The First American Congress
Columbus looked; and still around them spread,
From south to north, th' immeasurable shade;
At last, the central shadows burst away,
And rising regions open'd on the day.
He saw, once more, bright Del'ware's silver stream,
And Penn's throng'd city cast a cheerful gleam;
The dome of state, that met his eager eye,
Now heav'd its arches in a loftier sky.
The bursting gates unfold: and lo, within,
A solemn train in conscious glory shine.
The well-known forms his eye had trac'd before,
In diff'rent realms along th' extended shore;
Here, grac'd with nobler fame, and rob'd in state,
They look'd and mov'd magnificently great.
High on the foremost seat, in living light,
Majestic Randolph caught the hero's sight:
Fair on his head, the civic crown was plac'd,
And the first dignity his sceptre grac'd.
He opes the cause, and points in prospect far,
Thro' all the toils that wait th' impending war --
But, hapless sage, thy reign must soon be o'er,
To lend thy lustre, and to shine no more.
So the bright morning star, from shades of ev'n,
Leads up the dawn, and lights the front of heav'n,
Points to the waking world the sun's broad way,
Then veils his own, and shines above the day.
And see great Washington behind thee rise,
Thy following sun, to gild our morning skies;
O'er shadowy climes to pour the enliv'ning flame,
The charms of freedom and the fire of fame.
Th' ascending chief adorn'd his splendid seat,
Like Randolph, ensign'd with a crown of state;
Where the green patriot bay beheld, with pride,
The hero's laurel springing by its side;
His sword, hung useless, on his graceful thigh,
On Britain still he cast a filial eye;
But sov'reign fortitude his visage bore,
To meet their legions on th' invaded shore.
Sage Franklin next arose, in awful mien,
And smil'd, unruffled, o'er th' approaching scene;
High, on his locks of age, a wreath was brac'd,
Palm of all arts, that e'er a mortal grac'd;
Beneath him lies the sceptre kings have borne,
And crowns and laurels from their temples torn.
Nash, Rutledge, Jefferson, in council great,
And Jay and Laurens op'd the rolls of fate.
The Livingstons, fair Freedom's gen'rous band,
The Lees, the Houstons, fathers of the land,
O'er climes and kingdoms turn'd their ardent eyes,
Bade all th' oppressed to speedy vengeance rise;
All pow'rs of state, in their extended plan,
Rise from consent to shield the rights of man.
Bold Wolcott urg'd the all-important cause;
With steady hand the solemn scene he draws;
Undaunted firmness with his wisdom join'd,
Nor kings nor worlds could warp his stedfast mind.
Now, graceful rising from his purple throne,
In radiant robes, immortal Hosmer shone;
Myrtles and bays his learned temples bound,
The statesman's wreath, the poet's garland crown'd:
Morals and laws expand his liberal soul,
Beam from his eyes, and in his accents roll.
But lo! an unseen hand the curtain drew,
And snatch'd the patriot from the hero's view;
Wrapp'd in the shroud of death, he sees descend
The guide of nations and the muses' friend.
Columbus dropp'd a tear. The angel's eye
Trac'd the freed spirit mounting thro' the sky.
Adams, enrag'd, a broken charter bore,
And lawless acts of ministerial pow'r;
Some injur'd right in each loose leaf appears,
A king in terrors and a land in tears;
From all the guileful plots the veil he drew,
With eye retortive look'd creation through;
Op'd the wide range of nature's boundless plan,
Trac'd all the steps of liberty and man;
Crowds rose to vengeance while his accents rung,
And Independence thunder'd from his tongue.
Joel Barlow's Other Poems
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