1817 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Wilson

J. M'D, "Verses to the Memory of Alexander Wilson, who died at Philadelphia, August 23, 1814" The Star (12 April 1817).



O deem it not wayward in Fancy's lone child,
The church-yard to leave, where our forefathers lye,
To tenant some tomb, by the forest or wild,
Unhallowed, and hid from each sorrowing eye.

Long he toiled for his country, and craves only this,
That his ashes may rest, 'midst her solitudes wide;
And Columbus would weep, in his mansion of bliss,
Were the wish of his Brother in science denied!

Then chuse some lone nook, such as Bards have extoll'd,
And peopled of yore, with the fairies' blithe ring;
That dance 'neath the Moon's paly ray on the wold,
'Mong flowers that more fresh from each elfin foot spring.

And there let him rest, from the city remote,
Where the Birds unmolested may sing thro' the year;
And Pilgrims will duteous pause near the spot,
Uncover'd to tread o'er a grave they revere.

Where the Briton will journey, e'er homeward he steers,
The Exile who sleeps, as a Brother to claim;
To blot out Columbia's name with his tears,
And Scotia's inscribe on the 'scutcheon of fame!

Where the Matron will prompt the young Maidens to stray,
When the blue Bird is come, and the wild rose is new;
To bear from his tomb one lov'd relic away,
Whose thoughts, as his lay, still to woman were true!

Where the patriot Sire oft will beckon his Son,
And fire his young soul at a patriot's shrine;
Who, like thee, hapless Park! deathless laurels had won,
But whose Country, alas! was not grateful as thine!

Ah, Genius! why thus is it ever thy fate
Unsuccour'd to live, unrewarded to die!
To furnish that lore, which new worlds can create,
Yet languish for wants, which the meanest enjoy!

Lo! where Niagara terrific descends
To fathomless gulphs, that bedizzen the sight—
Then rising in mountains of dense vapour, blends
The splendours of day with the horrors of night!

Or by Oronoko or Potomac's shore,
Encircled with wilds where the savage ne'er ran;
Or launch'd amidst waters, that bark never bore,
Or pencil'd the glorious image of man.

Yes this was the Hero whom Statesmen of power,
Men mighty while living, but little when dead—
Saw toiling for science, till life's latest hour,
Unblest with a laurel, scarce furnish'd with bread.

But their malice no more shall his merits defame
Who taught us with science, and cheer'd us with song;
Whom his country is proud 'midst her worthies to name,
And weeps she delay'd the lov'd tribute so long.

Columbia! thou yet infant world of the west,
Advancing to glory and greatness apace!
Thou land where the ashes of WASHINGTON rest,
The greatest, and wisest, and best of our race!

Still dear as that birthright of freedom you prize,
Let Science thy pride and palladium be!
For this is the basis on which thou shalt rise
To heights that Old Europe will tremble to see!

And when Poets appear yet unborn and unheard,
Whom fortune and power seem combin'd to restrain,
Be thou a kind patron, and let not the Bard,
Like thy Wilson, appeal to his country in vain!

He journey'd for years, the wild berries his food,
His drink oft the poisonous tank or the fen;
Where the she serpent lurks near the horrible brood,
And tyger-cubs thirst for the life's blood of men!

His task from oblivion each lone bird to bring,
Unlook'd on by man since from Eden exil'd!
That in lovelier zone trims its radiant wing,
And pours unregarded its song to the wild!
Edinburgh.