The Columbiad: Book Vi - Poem by Joel Barlow
British cruelty to American prisoners. Prison Ship. Retreat of Washington with the relics of his army, pursued by Howe. Washington recrossing the Delaware in the night, to surprise the British van, is opposed by uncommon obstacles. His success in this audacious enterprise lays the foundation of the American empire. A monument to be ere on the bank of the Delaware. Approach of Burgoyne, sailing up the St. Laurence with an army of Britons and various other nations. Indignant energy of the colonies, compared to that of Greece in opposing the invasion of Xerxes. Formation of an army of citizens, under the command of Gates. Review of the American and British armies, and of the savage tribes who join the British standard. Battle of Saratoga. Story of Lucinda. Second battle, and capture of Burgoyne and his army.
But of all tales that war's black annals hold,
The darkest, foulest still remains untold;
New modes of torture wait the shameful strife,
And Britain wantons in the waste of life.
Cold-blooded Cruelty, first fiend of hell,
Ah think no more with savage hordes to dwell;
Quit the Caribian tribes who eat their slain,
Fly that grim gang, the Inquisitors of Spain,
Boast not thy deeds in Moloch's shrines of old,
Leave Barbary's pirates to their blood-bought gold,
Let Holland steal her victims, force them o'er
To toils and death on Java's morbid shore;
Some cloak, some color all these crimes may plead;
Tis avarice, passion, blind religion's deed;
But Britons here, in this fraternal broil,
Grave, cool, deliberate in thy service toil.
Far from the nation's eye, whose nobler soul
Their wars would humanize, their pride control,
They lose the lessons that her laws impart,
And change the British for the brutal heart.
Fired by no passion, madden'd by no zeal,
No priest, no Plutus bids them not to feel;
Unpaid, gratuitous, on torture bent,
Their sport is death, their pastime to torment;
All other gods they scorn, but bow the knee,
And curb, well pleased, O Cruelty, to thee.
Come then, curst goddess, where thy votaries reign,
Inhale their incense from the land and main;
Come to Newyork, their conquering arms to greet,
Brood o'er their camp and breathe along their fleet;
The brother chiefs of Howe's illustrious name
Demand thy labors to complete their fame.
What shrieks of agony thy praises sound!
What grateless dungeons groan beneath the ground!
See the black Prison Ship's expanding womb
Impested thousands, quick and dead, entomb.
Barks after barks the captured seamen bear,
Transboard and lodge thy silent victims there;
A hundred scows, from all the neighboring shore,
Spread the dull sail and ply the constant oar,
Waft wrecks of armies from the well fought field,
And famisht garrisons who bravely yield;
They mount the hulk, and, cramm'd within the cave,
Hail their last house, their living, floating grave.
She comes, the Fiend! her grinning jaws expand,
Her brazen eyes cast lightning o'er the strand,
Her wings like thunder-clouds the welkin sweep,
Brush the tall spires and shade the shuddering deep;
She gains the deck, displays her wonted store,
Her cords and scourges wet with prisoners' gore;
Gripes, pincers, thumb-screws spread beneath her feet,
Slow poisonous drugs and loads of putrid meat;
Disease hangs drizzling from her slimy locks,
And hot contagion issues from her box.
O'er the closed hatches ere she takes her place,
She moves the massy planks a little space,
Opes a small passage to the cries below,
That feast her soul on messages of woe;
There sits with gaping ear and changeless eye,
Drinks every groan and treasures every sigh,
Sustains the faint, their miseries to prolong,
Revives the dying and unnerves the strong.
But as the infected mass resign their breath.
She keeps with joy the register of death.
As tost thro portholes from the encumber'd cave,
Corpse after corpse fall dashing in the wave;
Corpse after corpse, for days and months and years,
The tide bears off, and still its current clears;
At last, o'erloaded with the putrid gore,
The slime-clad waters thicken round the shore.
Green Ocean's self, that oft his wave renews,
That drinks whole fleets with all their battling crews,
That laves, that purifies the earth and sky,
Yet ne'er before resign'd his natural dye,
Here purples, blushes for the race he bore
To rob and ravage this unconquer'd shore;
The scaly nations, as they travel by,
Catch the contagion, sicken, gasp and die.
