1825
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Our Country.

Poems by John Turvill Adams.

John Turvill Adams


55 irregular Spenserians (ababcC). This early poem by John Turvill Adams recounts the history of the American founding in an argument obviously modeled on William Cullen Bryant's The Ages. Like its source, Our Country is part of the sequence of Spenserian poems on the theme of progress of genius and civilization developed out of James Thomson's Castle of Indolence and James Beattie's The Minstrel. Adams's first volume was published without date or the name of a publisher, suggesting that it might have been intended for private circulation.

After an invocation of the spirit of chivalry, Adams alludes to the religious controversies in Europe that led to the settling of America, and the noble, yet cruelly violent ways of its native inhabitants. The settlers, less noble perhaps, were equally cruel: "Therefore dark deeds were done, o'er which the Muse | Weeps as she sings, and with her tears would blot | From History's Page, that man might ne'er peruse, | The story of the Indian's hapless lot" p. 14. The repentent conquerors could at least offer their victims the solace of Christianity. The war of independence was another tragic affair leading, providencially, to good consequences. The new nation now stands as a beacon to the world: "And think not thou, because in ages past, | Republics fell, our own is doomed to fall; | The fabric of our Glory long shall last, | Spite of such precedent, the joy of all" p. 22.

North American Review: "The author has published too soon by nine years at least. He mistakes in thinking that lines, arranged in a certain measure, divided into stanzas, and rhyming at the ends, constitute poetry. The only pieces, which seem to us tolerable, are 'Spring,' and the 'Mermaiden's Song,' and even this latter ends with the following lines. 'And we dance and we sing | With such pleasure and mirth, | As you never saw, | O unfortunate earth'" 21 (July 1825) 262.

New-York Review: "Of Mr. John Turvill Adams, next presented in our catalogue, we have only leisure to remark, that his rhymes are more pleasing than his blank verse" 2 (February 1826) 185.



Sweetly the voice of long departed time
Comes o'er the soul, and in its whispers brings
Visions of glory, mighty deeds sublime,
And all the wild and grand accompanyings,
Hovering around the past, whose shadowy form
The Fancy loves to deck in beauty, or deform.

And Memory lingers o'er the days of old,
When Time was in his lustihood and young,
Ere life was poisoned or the heart grew cold,
When dim-eyed bards of love and valour sung,
And generous bosoms beat, and beauty blushed,
And burning blood in quicker currents gashed.

Those days have vanished, but they left behind
Proud trophies, monuments to fill the soul
With high aspirings, and to point the mind,
Through Virtue's paths, to that resplendent goal,
Where Glory sits to crown her chosen one,
Who nobly strove, and Fame's undying wreath hath won.

Thrones crumble, sceptres shiver, and the head
That gem'd tiaras circled, or a crown,
Moulders, within the chambers of the dead,
Pillowed on curses, or lies calmly down
Upon a people's blessing, bathed in tears,
And lov'd while aught is left that princely worth endears.

Yet Nature, in her still and solemn march,
Walks, heedless of the sinful deeds of man,
Or of his noblest virtues. Heaven's blue arch,
To which he turns his daring eye, to scan
Its silver orbs of light, still shines the same,
Whether Peace smile or war the Earth inflame.

Europe hath deeply drank the bitter draught,
By Power and bigot fury crimson dyed;
She drained it to the dregs, and as she quaffed,
With many a tear, that agonizing tide,
Earth, thrilled with horror, shuddered to behold
Crimes, at whose mention the blanched cheek grows cold.

Chained to the stake, or stretched upon the wheel,
The dying Martyr shed his innocent blood
And Superstition smiled and shook her steel,
And lapped the ebbing life drops for her food
Nor was appeased, but fired with rage accurst,
More loudly called for blood to quench her hellish thirst.

But happier days arose — no more, unfurled,
The flag in JESUS' holy name conveyed
Terror and devastation through the world;
Man in his joy a milder creed obeyed,
And worshipped as the God within inspired,
And as he thought the heavenly Book of Love required.

