals with hallow’d rites the nuptial bliss.
Then festal sports the evening hours prolong,
The mazy dance and the sweet warbling song:
Then each endearment wakes the ravish’d sense
To pure delights and raptures most intense:        400
And the pleased parent tells his listening son,
What wondrous deeds by him in youth, were done.
No sights of woe, no torturing fears annoy
The sweet sensation of the heart-felt joy:
Nor shall the savages of murderous soul,        405
In painted bands dark to the combat roll,
With midnight orgies, by the gloomy shade,
On the pale victim point the reeking blade;
Or cause the hamlet, lull’d in deep repose,
No more to wake, or wake to ceaseless woes:        410
For your strong arm the guarded land secures,
And freedom, glory, happiness, are yours!
  So shall you flourish in unfading prime,
Each age refining through the reign of time;
A nobler offspring crown the fond embrace,        415
A band of heroes, and a patriot race:
Not by soft luxury’s too dainty food,
Their minds contaminated with their blood:
But like the heirs our great forefathers bred,
By freedom nurtured, and by temperance fed;        420
Healthful and strong, they turn’d the virgin soil,
The untamed forest bow’d beneath their toil:
At early dawn they sought the mountain chase,
Or roused the Indian from his lurking place;
Curb’d the mad fury of those barbarous men,        425
Or dragg’d the wild beast struggling from his den:
To all the vigor of that pristine race,
New charms are added, and superior grace.
  Then cities rise, and spiry towns increase,
With gilded domes, and every art of peace.        430
Then cultivation shall extend his power,
Rear the green blade, and nurse the tender flower,
Make the fair villa in full splendors smile,
And robe with verdure all the genial soil.
Then shall rich commerce court the favoring gales,        435
And wondering wilds admire the passing sails;
Where the bold ships the stormy Huron brave,
Where wild Ontario rolls the whitening wave,
Where fair Ohio his pure current pours,
And Mississippi laves the extended shores.        440
  Then oh, blest land! with genius unconfined,
With polish’d manners, and the illumined mind,
Thy future race on daring wing shall soar,
Each science trace, and all the arts explore;
Till bright religion beckoning to the skies,        445
Shall bid thy sons to endless glories rise.
  As round thy climes celestial joy extends,
Thy beauties ripen, and thy pomp ascends;
Farther and farther still, thy blessings roll,
To southern oceans and the northern pole;        450
Where now the thorn, or tangled thicket grows,
The wilderness shall blossom as the rose;
Unbounded deserts unknown charms assume,
Like Salem flourish, and like Eden bloom.
  And oh, my heaven! when all our toils are past,        455
Crown with such happiness our days at last:
So rise our sons, like our great sires of old,
In freedom’s cause, unconquerably bold;
With spotless faith, and morals pure, their name
Spread through the world, and gain immortal fame.        460
  And thou Supreme! whose hand sustains this ball,
Before whose nod the nations rise and fall,
Propitious smile, and shed diviner charms
On this blest land, the queen of arts and arms;
Make the great empire rise on wisdom’s plan,        465
The seat of bliss, and last retreat of man.

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