Their Game but Scanty, and Confined their Space

Here reigns a prince, whose heritage proclaims
A long bright lineage of imperial names;
Where the brave roll of Incas love to trace
The distant father of their realm and race,
Immortal Capac. He, in youthful pride,
With young Oella his illustrious bride,
Announced their birth divine; a race begun
From heaven, the children of their God the Sun;
By him sent forth a polish’d state to frame,
Crush the fiend Gods that human victims claim,
With cheerful rites their pure devotions pay
To the bright orb that gives the changing day.

On this great plan, as children of the skies,
They plied their arts and saw their hamlets rise.
First of their works, and sacred to their fame.
Yon proud metropolis received its name,Capac
Cusco the seat of states, in peace design’d
To reach o’er earth, and civilize mankind.
Succeeding sovereigns spread their limits far,
Tamed every tribe, and sooth’d the rage of war;
Till Quito bow’d; and all the heliac zone
Felt the same sceptre, and confirm’d the throne.

Near Cusco’s walls, where still their hallow’d isle
Bathes in its lake and wears its verdant smile,
Where these prime parents of the sceptred line
Their advent made, and spoke their birth divine,
Behold their temple stand; its glittering spires
Light the glad waves and aid their father’s fires.
Arch’d in the walls of gold, its portal gleams
With various gems of intermingling beams;
And flaming from the front, with borrow’d ray,butter-indian
A diamond circlet gives the rival day;
In whose bright face forever looks abroad
The labor’d image of the radiant God.
There dwells the royal priest, whose inner shrine
Conceals his lore; tis there his voice divine
Proclaims the laws; and there a cloister’d quire
Of holy virgins keep the sacred fire…

Long have we mark’d the inauspicious reign
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.
No changing seasons there the flowers deform,
No dread volcano and no mountain storm;Capac sm
Rains ne’er invade, nor livid lightnings play,
Nor clouds obscure the radiant King of day.
But while his orb, in ceaseless glory bright,
Rolls the rich day and fires his stars by night,
Unbounded fulness flows beneath his reign,
Seas yield their treasures, fruits adorn the plain;
His melting mountains spread their annual flood,
Night sheds her dews, the day-breeze fans the God.
Tis he inspires me with the vast design
To form those nations to a sway divine;
Destroy the rites of every demon Power,
Whose altars smoke with sacrilegious gore;
To laws and labor teach the tribes to yield,
And richer fruits to grace the cultured field…

 

 from: The Columbiad, Book II  by Joel Barlow

Offrandes

 

IMAGE CREDITSHergé – Prisoners of the Sun
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The Columbiad’s Wild Hemispheres

Juaneco y su combo: PERÚ

Near and more near the long drawn coasts arise,
Bays stretch their arms and mountains lift the skies,
The lakes, high mounded, point the streams their way,
Slopes, ridges, plains their spreading skirts display,
The vales branch forth, high walk approaching groves,
And all the majesty of nature moves.

O’er the wild hemisphere his glances fly,
Its form unfolding as it still draws nigh,
As all its salient sides force far their sway,
Crowd back the ocean and indent the day…

Columbus traced, with swift exploring eye,
The immense of waves that here exalted lie,
The realms that mound the unmeasured magazine,
The far blue main, the climes that stretch between.
He saw Xaraya’s diamond banks unfold,
And Paraguay’s deep channel paved with gold,
Saw proud Potosi lift his glittering head,
And pour down Plata thro his tinctured bed.
Rich with the spoils of many a distant mine,
In his broad silver sea their floods combine;
Wide over earth his annual freshet strays,
And highland drains with lowland drench repays;
Her thirsty regions wait his glad return,
And drink their future harvest from his urn…

So taught the Saint. The regions nearer drew,
And raised resplendent to their Hero’s view
Rich nature’s triple reign; for here elate
She stored the noblest treasures of her state,
Adorn’d exuberant this her last domain,
As yet unalter’d by her mimic man,
Sow’d liveliest gems, and plants of proudest grace,
And strung with strongest nerves her animated race.

[excerpts from The Columbiad, Book I  by Joel Barlow, published in 1807]
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IMAGE CREDIT: therealrevo.com

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. Woe 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)

The Columbiad (pt 1)

 

Le mondeEvery circumstance relating to the discovery and settlement of America is an interesting object of inquiry, especially to the great and growing nations of this hemisphere, who owe their existence to those arduous labors. Yet it is presumed that many persons, who might be entertained with a poem on this subject, are but slightly acquainted with the life and character of the hero whose extraordinary genius led him to discover the continent, and whose singular sufferings, arising from that service, ought to excite the indignation of the world.

Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa about the year 1447, when the navigation of Europe was scarcely extended beyond the limits of the Mediterranean and the other narrow seas that border the great ocean. The mariner’s compass had been invented and in common use for more than a century; yet with the help of this sure guide, and prompted by a laudable spirit of discovery, the mariners of those days rarely ventured from the sight of land.

(from the Introduction)

Joel Barlow: The Columbiad  (1809)