Yet Bigotry, though bleeding still, survived,
And many kissed her bruised and shattered rod;
The time long looked for had not then arrived
When lowly in the dust she shall be trod;
Her temples' courts were thronged, and votaries knelt
Before her shrine, and all her baleful venom felt.

Then, brother spurned by brother left the Earth,
Where first the breath of infancy he drew,—
Left the fond breast of her who gave him birth,
And as his country's cliffs were lost to view
In the dim distance, sighed not as he thought
On life's tempestuous voyage, for him with peril fraught.

For stern Religion buoyed his faltering soul,
Infused fresh vigour in his sinking frame,
And smiled, and cherished him, and through the whole
Of his long pilgrimage still blessed his aim,
And led him safely by the hand, and gave
Another country, far beyond the western wave.

And when that other world, first on his eye
Burst, with its mighty streams and woods of green,
Its mountains piercing with their heads the sky,
And Indian hamlets glistening between
The waving foliage on their arching side,
Or shining in the sun on marge of river wide,

Leaped his glad heart within him at the sight,
Or did Despondency his mind surround?
Hope waved her purple wings, and with the light
Of her own smile, dispelled the clouds that round
The future lowered, and for coming years
Promised tranquillity, and calmed his fears.

Then spread about him lay this new-born land,
In Nature's wildest dress attired — that asked
No pruning care of cultivation's hand,
To check its rich luxuriance, nor tasked
The native's strength; but for subsistence gave
Its sylvan game, or finny treasures of the wave.

And he, the savage ruler of this wild,
Lord of the quiver and the sounding bow,—
The mighty hunter — Nature's fiercest child,
Lover of forests, civilization's foe—
Walked, free possessor of the fruitful soil,
And spurned the food gained by industrious toil.

But in his native woods, with quiver slung,
And moccasoned foot, he chased the flying deer,
And loaded with his spoil at evening, rung
His shout triumphant, as he drew more near
His pleasant village, and his joyous eye
Caught his own wigwam's smoke, slow curling to the sky.

Or skimming o'er the watery element,
With rapid paddle, in his light canoe,
Pursued his favourite sports, and Nature lent
Her influence to mould him, and she threw
High thoughts into his soul, and fixed his love
Upon the chase and warlike deeds, all else above.

But when revenge inspired against the foe,
His boiling passions bore him, like a flood,
To victory or death — he struck the blow,
When midnight shades had fallen, and, gorged with blood,
Exulting smiled, as from his enemy's wound,
The red stream gushing, stained the verdant ground.

All died — babes smiling in their murderer's face,
The virgin blushing at her opening charms,—
The young and aged, — Mercy had no place
In that stern warfare, — Pity, that disarms
The heart of vengeance, was not there to stay
The uplifted tomahawk, but Cruelty held sway.

And when the morrow's sun looked from the east,
He saw no more the village peering through
The parting mist, for that ensanguined feast
Left scarce a vestige, and the morning dew
Fell upon ruins, whose dull rising smoke,
Of wrath and blood and death a silent language spoke.

Such were his sterner features, but his soul
Was noble, and disdained to bow beneath
The bitterest suffering — Glory was his goal,—
The richest legacy he could bequeath
His sons and nation, was a warrior's name,
Cherished by future times and hailed with loud acclaim.

No mystic sophistry perplexed his brain,
But nature was his Bible — hence the birth
Of gratitude, — and as refreshing rain,
Or cheerful sunshine, fell upon the earth,
His spirit warmed, and his untutored breast
Felt love on all the works of Providence imprest.

Nor was God visible only when he smiled—
But in the tempest's soul-subduing roar,
And in the lightning's flashes, and the wild
Battling of elements, he learned to adore
The Deity that guides each rolling star,
And speaks in voice of awful thunders from afar.

Such was the Indian, and when first there came
The white man, landing on this western strand,
He deemed he saw Yohewan armed with flame,
But, undeceived, he oped his generous hand,
And smoked the pipe of peace, and gave his guest,
The simple, sylvan comforts, he himself possessed.

