1826
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

On the Death of Alexander, Emperor of the Russias, at Taganock, Dec. 1825.

The Literary Remains of John G. C. Brainard, with a Sketch of his Life.

John G. C. Brainard


Four Spenserians. Alexander, emporer of Russia from 1801 to 1825, had repulsed Napoleon's invasion of Russia and led the allies into Paris in 1814. After the war he was one of the leaders of the Holy Alliance attempting to prop up the European monarchies at the expense of civil liberties. The Connecticut poet John G. C. Brainard compares him unfavorably to George Washington. The poem originally appeared in the Connecticut Mirror, edited by Brainard.



Napolean died upon Helena's rock,
Round and beneath were pil'd and stor'd the waves,
Mighty and fathomless. Atlantic's shock
Recoil'd, and through its deepest coldest caves,
Of pillar'd spar and coral architraves,
Did ocean's homage to that strange man's death.
Bad was he, but yet great. Of kings, of slaves,
Of Popes, the equal dread. His latest breath
Fell where the waters wash'd to shore his sea-green wreath.

But thou, by Asian Azoff's shallow pool,
Where the Don pours its tributary mud,
Where nought but cold Cimmerian blasts have rule,
And Kalmuck's hungry Tartars fight for food;
Thou, whom we once thought wise, and great, and good—
Peace, such as thou did'st wish to all, abide
With thee — a despot's peace. So let the flood
Of mem'ry stagnate round thee, like the tide
That washes Taganrok from Azof's shallowest side.

Then let the Cossack trail his barb'rous lance,
And learn to do the obsequies of Czars;
Teach his wild horse around thy grave to prance,
And know the sounds of amens from hurras.
He, paid in plunder for his wounds and scars,
Rejoices that another chance may come,
When southward, in the strife of Turkish wars,
That horse shall bear Tambourgi's muffled drum,
And trample, not as now, on many a lordly tomb.

———*———*———*———*———*———

Fair liberty! Nor he of Helen's Isle,
Nor he of Azof's side, were born of thee,
Children of cruelty, long nurs'd by guile,
They claim no tear of tribute from the free.
Then let the despots rest. But where is he
Who, pure in life, majestic in his fall,
Lay down beneath his native cedar-tree?
Potomack's wave, Mount Vernon's grassy pall,
That wraps his relics round, O! these are worth them all.

[pp. 223-24]