Now Hesper turns the Hero's tearful eye
To other fields where other standards fly;
For here constrain'd new warfare to disclose,
And show the feats of more than mortal foes,
Where interposing with celestial might,
His own dread labors must decide the fight,
He bids the scene with pomp unusual rise,
To teach Columbus how to read the skies.
He marks the trace of Howe's triumphant course,
And wheels o'er Jersey plains his gathering force;
Where dauntless Washington, begirt with foes,
Still greater rises as the danger grows,
And wearied troops, o'er kindred warriors slain,
Attend his march thro many a sanguine plain.
From Hudson's bank to Trenton's wintry strand,
He guards in firm retreat his feeble band;
Britons by thousands on his flanks advance,
Bend o'er his rear and point the lifted lance.
Past Delaware's frozen stream, with scanty force,
He checks retreat; then turning back his course,
Remounts the wave, and thro the mingled roar
Of ice and storm reseeks the hostile shore,
Wrapt in the gloom of night. The offended Flood
Starts from his cave, assumes the indignant god,
Rears thro the parting tide his foamy form,
And with his fiery eyeballs lights the storm.
He stares around him on the host he heard,
Clears his choked urn and smooths his icy beard,
And thus: Audacious chief, this troubled wave
Tempt not; or tempting, here shall gape thy grave.
Is nothing sacred to thy venturous might?
The howling storm, the holy truce of night,
High tossing ice-isles crashing round thy side,
Insidious rocks that pierce the tumbling tide?
Fear then this forceful arm, and hear once more,
Death stands between thee and that shelvy shore.
The chief beholds the god, and notes his cry,
But onward drives, nor pauses to reply;
Calls to each bark, and spirits every host
To toil, gain, tempt the interdicted coast.
The crews, regardless of the doubling roar,
Breast the strong helm, and wrestle with the oar,
Stem with resurgent prow the struggling spray,
And with phosphoric lanterns shape their way.
The god perceived his warning words were vain,
And rose more furious to assert his reign,
Lash'd up a loftier surge, and heaved on high
A ridge of billows that obstruct the sky;
And, as the accumulated mass he rolls,
Bares the sharp rocks and lifts the gaping shoals.
Forward the fearless barges plunge and bound,
Top the curl'd wave, or grind the flinty ground,
Careen, whirl, right, and sidelong dasht and tost,
Now seem to reach and now to lose the coast.
Still unsubdued the sea-drench'd army toils,
Each buoyant skiff the flouncing godhead foils;
He raves and roars, and in delirious woe
Calls to his aid his ancient hoary foe,
Almighty Frost; when thus the vanquish'd Flood
Bespeaks in haste the great earth-rending god:
Father of storms! behold this mortal race
Confound my force and brave me to my face.
Not all my waves by all my tempests driven,
Nor black night brooding o'er the starless heaven,
Can check their course; they toss and plunge amain,
And lo, my guardian rocks project their points in vain.
Come to my help, and with thy stiffening breath
Clog their strain'd helms, distend their limbs indeath.
Tho ancient enmity our realms divide,
And oft thy chains arrest my laboring tide,
Let strong necessity our cause combine,
Thy own disgrace anticipate in mine;
Even now their oars thy sleet in vain congeals,
Thy crumbling ice-cakes crash beneath their keels;
Their impious arms already cope with ours,
And mortal man defies immortal Powers.
Roused at the call, the Monarch mounts the storm;
In muriat flakes he robes his nitrous form,
Glares thro the compound, all its blast inhales,
And seas turn crystal where he breathes his gales.
He comes careering o'er his bleak domain,
But comes untended by his usual train;
Hail, sleet and snow-rack far behind him fly,
Too weak to wade thro this petrific sky,
Whose air consolidates and cuts and stings,
And shakes hoar tinsel from its flickering wings.
