FROM BUFFALO, UPON LAKE ERIE.
nec venit ad duros musa vocata Getas.
OVID. ex Ponto, lib. 1. ep. 5.
Thou oft hast told me of the happy hours
Enjoyed by thee in fair Italia's bowers,
Where, lingering yet, the ghost of ancient wit
Midst modern monks profanely dares to flit.
And pagan spirits, by the Pope unlaid,
Haunt every stream and sing through every shade.
There still the bard who (if his numbers be
His tongue's light echo) must have talked like thee,--
The courtly bard, from whom thy mind has caught
Those playful, sunshine holidays of thought,
In which the spirit baskingly reclines,
Bright without effort, resting while it shines,--
There still he roves, and laughing loves to see
How modern priests with ancient rakes agree:
How, 'neath the cowl, the festal garland shines,
And Love still finds a niche in Christian shrines.
There still, too, roam those other souls of song,
With whom thy spirit hath communed so long,
That, quick as light, their rarest gems of thought,
By Memory's magic to thy lip are brought.
But here, alas! by Erie's stormy lake,
As, far from such bright haunts my course I take,
No proud remembrance o'er the fancy plays,
No classic dream, no star of other days
Hath left that visionary light behind,
That lingering radiance of immortal mind,
Which gilds and hallows even the rudest scene,
The humblest shed, where Genius once has been!
All that creation's varying mass assumes
Of grand or lovely, here aspires and blooms;
Bold rise the mountains, rich the gardens glow,
Bright lakes expand, and conquering rivers flow;
But mind, immortal mind, without whose ray,
This world's a wilderness and man but clay,
Mind, mind alone, in barren, still repose,
Nor blooms, nor rises, nor expands, nor flows.
Take Christians, Mohawks, democrats, and all
From the rude wigwam to the congress-hall,
From man the savage, whether slaved or free,
To man the civilized, less tame than he,--
'Tis one dull chaos, one unfertile strife
Betwixt half-polished and half-barbarous life;
Where every ill the ancient world could brew
Is mixt with every grossness of the new;
Where all corrupts, though little can entice,
And naught is known of luxury but its vice!
Is this the region then, is this the clime
For soaring fancies? for those dreams sublime,
Which all their miracles of light reveal
To heads that meditate and hearts that feel?
Alas! not so--the Muse of Nature lights
Her glories round; she scales the mountain heights,
And roams the forests; every wondrous spot
Burns with her step, yet man regards it not.
She whispers round, her words are in the air,
But lost, unheard, they linger freezing there,
Without one breath of soul, divinely strong,
One ray of mind to thaw them into song.
Yet, yet forgive me, oh ye sacred few,
Whom late by Delaware's green banks I knew;
Whom, known and loved through many a social eve,
'Twas bliss to live with, and 'twas pain to leave.
Not with more joy the lonely exile scanned
The writing traced upon the desert's sand,
Where his lone heart but little hoped to find
One trace of life, one stamp of human kind,
Than did I hail the pure, the enlightened zeal,
The strength to reason and the warmth to feel,
The manly polish and the illumined taste,
Which,--mid the melancholy, heartless waste
My foot has traversed,--oh you sacred few!
I found by Delaware's green banks with you.
Long may you loathe the Gallic dross that runs
Through your fair country and corrupts its sons;
Long love the arts, the glories which adorn
Those fields of freedom, where your sires were born.
Oh! if America can yet be great,
If neither chained by choice, nor doomed by fate
To the mob-mania which imbrutes her now,
She yet can raise the crowned, yet civic brow
Of single majesty,--can add the grace
Of Rank's rich capital to Freedom's base,
Nor fear the mighty shaft will feebler prove
For the fair ornament that flowers above;--
If yet released from all that pedant throng,
So vain of error and so pledged to wrong,
Who hourly teach her, like themselves, to hide
Weakness in vaunt and barrenness in pride,
She yet can rise, can wreathe the Attic charms
Of soft refinement round the pomp of arms,
And see her poets flash the fires of song,
To light her warriors' thunderbolts along;--
It is to you, to souls that favoring heaven
Has made like yours, the glorious task is given:--
Oh! but for such, Columbia's days were done;
Rank without ripeness, quickened without sun,
Crude at the surface, rotten at the core,
Her fruits would fall, before her spring were o'er.
Believe me, Spencer, while I winged the hours
Where Schuylkill winds his way through banks of flowers,
Though few the days, the happy evenings few;
So warm with heart, so rich with mind they flew,
That my charmed soul forgot its wish to roam,
And rested there, as in a dream of home.
And looks I met, like looks I'd loved before,
And voices too, which, as they trembled o'er
The chord of memory, found full many a tone
Of kindness there in concord with their own.
Yes,--we had nights of that communion free,
That flow of heart, which I have known with thee
So oft, so warmly; nights of mirth and mind,
Of whims that taught, and follies that refined.
When shall we both renew them? when, restored
To the gay feast and intellectual board,
Shall I once more enjoy with thee and thine
Those whims that teach, those follies that refine?
Even now, as, wandering upon Erie's shore,
I hear Niagara's distant cataract roar,
I sigh for home,--alas! these weary feet
Have many a mile to journey, ere we meet.