Post-Post-Columbiad

Timothy Dwight (1752–1817)

COLUMBIA, Columbia, to glory arise,

The queen of the world, and the child of the skies!

Thy genius commands thee; with rapture behold,

While ages on ages thy splendors unfold.

Thy reign is the last, and the noblest of time,

Most fruitful thy soil, most inviting thy clime;

Let the crimes of the east ne’er encrimson thy name,

Be freedom, and science, and virtue thy fame.

To conquest and slaughter let Europe aspire;

Whelm nations in blood, and wrap cities in fire;

Thy heroes the rights of mankind shall defend,

And triumph pursue them, and glory attend.

A world is thy realm: for a world be thy laws,

Enlarged as thine empire, and just as thy cause;

On freedom’s broad basis, that empire shall rise,

Extend with the main, and dissolve with the skies.

Fair Science her gates to thy sons shall unbar,

And the east see thy morn hide the beams of her star.

New bards, and new sages, unrivall’d shall soar

To fame unextinguish’d, when time is no more;

To thee, the last refuge of virtue designed,

Shall fly from all nations the best of mankind;

Here, grateful to heaven, with transport shall bring

Their incense, more fragrant than odors of spring.

Nor less shall thy fair ones to glory ascend,

And genius and beauty in harmony blend;

The graces of form shall awake pure desire,

And the charms of the soul ever cherish the fire;

Their sweetness unmingled, their manners refined,

And virtue’s bright image, instamp’d on the mind

With peace, and soft rapture, shall teach life to glow,

And light up a smile in the aspect of woe.

Thy fleets to all regions thy power shall display,

The nations admire, and the ocean obey;

Each shore to thy glory its tribute unfold,

And the east and the south yield their spices and gold.

As the day-spring unbounded, thy splendor shall flow,

And earth’s little kingdoms before thee shall bow:

While the ensigns of union, in triumph unfurl’d,

Hush the tumult of war, and give peace to the world.

Thus, as down a lone valley, with cedars o’erspread,

From war’s dread confusion I pensively stray’d—

The gloom from the face of fair heaven retired;

The winds ceased to murmur; the thunders expired;

Perfumes, as of Eden, flow’d sweetly along,

And a voice, as of angels, enchantingly sung:

“Columbia, Columbia, to glory arise,

The queen of the world and the child of the skies.”

 

 Poetic GOLD HERE !

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Post-Columbiad: Barlow’s High Bar

Joel B

I learned that Joel Barlow began as a chaplain to the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and ended as a Liberal who supported the French Revolution and dreamed of global government. He was a personal friend of both Thomas Jefferson and Tom Paine. Maybe some day I will read EVERY LINE of his Columbiad.

The Columbiad versifies about geological evidence contrary to the Christian creation story, describes the secular apocalypse that will come if Americans fail to emancipate their slaves, and ends with representatives of the major religions discarding the symbols of their faith to join into a one world-governing council, based in a crystal palace in Mesopotamia.

The British reviewer  cited above tries to label Barlow as having become an atheist in the later stages of his life. Reading from the last book of The Columbiad it seems doubtful to me. And yet the Aquila Report confirms this idea and holds Barlow up as America’s first acclaimed atheist in the public sphere.

Regardless of his beliefs and values, I still love Barlow’s poetry though I appear to be going against the current on that one. I love his use of lyrically obscure vocabulary. I love his broad range of pan-continental and environmental imagery. I love his lists of tributary rivers, empires, natural phenomena, kingdoms and historical personages. His poetry gets me very high.

But his global optimism and his sense of inevitable moral progress is so pronounced that it is depressing—to contrast his lofty humanist dream of the world’s future to yesterday’s news is too much of a disjuncture. Barlow thought America was destined to democratically guide the nations of the world into a global republic based on reason and moral restraint. What would he say today? How far off was his vision?

The end of this 9-volume poem has lots of gold to mine. His verse begs to be satirized, I know, but I still love it. Just because we have degenerated to the point that we lack appreciation for his work does not detract from its quality.