Earth heaves and cracks beneath the alighting god;
He gains the pass, bestrides the roaring flood,
Shoots from his nostrils one wide withering sheet
Of treasured meteors on the struggling fleet;
The waves conglaciate instant, fix in air,
Stand like a ridge of rocks, and shiver there.
The barks, confounded in their headlong surge,
Or wedged in crystal, cease their oars to urge;
Some with prone prow, as plunging down the deep,
And some remounting o'er the slippery steep
Seem laboring still, but moveless, lifeless all;
And the chill'd army here awaits its fall.
But Hesper, guardian of Hesperia's right,
From his far heaven looks thro the rayless night;
And, stung to vengeance at the unequal strife,
To save her host, in jeopardy of life,
Starts from his throne, ascends his flamy car.
And turns tremendous to the field of war.
His wheels, resurging from the depth of even,
Roll back the night, streak wide the startled heaven,
Regain their easting with reverted gyres,
And stud their path with scintillating fires.
He cleaves the clouds; and, swift as beams of day,
O'er California sweeps his splendid way;
Missouri's mountains at his passage nod,
And now sad Delaware feels the present god,
And trembles at his tread. For here to fight
Rush two dread Powers of such unmeasured might,
As threats to annihilate his doubtful reign,
Convulse the heaven and mingle earth and main.
Frost views his brilliant foe with scornful eye,
And whirls a tenfold tempest thro the sky;
Where each fine atom of the immense of air,
Steel'd, pointed, barb'd for unexampled war,
Sings o'er the shuddering ground; when thus he broke
Contemptuous silence, and to Hesper spoke:
Thou comest in time to share their last disgrace,
To change to crystal with thy rebel race,
Stretch thy huge corse o'er Delaware's bank afar,
And learn the force of elemental war.
Or if undying life thy lamp inspire,
Take that one blast and to thy sky retire;
There, roll'd eternal round the heavens, proclaim
Thy own disaster and my deathless fame.
I come, said Hesper, not to insult the brave,
But break thy sceptre and let loose my wave,
Teach the proud Stream more peaceful tides to roll,
And send thee howling to thy stormy pole;
That drear dominion shall thy rage confine;
This land, these waters and those troops are mine.
He added not; and now the sable storm,
Pierced by strong splendor, burst before his form;
His visage stern an awful lustre shed,
His pearly planet play'd around his head.
He seized a lofty pine, whose roots of yore
Struck deep in earth, to guard the sandy shore
From hostile ravage of the mining tide,
That rakes with spoils of earth its crumbling side.
He wrencht it from the soil, and o'er the foe
Whirl'd the strong trunk, and aim'd a sweeping blow,
That sung thro air, but miss'd the moving god,
And fell wide crashing on the frozen flood.
For many a rood the shivering ice it tore,
Loosed every bark and shook the sounding shore;
Stroke after stroke with doubling force he plied,
Foil'd the hoar Fiend and pulverized the tide.
The baffled tyrant quits the desperate cause;
From Hesper's heat the river swells and thaws,
The fleet rolls gently to the Jersey coast,
And morning splendors greet the landing host.
Tis here dread Washington, when first the day
O'er Trenton beam'd to light his rapid way,
Pour'd the rude shock on Britain's vanguard train,
And led whole squadrons in his captive chain;
Where veteran troops to half their numbers yield,
Tread back their steps, or press the sanguine field,
To Princeton plains precipitate their flight,
Thro new disasters and unfinish'd fight,
Resign their conquests by one sad surprise,
Sink in their pride and see their rivals rise.
Here dawn'd the daystar of Hesperia's fame,
Here herald glory first emblazed her name;
On Delaware's bank her base of empire stands,
The work of Washington's immortal hands;
Prompt at his side while gallant Mercer trod,
And seal'd the firm foundation with his blood.
In future years, if right the Muse divine,
Some great memorial on this bank shall shine;
A column bold its granite shaft shall rear,
Swell o'er the strand and check the passing air,
Cast its broad image on the watery glade,
And Bristol greet the monumental shade;
Eternal emblem of that gloomy hour,
When the great general left her storm-beat shore,
To tempest, night and his own sword consign'd
His country's fates, the fortunes of mankind.
