John Pierpont Poems >>
The Portrait

Why does the eye, with greater pleasure, rest
On the proud oak, in vernal honors drest,
When sultry gales, that to his arms repair,
Are cooled and freshened, while they linger there;
Than when his fading robes are seared, and cast
On the cold mercy of November's blast?—
Why on the rose, when first her bosom spreads
To drink the dew that summer's evening sheds,
Or when she blushes, on her native thorn,
To meet the kisses of the smiling morn;
Than when her leaves, neglected, fall around,
Flit on the breeze, or wither on the ground?—
Why on Apollo, when his coursers rise,
And breathe on man the ardor of the skies;
Than when they stoop, their fervid limbs to rest,
And drink the cooling waters of the west?—
And why on man, when buoyant hope beats high,
Health on his cheek, and lustre in his eye,
In every limb when youth and vigor dwell,
Brace every nerve, and every muscle swell;
Than when his frame displays the ruthless rage
Of care, and sorrow, and disease, and age?—
Why, but because the Author of the mind,
Enthroned in glory, and in light enshrined,
When first he beamed, upon the breathing clay,
The light divine of intellectual day,—
Perfect himself,—infused that spark of fire,
That still pursues its nature to aspire,
And warms the bosom with a generous glow,
Whene'er it meets perfection here below,
But sinks within us, with expiring ray,
When doomed to dwell on emblems of decay?

And, if the mind can thus, delighted, scan
A tree,—a flower,—the orb of day,—a man;
How must it swell, when from the womb of earth
It sees a nation "bursting into birth,"
And, by enchantment, planting on her strand
A flag, that waving o'er the sea and land,
By stripes and stars, on silken folds unfurled,
Displays her strength and splendor to the world!—
But if this prospect cheers the heart of man,
Whether he dwells in England or Japan,
Whether he hears the billowy Baltic roar,
Or courts the breeze on Coromandel's shore;
What a strong current of delight must roll,
Resistless, o'er the veteran soldier's soul,
Who, in the volume of that nation's fame,
By Clio written, reads his General's name!—
And if, my friends, the hardy soldier's pride
Would swell his breast, with such a generous tide,
While musing on his country, while he saw
The harmonious couple, Liberty and Law,
Attend his person wheresoe'er he roved,
And shield, at home, the family he loved,—
That wife, who, yielding to her country's call,
Resigned her husband, and in him her all;—
That child, who since upon his knees has hung,
And learned the battle from his father's tongue,
And, while the soldier proudly said, "My son,
That,"—pointing to his musket,—"that 's the gun
That gave you freedom, and when you 're a man,
Use it for me, when I no longer can,"—
Would weep to hear his sire's prophetic sigh,
And see the tear that trembled in his eye;—
If such a breast would swell with such a tide,
If such a heart would glow with such a pride,
If such an eye in tears of joy would melt,
What, while on earth, must Washington have felt!

Thou spotless patriot! thou illustrious man!
Methinks, while yet on earth, thy heaven began;
For is there pleasure purer, more refined,
More worthy of thine own ethereal mind,
Than thrilled, with lively transport, through thy frame,
And played around thy heart, with lambent flame,
To see Columbia, guided by thy hand,
Plant, in the bosom of thy native land,
That tree that flourished so divinely fair,
And took such root, beneath thy fostering care,
As soon o'er half a continent to spread
Its fragrant leaves, and give a nation shade;—
That tree, whose root descended from the skies,
That grows by culture, but neglected dies,
That tree, beneath whose boughs thy spirit fled,
That tree, whose fading leaves deplore the dead?
And now, great Father of thy Country, say,
Ere angels bore thee to the fields of day,
Did not thine eye, with holy rapture, view
That Tree of Liberty, while yet it grew
Vigorous and green?—And did it not impart,
To every fibre of thy godlike heart,
A joy, while waving o'er thy mortal brow,
Next to the amaranth, that shades thee now?

That hero 's dead!—And does his country mourn,
Embalm his ashes in a golden urn,
And in a sculptured vault the relics lay,
Where fires, like Vesta's, emulate the day
With light divine, as through its silent halls
The holy rays reflect from porphyry walls?—
Do temples, arched with Parian marble, rise
In regal pomp, beneath these western skies,
And on their front, emblazoned by the sun,
Give to the world the name of Washington?—
Breathes he in marble, in her senate's hall?
Lives he in bronze, within her Capitol?
Does the imperial mausoleum show,
In proud magnificence, her depth of woe?
And do her children, with a holy zeal,
From rough St. Lawrence to the warm Mobile,
For pilgrim's staff, their friends, their home resign,
And, like the Arab to Mohammed's shrine,
To that majestic monument repair,
And, for their country, pour a pilgrim's prayer?