Poetically, Barlow set the bar quite high:

Thus Physic Science, with exploring eyes,
First o’er the nations bids her beauties rise,
Prepares the glorious way to pour abroad
Her Sister’s brighter beams, the purest light of God.
Then Moral Science leads the lively mind
Liberté
Thro broader fields and pleasures more refined;
Teaches the temper’d soul, at one vast view,
To glance o’er time and look existence thro,
See worlds and worlds, to being’s formless end,
With all their hosts on her prime power depend,
Seraphs and suns and systems, as they rise,
Live in her life and kindle from her eyes,
Her cloudless ken, her all-pervading soul
Illume, sublime and harmonize the whole;
Teaches the pride of man its breadth to bound
In one small point of this amazing round,
To shrink and rest where nature fixt its fate,
A line its space, a moment for its date;
Instructs the heart an ampler joy to taste,
And share its feelings with each human breast,
Expand its wish to grasp the total kind
Of sentient soul, of cogitative mind;
Till mutual love commands all strife to cease,
And earth join joyous in the songs of peace.

Thus heard Columbus, eager to behold
The famed Apocalypse its years unfold;
The soul stood speaking thro his gazing eyes,
And thus his voice: Oh let the visions rise!
Command, celestial Guide, from each far pole,
John’s vision’d morn to open on my soul,
And raise the scenes, by his reflected light,
Living and glorious to my longing sight.
Let heaven unfolding show the eternal throne,
And all the concave flame in one clear sun;
On clouds of fire, with angels at his side,
The Prince of Peace, the King of Salem ride,
With smiles of love to greet the bridal earth,
Call slumbering ages to a second birth,
With all his white-robed millions fill the train,
And here commence the interminable reign!

from: The Columbiad, Book IX by Joel Barlow

I Guard the Flying Rear

Juaneco y su comboPERÚ

Now the Peruvians, in collected might,
With one wide stroke had wing’d the savage flight
But their bright Godhead, in his midday race,
With glooms unusual veil’d his radiant face,
Quench’d all his beams, tho cloudless, in affright,
As loth to view from heaven the finish’d fight.
A trembling twilight o’er the welkin moves,
Browns the dim void, and darkens deep the groves;
The waking stars, embolden’d at the sight,
Peep out and gem the anticipated night…
When pious Capac to the listening crowd
Raised high his wand and pour’d his voice aloud:
Ye chiefs and warriors of Peruvian race,
Some sore offence obscures my father’s face;
What moves the Numen to desert the plain,
Nor save his children, nor behold them slain?
Fly! speed your course, regain the guardian town,
Ere darkness shroud you in a deeper frown;
The faithful walls your squadrons shall defend,
While my sad steps the sacred dome ascend,
To learn the cause, and ward the woes we fear:
Haste, haste, my sons! I guard the flying rear…

excerpt from: The Columbiad, Book III  by Joel Barlow

Inca Eclipse

 

 

Quito Rears Her Fanes

The clime where Quito since hath rear’d her fanes,
And now no more her barbarous rites maintains.
He saw these vales in richer blooms array’d,
And tribes more numerous haunt the woodland shade…

Yet softer fires his daring views control,
And mixt emotions fill his changing soul.
Shall genius rare, that might the world improve,
Bend to the milder voice of careless love,
That bounds his glories, and forbids to part
From bowers that woo’d his fluctuating heart?
Or shall the toils imperial heroes claim
Fire his brave bosom with a patriot flame,Prisoners-of-Sun-inca-dream
Bid sceptres wait him on Peruvia’s shore,
And loved Oella meet his eyes no more?

Sudden his near approach the maid alarms;
He flew enraptured to her yielding arms,
And lost, dissolving in a softer flame,
His distant empire and the fire of fame.
At length, retiring thro the homeward field,
Their glowing souls to cooler converse yield;
O’er various scenes of blissful life they ran,
When thus the warrior to the maid began:
Long have we mark’d the inauspicious reignCapac round
That waits our sceptre in this rough domain;
A soil ungrateful and a wayward race,
Their game but scanty, and confined their space.
Where late my steps the southern war pursued,
The fertile plains grew boundless as I view’d;
More numerous nations trod the grassy wild,
And joyous nature more delightful smiled…

 

The Argument: Natives of America appear in vision.
Their manners and characters. Columbus demands the cause of the dissimilarity of men in different countries, Hesper replies, That the human body is composed of a due proportion of the elements suited to the place of its first formation; that these elements, differently proportioned, produce all the changes of health, sickness, growth and decay; and may likewise produce any other changes which occasion the diversity of men; that these elemental proportions are varied, not more by climate than temperature and other local circumstances; that the mind is likewise in a state of change, and will take its physical character from the body and from external objects: examples. Inquiry concerning the first peopling of America.

excerpts from: The Columbiad, Book II  by Joel Barlow

Princesas