Where sealike Laurence, rolling in his pride,
With Ocean's self disputes the tossing tide,
From shore to shore, thro dim distending skies,
Beneath full sails imbanded nations rise.
Britain and Brunswick here their flags unfold,
Here Hessia's hordes, for toils of slaughter sold,
Anspach and Darmstadt swell the hireling train,
Proud Caledonia crowds the masted main,
Hibernian kerns and Hanoverian slaves
Move o'er the decks and darken wide the waves.
Tall on the boldest bark superior shone
A warrior ensign'd with a various crown;
Myrtles and laurels equal honors join'd,
Which arms had purchased and the Muses twined;
His sword waved forward, and his ardent eye
Seem'd sharing empires in the southern sky.
Beside him rose a herald to proclaim
His various honors, titles, feats and fame;
Who raised an opening scroll, where proudly shone
Burgoyne and vengeance from the British throne.
Champlain receives the congregated host,
And his husht waves beneath the sails are lost;
Ticonderoga rears his rocks in vain,
Nor Edward's walls the weighty shock sustain;
Deep George's loaded lake reluctant guides
Their bounding barges o'er his sacred tides.
State after state the splendid pomp appalls,
Each town surrenders, every fortress falls;
Sinclair retires; and with his feeble train,
In slow retreat o'er many a fatal plain,
Allures their march; wide moves their furious force,
And flaming hamlets mark their wasting course;
Thro fortless realms their spreading ranks are wheel'd,
On Mohawk's wrestern wave, on Bennington's dread field.
At last where Hudson, with majestic pace,
Swells at the sight, and checks his rapid race,
Thro dark Stillwater slow and silent moves,
And flying troops with sullen pause reproves,
A few firm bands their starry standard rear,
Wheel, front and face the desolating war.
Sudden the patriot flame each province warms,
Deep danger calls, the freemen quit their farms,
Seize their tried muskets, name their chiefs to lead,
Endorse their knapsacks and to vengeance speed.
O'er all the land the kindling ardor flies,
Troop follows troop, and flags on flags arise,
Concentred, train'd, their forming files unite,
Swell into squadrons and demand the fight.
When Xerxes, raving at his sire's disgrace,
Pour'd his dark millions on the coast of Thrace,
O'er groaning Hellespont his broad bridge hurl'd,
Hew'd ponderous Athos from the trembling world,
Still'd with his weight of ships the struggling main,
And bound the billows in his boasted chain,
Wide o'er proud Macedon he wheel'd his course,
Thrace, Thebes, Thessalia join'd his furious force.
Thro six torn states his hovering swarms increase,
And hang tremendous on the skirts of Greece;
Deep groan the shrines of all her guardian gods,
Sad Pelion shakes, divine Olympus nods,
Shock'd Ossa sheds his hundred hills of snow,
And Tempe swells her murmuring brook below;
Wild in her starts of rage the Pythian shrieks,
Dodona's Oak the pangs of nature speaks,
Eleusis quakes thro all her mystic caves,
And black Trophonius gapes a thousand graves.
But soon the freeborn Greeks to vengeance rise,
Brave Sparta springs where first the danger lies,
Her self-devoted Band, in one steel'd mass,
Plunge in the gorge of death, and choke the Pass,
Athenian youths, the unwieldy war to meet,
Couch the stiff lance, or mount the well arm'd fleet;
They sweep the incumber'd seas of their vast load,
And fat their fields with lakes of Asian blood.
So leapt our youths to meet the invading hordes,
Fame fired their courage, freedom edged their swords.
Gates in their van on high-hill'd Bemus rose,
Waved his blue steel and dared the headlong foes;
Undaunted Lincoln, laboring on his right,
Urged every arm, and gave them hearts to fight;
Starke, at the dexter flank, the onset claims,
Indignant Herkimer the left inflames;
He bounds exulting to commence the strife.
And buy the victory with his barter'd life.
And why, sweet Minstrel, from the harp of fame
Withhold so long that once resounding name?