Shame on that country! everlasting shame!
She bids no blazing sunbeam write his name;
His sacred ashes consecrate no urn;
No vault is sculptured, and no vestals mourn;
No marble temple meets the rising day;
No obelisk reflects the evening ray;
Those lips, long hushed in death, among his sons
Nor smile in marble, nor yet breathe in bronze;
No solemn anthem o'er his tomb is sung;
No prayer is heard there, from a pilgrim's tongue!—
But o'er the grave, where Vernon's hero sleeps,
The tall grass sighs, the waving willow weeps;
And, while the pale moon trembles through the trees,
That bend and rustle to the nightly breeze,
The bird of night,—the only mourner there,—
Pours on the chilling wind her solemn air;
While flows Potomac silently along,
And listens to her melancholy song.

And shall, my friends, the venerable dust,
That once enshrined the spirit of THE JUST,
Slumber forgotten?—Shall no patriot's tear,
Warm as the life-blood, trickle on his bier,
And soothe his mighty shade, that hovers nigh,
To catch the tear, and mingle with the sigh,
That flows for him, or breaks the silence dread,
That fills the oblivious mansion of the dead?
Nay,—shall the freemen whom his valor saved,
For whom, in life, a thousand deaths he braved,
And on whose sons, in rich profusion, poured
The joys of peace, the trophies of his sword,
In the black robes of infamy be drest,
Because their saviour's bones unhonored rest;—
And yet shall we, who meet with kindred minds,
Whom honor animates, and friendship binds;—
We, through whose veins,—as warmly as the blood
That warms our hearts,—rolls a congenial flood
Of fearless indignation, that belongs
To federal freemen, under federal wrongs;—
Shall we, on whom his sacred mantle rests,
Who wear the badge of union on our breasts;—
Shall we neglect the few pale flowers that bloom,
And shed their fragrance, on our father's tomb,
Braving, while rooted there, thy tempest rude,
And all thy wintry frosts, Ingratitude?
Then let each string that wakes, within my soul,—
Untaught by reason, and above control,—
A tone, accordant with the notes sublime,
That trembling float upon the tide of time,
Blown from the trump of Fame, to bear along
The warrior's valor, and the poet's song,
Cease its vibration;—let oblivion, then,
That first of federalists, that first of men,
Hide from my view for ever;—let no joy
Beam on my days;—let blighting blasts destroy
My every hope;—here let me live accursed,
The best my enemies, my friends the worst;—
And when Death's icy touch shall hush my tongue,
Be no grave opened, and no requiem sung;
But, from Earth's consecrated bosom thrust,
Let asps and adders coil upon my dust!

Then, while the hours pursue their viewless flight,
And roll along the sable car of night,
Let us, my friends, turn back our eyes, and gaze
On the bright orbs that gilded other days;
Each in his sphere, revolving round the sun,
That gave them warmth and lustre,—Washington.
But, while we see them in their orbits roll,
Bright as the stars, unshaken as the pole,
Pure as the dew, as summer's evening mild,
By no cloud shaded, by no lust defiled,
While all around their common centre sweep,
Illume the earth, or blaze along the deep,
Who, but exclaims, beneath the o'erwhelming light,
"Visions of Glory, spare my aching sight!"

Thou hoary monarch! since thy tyrant hand
First shook o'er earth thy sceptre and thy sand,
Or waved thy sithe, commissioned to destroy,
O'er Balbec's columns, or the towers of Troy,—
Nay, since in youth, thou bad'st the rosy hours
Smile upon Adam, under Eden's bowers,
Hadst thou e'er seen a clime, more blest than this,
More richly fraught with beauty and with bliss?
E'er seen a brighter constellation glow,
With all that 's pure and dignified below,
Than moved, harmonious, round that wondrous man,
Whose deeds of glory with his life began,
Whose name, the proudest on thy proudest page,
Shall fill with admiration every age!

Then, with such rays as gild the morning, shone,
In peerless pomp, thy genius, Hamilton!
Sublime as heaven, and vigorous as sublime,
He, in his flight, outstripped the march of Time,
Plucked from each age the product of each soil,
And o'er thy country poured the generous spoil.
By thine own labors, without aid from France,
We saw the splendid fabric of finance,—
Beneath whose dome, confusion, in thy hands,
Order became; and (even as did the sands,
O'er which the waters of Puctolus rolled,
When Midas touched them,) paper turned to gold,—
At once, the boast and wonder of mankind,
Rise at thy spell,—the creature of thy mind.
Thus, when Amphion left Cith