Nor thought he then on miseries to come;
Of his own blood being spilled by those strange men;
Of wandering forth, a fugitive from home,
Chased like a tyger from his forest den;
Of leaving those bright streams and fields behind
Where his wild heart, its dearest joys was wont to find.

Yet judge them not too harshly — the bold band,
Who, thus, their glorious destiny fulfilled,
And based that fabric in a foreign land,
Which, Heaven's own smile seemed evermore to gild,
Nor dare attaint the pious pilgrims' name,
Inscribed, upon the sun-lit chronicle of fame.

The high resolve — the firm determined choice,—
The unblenched cheek — the eye still fixed above;
Hearts that beat quick to Duty's calling voice,
And hands to back each generous thought that strove,
Were theirs, — and nobly did the heroic few,
The homage pay to Glory and to Virtue due.

But they were men, and they too felt the chain,
Beneath whose load mortality bends low;
And pleading Mercy often begged in vain,
To spare the prostrate unresisting foe;
For in their wrath, they thought to them was given,
To extirpate a race that seemed accursed of heaven.

Therefore dark deeds were done, o'er which the Muse
Weeps as she sings, and with her tears would blot
From History's Page, that man might ne'er peruse,
The story of the Indian's hapless lot:
Alas! had spacious Earth no resting place,
Where might contented breathe each widely differing race!

But other was the Almighty's high behest—
Nor might the savage and the white-man live
In amity, caressing and carest;
The terror of the forest might not give
His unchaffed neck, 'neath Labour's yoke to bow,
And like his stranger guest, to guide the sluggish plough.

That dreaded guest to him was pestilence,
It was a poison to behold a power
That fearless eyed the elements, and thence
Arrayed itself with might, as 'twere a dower;
He waked the thirsty tomahawk from sleep,
And strove, but strove in vain, to wreak his vengeance deep.

For, like the flying shadow of a cloud,
Or glittering dew-drops of the summer morn,
His tribes have vanished, and where, brawling loud,
Pacific flows, Grief wastes his manly form;
But oft, with starting tear, turns his sad eye,
To linger round the tombs, where bones he reverenced lie.

Now view again this new and beautiful Earth;
Another race has risen, to till its soil;
For the dusk hunters' shout, the rustics' mirth
Sounds o'er the fields, as from his daily toil
He plods, — while home and peace before him rush,
And Love's pure fountains, o'er his warm heart gush.

Fair, flourishing towns, and villages, that seem
Like strong plants springing from a soil they love,
Strike the delighted eye, on some lone stream,
Or still retreat of deep embosomed cove;
And where the eagles' shriek once echoed round,
Are heard the busy hum of men, and engines clanking sound.

Nature, as if delighted at the change,
Her prodigal bounty lavishes around;
E'en Winter, journeying on his annual range,
With gentler footstep, skims along the ground,
Attended by the mildest of his train,
And bids the surly North from rude assaults refrain.

Behold yon Village Church, whose taper spire
Points like a finger to the clear blue sky,
As if it bid the soul to heaven aspire,
Whispering of death and immortality
Even in the wilderness, there springs a fount,
A living stream, that flows from Zion's hallowed mount.

A milder spirit waves its snowy wings,
Above our land, and where the sacrifice
Of human blood, was poured, the penitent brings
The tribute of the heart, and tears, and sighs,
Are the peace offering placed before the throne
Of Him, who dwells in light, unequalled and alone.

Seraph of love, O wing thy gracious flight,
To cheer the native, held in Error's thrall!
Chase from his soul dark Superstition's night,
And lead him to that holy fount, where all
May drink the streams of life, and, cleansed, forgiven,
In meekness, learn to tread the path, that leads to heaven.

Then, shall not Mercy, still lamenting, steep
With tears, the white man's steps, but Peace shall rear
Her heavenly standard in his heart, and keep
Ever her love-built throne, and clasp more near
In her encircling arms, the sons of men,
And Happiness shall trace the paths where he hath been.

O day expected! long the good man's heart,
Hath panted for thee, when thy sun-beams, breaking,
The o'erhanging clouds of prejudice, shall part,
And man, from his deep lethargy awaking,
Shall hail thy birth — when from the distant west,
A voice shall sound — the wanderer hath found his rest.