The chief who, steering by the boreal star,
O'er wild Canadia led our infant war,
In desperate straits superior powers display'd,
Burgoyne's dread scourge, Montgomery's ablest aid;
Ridgefield and Compo saw his valorous might
With ill-arm'd swains put veteran troops to flight.
Tho treason foul hath since absorb'd his soul,
Bade waves of dark oblivion round him roll,
Sunk his proud heart abhorrent and abhorr'd,
Effaced his memory and defiled his sword;
Yet then untarnisht roll'd his conquering car;
Then famed and foremost in the ranks of war
Brave Arnold trod; high valor warm'd his breast,
And beams of glory play'd around his crest.
Here toils the chief; whole armies from his eye
Resume their souls, and swift to combat fly.
Camp'd on a hundred hills, and trench'd in form,
Burgoyne's long legions view the gathering storm;
Uncounted nations round their general stand,
And wait the signal from his guiding hand.
Canadia crowds her Gallic colons there,
Ontario's yelling tribes torment the air,
Wild Huron sends his lurking hordes from far,
Insidious Mohawk swells the woodland war;
Scalpers and ax-men rush from Erie's shore,
And Iroquois augments the war whoop roar;
While all his ancient troops his train supply,
Half Europe's banners waving thro the sky;
Deep squadron'd horse support his endless flanks,
And park'd artillery frowns behind the ranks.
Flush'd with the conquest of a thousand fields,
And rich with spoils that all the region yields,
They burn with zeal to close the long campaign,
And crush Columbia on this final plain.
His fellow chiefs inhale the hero's flame,
Nerves of his arm and partners in his fame:
Phillips, with treasured thunders poised and wheel'd
In brazen tubes, prepares to rake the field;
The trench-tops darken with the sable rows,
And, tipt with fire, the waving match-rope glows.
There gallant Reidesel in German guise,
And Specht and Breyman, prompt for action, rise;
His savage hordes the murderous Johnson leads,
Files thro the woods and treads the tangled weeds,
Shuns open combat, teaches where to run,
Skulk, couch the ambush, aim the hunter's gun,
Whirl the sly tomahawk, the war whoop sing,
Divide the spoils and pack the scalps they bring.
Frazer in quest of glory seeks the field;-
False glare of glory, what hast thou to yield?
How long, deluding phantom, wilt thou blind,
Mislead, debase, unhumanize mankind?
Bid the bold youth, his headlong sword who draws,
Heed not the object, nor inquire the cause;
But seek adventuring, like an errant knight,
Wars not his own, gratuitous in fight,
Greet the gored field, then plunging thro the fire,
Mow down his men, with stupid pride expire,
Shed from his closing eyes the finish'd flame,
And ask, for all his crimes, a deathless name?
And when shall solid glory, pure and bright,
Alone inspire us, and our deeds requite?
When shall the applause of men their chiefs pursue
In just proportion to the good they do,
On virtue's base erect the shrine of fame,
Define her empire, and her code proclaim?
Unhappy Frazer! little hast thou weigh'd
The crirneful cause thy valor comes to aid.
Far from thy native land, thy sire, thy wife,
Love's lisping race that cling about thy life,
Thy soul beats high, thy thoughts expanding roam
On battles past, and laurels yet to come:
Alas, what laurels? where the lasting gain?
A pompous funeral on a desert plain!
The cannon's roar, the muffled drums proclaim,
In one short blast, thy momentary fame,
And some war minister per-hazard reads
In what far field the tool of placemen bleeds.
Brave Heartly strode in youth's o'erweening pride;
Housed in the camp he left his blooming bride,
The sweet Lucinda; whom her sire from far,
On steeds high bounding o'er the waste of war,
Had guided thro the lines, and hither led,
That fateful morn, the plighted chief to wed.
He deem'd, deluded sire! the contest o'er,
That routed rebels dared the fight no more;
And came to mingle, as the tumult ceased,
The victor's triumph with the nuptial feast.
They reach'd his tent; when now with loud alarms
The morn burst forth and roused the camp to arms;
Conflicting passions seized the lover's breast,
Bright honor call'd, and bright Lucinda prest:-
And wilt thou leave me for that clangorous call?
