2017: The Columbiad Survives !

Le monde

The Columbiad, in its present form, is such as I shall probably leave it to its fate. Whether it be destined to survive its author, is a question that gives me no other concern than what arises from the most pure and ardent desire of doing good to my country. To my country therefore, with every sentiment of veneration and affection I dedicate my labors.

[Joel Barlow from PREFACE 1809]

My object is altogether of a moral and political nature I wish to encourage and strengthen in the rising generation, a sense of the importance of republican institutions; as being the great foundation of public and private happiness, the necessary aliment of future and permanent ameliorations in the condition of human nature.

This is the moment in America to give such a direction to poetry, painting and the other fine arts, that true and useful ideas of glory may be implanted in the minds of men here, to take place of the false and destructive ones that have degraded the species in other countries; impressions which have become so wrought into their most sacred institutions, that it is there thought impious to detect them and dangerous to root them out, tho acknowledged to be false. Wo be to the republican principle and to all the institutions it supports, when once the pernicious doctrine of the holiness of error shall creep into the creed of our schools and distort the intellect of our citizens!

[Joel Barlow from PREFACE 1809]

 

I sing the Mariner who first unfurl’d
An eastern banner o’er the western world,
And taught mankind where future empires lay
In these fair confines of descending day;
Who sway’d a moment, with vicarious power,
Iberia’s sceptre on the new found shore,
Then saw the paths his virtuous steps had trod
Pursued by avarice and defiled with blood,
The tribes he foster’d with paternal toil
Snatch’d from his hand, and slaughter’d for their spoil.

Slaves, kings, adventurers, envious of his name,
Enjoy’d his labours and purloin’d his fame,
And gave the Viceroy, from his high seat hurl’d.
Chains for a crown, a prison for a world
Long overwhelm’d in woes, and sickening there,
He met the slow still march of black despair,
Sought the last refuge from his hopeless doom,
And wish’d from thankless men a peaceful tomb:
Till vision’d ages, opening on his eyes,
Cheer’d his sad soul, and bade new nations rise;
He saw the Atlantic heaven with light o’ercast,
And Freedom crown his glorious work at last.

Almighty Freedom! give my venturous song
The force, the charm that to thy voice belong;
Tis thine to shape my course, to light my way,
To nerve my country with the patriot lay,
To teach all men where all their interest lies,
How rulers may be just and nations wise:
Strong in thy strength I bend no suppliant knee,
Invoke no miracle, no Muse but thee.

Joel Barlow: The Columbiad  (1809)

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