No longer, then, the scutcheon of our race,
Stained with the red man's blood shall bring the blush
To burn our cheek — the GOSPEL shall efface
That crimson die, and with its waters' gush,
Wash out the memory of the past, and heal
The wounds, that injured pride and humbled prowess feel.

Poor native! was it for thy matchless wrongs,
That o'er our land, red Vengance shook his spear,
And through our blazing towns, with dripping thongs,
Impelled his chariot in its fierce career,
And cheered his blood-hounds on, and yelled his cry,
A nation's piercing shriek, a nation's agony!

Lo! rising far beyond the Atlantic sea,
Yon lowering cloud, that skirts the horizon's bound,
Surcharged with Britain's anger, dreadfully,
Deepen its folds, and hem my country round;
Hark! in its bosom hear the thunder roll,
While outraged Nature groans from pole to pole.

At length the tempest came, the shock that broke
The alliance of the elder world and new,—
Young Freedom from her sleep of years awoke,
Before Oppression's feet her guantlet threw,
Her crumbling altars raised, and lit the fires,
Ne'er smothered, but when murdered Liberty expires.

Love cannot ever suffer — the warm heart,
That once beat fondly, trampled on and torn,
Slighted and spurned, its dearest ties will part;
Will, for neglect, return neglect and scorn,
And, fired with memory of its injuries, wage
Hate's bitter wrath, and furious Passion's burning rage.

Then, saw the world, a strange unnatural strife,
Inflame their breasts whom Nature's hands had joined;
She saw an infant struggling for its life,
A parent's shackles from its neck unwind
That parent, whom affection should have told,
In love's caressing arms, her child to fold.

But Passion interposed, and cast a veil,
To cloud her reason and alarm her pride,
For little thought she, that her power could fail,
To awe their souls, who tyranny defied;
And therefore, burst her fury o'er the head,
Of them who in her cause their filial blood had shed.

For she forgot, that in each throbbing breast,
Heroic Freedom stamped her glowing seal;
That wheresoe'er its talisman is prest,
The heart is fire, the tense strung nerves are steel,
And, that the sword each struggling patriot draws,
Is bared for liberty and Nature's holy cause.

Thanks to the glorious spirit of that day!
It bore the oppressed and fallen, exulting, through
The horrors, that environed the dark way,
Which Honour's dictates bade them to pursue;
And founded in this western wilderness,
A dynasty, rejoicing millions love to bless.

That which the souls of sages long had striven,
Bewildered striven, alas! in vain, to find,
A government, the gracious gift of heaven,
Ordained, by its mild rule, to bless mankind,
Has here, we fondly hope, its gentle reign
Fixed on the rock of virtue, ever to remain.

And think not thou, because in ages past,
Republics fell, our own is doomed to fall;
The fabric of our Glory long shall last,
Spite of such precedent, the joy of all:
Styled as republics, yet were they the same,
As that we boast of, only in the name.

Aye, who shall say, that when the eastern world,
Thy parent, shall have fallen to rise no more,
When to the dust her grandeur shall be hurled,
And nought remain, but legendary lore,
To mark the spot, where once her kingdoms rose,
My country, thou shalt not in tranquil joy repose!

Aye, land of promise! while the azure sky,
Thy canopy, emblazed with gems of light,
Shall meet the earthly pilgrim's heavenward eye,
Thou shalt survive, and through the tardy flight
Of centuries, thy starry flag shall wave
O'er Freedom's altar and the birth place of the brave!

For the foundations of thy strength, are laid
Within a people's breast — thy childrens' love
Shall ever strengthen, and while ages fade,
Shall hover o'er thy bosom like a dove,
With outspread pinions, shielding thee from harm,
And circling thee as with a heaven protecting charm.

Yes, through the veil around the coming years,
The patriot sees a joyous, smiling land,
The eternal monuments that Knowledge rears,
Blessings like dew fast dropping from her hand,
And his loved Country lying on the breast
Of lasting happiness, in calm and holy rest.

[pp. 5-23]