Traced I these deserts but to see thee fall?
I know thy valorous heart, thy zeal that speeds
Where dangers press and boldest battle bleeds.
My father said blest Hymen here should join
With sacred Love to make Lucinda thine;
But other union these dire drums foredoom,
The dark dead union of the eternal tomb.
On yonder plain, soon sheeted o'er with blood,
Our nuptial couch shall prove a crimson clod;
For there this night thy livid corse must lie,
I'll seek it there, and on that bosom die.
Yet go; tis duty calls; but o'er thy head
Let this white plume its floating foliage spread;
That from the rampart, thro the troubled air,
These eyes may trace thee toiling in the war.
She fixt the feather on his crest above,
Bound with the mystic knot, the knot of love;
He parted silent, but in silent prayer
Bade Love and Hymen guard the timorous fair.
Where Saratoga show'd her champaign side,
That Hudson bathed with still untainted tide,
The opposing pickets push'd their scouting files,
Wheel'd skirmisht, halted, practised all their wiles;
Each to mislead, insnare, exhaust their foes,
And court the conquest ere the armies close.
Now roll like winged storms the solid lines,
The clarion thunders and the battle joins,
Thick flames in vollied flashes load the air,
And echoing mountains give the noise of war;
Sulphureous clouds rise reddening round the height,
And veil the skies, and wrap the sounding fight.
Soon from the skirts of smoke, where thousands toil,
Ranks roll away and into light recoil;
Starke pours upon them in a storm of lead;
His hosted swains bestrew the field with dead,
Pierce with strong bayonets the German reins,
Whelm two battalions in their captive chains,
Bid Baum, with wounds enfeebled, quit the field,
And Breyman next his gushing lifeblood yield.
This Frazer sees, and thither turns his course,
Bears down before them with Britannia's force,
Wheels a broad column on the victor flank,
And springs to vengeance thro the foremost rank.
Lincoln, to meet the hero, sweeps the plain;
His ready bands the laboring Starke sustain;
Host matching host, the doubtful battle burns,
And now the Britons, now their foes by turns
Regain the ground; till Frazer feels the force
Of a rude grapeshot in his flouncing horse;
Nor knew the chief, till struggling from the fall,
That his gored thigh had first received the ball.
He sinks expiring on the slippery soil;
Shock'd at the sight, his baffled troops recoil;
Where Lincoln, pressing with redoubled might,
Broke thro their squadrons and confirmed the flight;
When this brave leader met a stunning blow,
That stopt his progress and avenged the foe.
He left the field; but prodigal of life,
Unwearied Francis still prolong'd the strife;
Till a chance carabine attained his head,
And stretch'd the hero mid the vulgar dead.
His near companions rush with ardent gait,
Swift to revenge, but soon to share his fate;
Brown, Adams, Coburn, falling side by side,
Drench the chill sod with all their vital tide.
Firm on the west bold Herkimer sustains
The gather'd shock of all Canadia's trains;
Colons and wildmen post their skulkers there,
Outflank his pickets and assail his rear,
Drive in his distant scouts with hideous blare,
And press, on three sides close, the hovering war.
Johnson's own shrieks commence the deafening din,
Rouse every ambush and the storm begin.
A thousand thickets, thro each opening glen,
Pour forth their hunters to the chase of men;
Trunks of huge trees, and rocks and ravines lend
Unnumber'd batteries and their files defend;
They fire, they squat, they rise, advance and fly,
And yells and groans alternate rend the sky.
The well aim'd hatchet cleaves the helmless head,
Mute showers of arrows and loud storms of lead
Rain thick from hands unseen, and sudden fling
A deep confusion thro the laboring wing.
But Herkimer undaunted quits the stand,
Breaks in loose files his disencumbered band,
Wheels on the howling glens each light-arm'd troop,
And leads himself where Johnson tones his whoop,
Pours thro his copse a well directed fire;
The semisavage sees his tribes retire,
Then follows thro the brush in full horse speed,
And gains the hilltop where the Hurons lead;
Here turns his courser; when a grateful sight
Recals his stragglers, and restrains his flight.
