Eighteen Hundred And Thirty

Sarah Josepha Hale (1788–1879)

We bring no earthly wreath for Time;
To man th’immortal Time was given—
Years should be marked by deeds sublime,
That elevate his soul to heaven.
Thou proudly passing year—thy name
Is registered in mind’s bright flame,
And louder than the roar of waves,
Thundering from ocean’s prison caves,
Comes the glad shout that hallows thee
The Year of Freedom’s Jubilee!
‘Tis strange how mind has been chained down,
And reason scourged like branded sin!
How man has shrunk before man’s frown,
And darkened heaven’s own fire within!
But Freedom breathed-the flame burst forth—
Wo to the spoilers of the earth,
Who would withstand its lightning stroke,
And heavier forge the galling yoke;—
As well the breaking reed might dare
The cataract’s rush—the whirlwind’s war!
Ay, thrones must crumble—even as clay,
Searched by the scorching sun and wind!
And crushed be Superstition’s sway
That would with writing scorpions bind
The terror-stricken conscience down
Beneath anointed monarch’s frown;
Till Truth is in her temple sought,
The soul’s unbribed, unfettered thought,
That, science-guided, soars unawed,
And reading Nature rests on God!
This must be-is-the passing year
Has rent the veil, and despots stand
In the keen glance of Truth severe,
With craven brow and palsied hand:—
Ye, who would make man’s spirit free,
And change the Old World’s destiny,
Bring forth from Learning’s halls the light,
And watch, that Virtue’s shield be bright;
Then to the ‘God of order’ raise
The vow of faith, the song of praise,
And on-and sweep Oppression’s chains,
Like ice beneath the vernal rains!
My Country, ay, thy sons are proud,
True heirs of Freedom’s glorious dower;
For never here has knee been bowed
In homage to a mortal power:
No, never here has tyrant reigned,
And never here has thought been chained!
Then who would follow Europe’s sickly light,
When here the soul may put forth all her might,
And show the nations, as they gaze in awe,
That Wisdom dwells with Liberty and Law!
O, when will Time his holiest triumph bring—
‘Freedom o’er all the earth, and Christ alone reigns King!’


Loose-Reined Careers of Poetry

selection: Elegy on the Death of Thomas Shepard
Urian Oakes (1631–1681)

OH! that I were a Poet now in grain!
How would I invocate the Muses all
To deign their presence, lend their flowing Vein,
And help to grace dear Shepard’s Funeral!
How would I paint our griefs, and succours borrow
From Art and Fancy, to limn out our sorrow!

Now could I wish (if wishing would obtain)
The sprightli’est Efforts of Poetick Rage,
To vent my Griefs, make others feel my pain,
For this loss of the Glory of our Age.
Here is a subject for the loftiest Verse
That ever waited on the bravest Hearse.

And could my Pen ingeniously distill
The purest Spirits of a sparkling wit
In rare conceits, the quintessence of skill
In Elegiack Strains; none like to it:
I should think all too little to condole
The fatal loss (to us) of such a Soul

Could I take highest Flights of Fancy, soar
Aloft; If Wits Monopoly were mine:
All would be much too low, too light, too poor,
To pay due tribute to this great Divine.
Ah! Wit avails not, when th’Heart’s like to break,
Great griefs are Tongue ti’ed, when the lesser speak.

Away loose rein’d Careers of Poetry,
The celebrated Sisters may be gone;
We need no Mourning Womens Elegy,
No forc’d, affected, artificial Tone.
Great and good Shepard’s Dead! Ah! this alone
Will set our eyes abroach, dissolve a stone.

Poetick Raptures are of no esteem,
Daring Hyperboles have here no place,
Luxuriant Wits on such a copious Theme,
Would shame themselves, and blush to shew their face
Here’s worth enough to overmatch the skill
Of the most stately Poet Laureat’s Quill.

Inconceivable Wretchedness vs. Supernatural Beings

Among a democratic people poetry will not be fed with legends or the memorials of old traditions. The poet will not attempt to people the universe with supernatural beings, in whom his readers and his own fancy have ceased to believe; nor will he coldly personify virtues and vices, which are better received under their own features. All these resources fail him; but Man remains, and the poet needs no more. The destinies of mankind, man himself taken aloof from his country and his age and standing in the presence of Nature and of God, with his passions, his doubts, his rare prosperities and inconceivable wretchedness, will become the chief, if not the sole, theme of poetry among these nations.

Of Some Sources of Poetry Among Democratic Nations
Alexis De Tocqueville: Democracy in America, published 1835 – 1840

Poetry: Completer Notions

If man were wholly ignorant of himself, he would have no poetry in him; for it is impossible to describe what the mind does not conceive. If man clearly discerned his own nature, his imagination would remain idle and would have nothing to add to the picture. But the nature of man is sufficiently disclosed for him to know something of himself, and sufficiently obscure for all the rest to be plunged in thick darkness, in which he gropes forever, and forever in vain, to lay hold on some completer notion of his being.

Of Some Sources of Poetry Among Democratic Nations

Alexis De Tocqueville: Democracy in America, published 1835–1840