For Herkimer no longer now sustains
The loss of blood that his faint vitals drains:
A ball had pierced him ere he changed his field;
The slow sure death his prudence had conceal'd,
Till dark derouted foes should yield to flight,
And his firm friends could finish well the fight.
Lopt from his horse the hero sinks at last;
The Hurons ken him, and with hallooing blast
Shake the vast wilderness; the tribes around
Drink with broad ears and swell the rending sound,
Rush back to vengeance with tempestuous might,
Sweep the long slopes from every neighboring height,
Full on their check'd pursuers; who regain,
From all their woods, the first contested plain.
Here open fight begins; and sure defeat
Had forced that column to a swift retreat,
But Arnold, toiling thro the distant smoke,
Beheld their plight, a small detachment took,
Bore down behind them with his field-park loud,
And hail'd his grapeshot thro the savage crowd;
Strow'd every copse with dead, and chased afar
The affrighted relics from the skirts of war.
But on the centre swells the heaviest charge,
The squares develop and the lines enlarge.
Here Kosciusko's mantling works conceal'd
His batteries mute, but soon to scour the field;
Morgan with all his marksmen flanks the foe,
Hull, Brooks and Courtlandt in the vanguard glow;
Here gallant Dearborn leads his light-arm'd train,
Here Scammel towers, here Silly shakes the plain.
Gates guides the onset with his waving brand,
Assigns their task to each unfolding band,
Sustains, inspirits, prompts the warrior's rage,
Now bids the flank and now the front engage,
Points the stern riflers where their slugs to pour,
And tells the unmasking batteries when to roar.
For here impetuous Powell wheels and veers
His royal guards, his British grenadiers;
His Highland broadswords cut their wasting course,
His horse-artillery whirls its furious force.
Here Specht and Reidesel to battle bring
Their scattering yagers from each folding wing;
And here, concentred in tremendous might,
Britain's whole park, descending to the fight,
Roars thro the ranks; tis Phillips leads the train,
And toils and thunders o'er the shuddering plain.
Burgoyne, secure of victory, from his height,
Eyes the whole field and orders all the fight,
Marks where his veterans plunge their fiercest fire,
And where his foes seem halting to retire,
Already sees the starry staff give way.
And British ensigns gaining on the day;
When from the western wing, in steely glare,
All-conquering Arnold surged the tide of war.
Columbia kindles as her hero comes;
Her trump's shrill clangor and her deafening drums
Redoubling sound the charge; they rage, they burn,
And hosted Europe trembles in her turn.
So when Pelides' absence check'd her fate,
All Ilion issued from her guardian gate;
Her huddling squadrons like a tempest pour'd,
Each man a hero and each dart a sword,
Full on retiring Greece tumultuous fall,
And Greece reluctant seeks her sheltering wall;
But Pelius' son rebounding o'er the plain,
Troy backward starts and seeks her towers again.
Arnold's dread falchion, with terrific sway,
Rolls on the ranks and rules the doubtful day,
Confounds with one wide sweep the astonish'd foes,
And bids at last the scene of slaughter close.
Pale rout begins, Britannia's broken train
Tread back their steps and scatter from the plain,
To their strong camp precipitate retire,
And wide behind them streams the roaring fire.
Meantime, the skirts of war as Johnson gored,
His kindred cannibals desert their lord;
They scour the waste for undistinguish'd prey,
Howl thro the night the horrors of the day,
Scalp every straggler from all parties stray'd,
Each wounded wanderer thro the moonlight glade;
And while the absent armies give them place,
Each camp they plunder and each world disgrace.
One deed shall tell what fame great Albion draws
From these auxiliars in her barbarous cause,
Lucinda's fate; the tale, ye nations, hear;
Eternal ages, trace it with a tear.
Long from the rampart, thro the imbattled field,
She spied her Heartly where his column wheel'd,
Traced him with steadfast eye and tortured breast,
That heaved in concert with his dancing crest;
And oft, with head advanced and hand outspread,
Seem'd from her Love to ward the flying lead;
Till, dimm'd by distance and the gathering cloud;
At last he vanish'd in the warrior crowd.
She thought he fell; and wild with fearless air,
She left the camp to brave the woodland war,
Made a long circuit, all her friends to shun,
And wander'd wide beneath the falling sun;
Then veering to the field, the pickets past,
To gain the hillock where she miss'd him last.
Fond maid, he rests not there; from finish'd fight
He sought the camp, and closed the rear of flight.
He hurries to his tent;-oh rage! despair!
No glimpse, no tidings of the frantic fair;
Save that some carmen, as acamp they drove,
Had seen her coursing for the western grove.
Faint with fatigue and choked with burning thirst,
Forth from his friends with bounding leap he burst,
Vaults o'er the palisade with eyes on flame,
And fills the welkin with Lucinda's name,
Swift thro the wild wood paths phrenetic springs,-
Lucind! Lucinda! thro the wild wood rings.
All night he wanders; barking wolves alone
And screaming night-birds answer to his moan;
For war had roused them from their savage den;
They scent the field, they snuff the walks of men.
The fair one too, of every aid forlorn,
Had raved and wander'd, till officipus morn
Awaked the Mohawks from their short repose,
To glean the plunder, ere their comrades rose.
Two Mohawks met the maid,-historian, hold!-
Poor Human Nature! must thy shame be told?
Where then that proud preeminence of birth,
Thy Moral Sense? the brightest boast of earth.
Had but the tiger changed his heart for thine,
Could rocks their bowels with that heart combine,
Thy tear had gusht, thy hand relieved her pain,
And led Lucinda to her lord again.
She starts, with eyes upturn'd and fleeting breath,
In their raised axes views her instant death,
Spreads her white hands to heaven in frantic prayer,
Then runs to grasp their knees, and crouches there.
Her hair, half lost along the shrubs she past,
Rolls in loose tangles round her lovely waist;
Her kerchief torn betrays the globes of snow
That heave responsive to her weight of woe.
Does all this eloquence suspend the knife?
Does no superior bribe contest her life?
There does: the scalps by British gold are paid;
A long-hair'd scalp adorns that heavenly head;
Arid comes the sacred spoil from friend or foe,
No marks distinguish, and no man can know.
With calculating pause and demon grin,
They seize her hands, and thro her face divine
Drive the descending ax; the shriek she sent
Attain'd her lover's ear; he thither bent
With all the speed his wearied limbs could yield,
Whirl'd his keen blade, and stretch'd upon the field
The yelling fiends; who there disputing stood
Her gory scalp, their horrid prize of blood.
He sunk delirious on her lifeless clay,
And past, in starts of sense, the dreadful day.
Are these thy trophies, Carleton! these the swords
Thy hand unsheath'd and gave the savage hordes,
Thy boasted friends, by treaties brought from far,
To aid thy master in his murderous war?
But now Britannia's chief, with proud disdain
Coop'd in his camp, demands the field again.
Back to their fate his splendid host he drew,
Swell'd high their rage, and led the charge anew;
Again the batteries roar, the lightnings play,
Again they fall, again they roll away;
For now Columbia, with rebounding might,
Foil'd quick their columns, but confined their flight.
Her wings, like fierce tornados, gyring ran,
Crusht their wide flanks and gain'd their flying van;
Here Arnold charged; the hero storm'd and pour'd
A thousand thunders where he turn'
No pause, no parley; onward far he fray'd,
Dispersed whole squadrons every bound he made,
Broke thro their rampart, seized theircampand stores
And pluck'd the standard from their broken towers.
Aghast, confounded in the midway field,
They drop their arms; the banded nations yield.
When sad Burgoyne, in one disastrous day,
Sees future crowns and former wreaths decay,
His banners furl'd, his long battalions wheel'd
To pile their muskets on the battle field;
While two pacific armies shade one plain,
The mighty victors and the captive train.
Comments about The Columbiad: Book Vi by Joel Barlow
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