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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

To the Shade of Washington

By Richard Alsop (1761–1815)

[Born in Middletown, Conn., 1761. Died at Flatbush, N. Y., 1815. From “A Poem; Sacred to the Memory of George Washington, Late President,” etc. 1800.]

EXALTED Chief—in thy superior mind

What vast resource, what various talents joined!

Tempered with social virtue’s milder rays,

There patriot worth diffused a purer blaze:

Formed to command respect, esteem inspire,

Midst statesmen grave, or midst the social choir,

With equal skill the sword or pen to wield,

In council great, unequalled in the field,

Mid glittering courts or rural walks to please,

Polite with grandeur, dignified with ease;

Before the splendors of thy high renown

How fade the glowworm lustres of a crown,

How sink diminished in that radiance lost

The glare of conquest, and of power the boast.

Let Greece her Alexander’s deeds proclaim,

Or Cæsar’s triumphs gild the Roman name,

Stripped of the dazzling glare around them cast,

Shrinks at their crimes humanity aghast;

With equal claim to honor’s glorious meed

See Attila his course of havoc lead!

O’er Asia’s realms, in one vast ruin hurled,

See furious Zingis’ bloody flag unfurled.

On base far different from the conqueror’s claim

Rests the unsullied column of thy fame;

His on the woes of millions proudly based,

With blood cemented and with tears defaced;

Thine on a nation’s welfare fixed sublime,

By freedom strengthened and revered by time.

He, as the Comet, whose portentous light

Spreads baleful splendor o’er the glooms of night,

With chill amazement fills the startled breast,

While storms and earthquakes dire its course attest,

And nature trembles, lest, in chaos hurled,

Should sink the tottering fabric of the world.

Thou, like the Sun, whose kind propitious ray

Opes the glad morn and lights the fields of day,

Dispels the wintry storm, the chilling rain,

With rich abundance clothes the smiling plain,

Gives all creation to rejoice around,

And life and light extends o’er nature’s utmost bound.

Though shone thy life a model bright of praise,

Not less the example bright thy death portrays.

When, plunged in deepest woe, around thy bed,

Each eye was fixed, despairing sunk each head,

While nature struggled with severest pain,

And scarce could life’s last lingering powers retain:

In that dread moment, awfully serene,

No trace of suffering marked thy placid mien,

No groan, no murmuring plaint, escaped thy tongue,

No lowering shadows on thy brow were hung;

But calm in Christian hope, undamped with fear,

Thou sawest the high reward of virtue near,

On that bright meed in surest trust reposed,

As thy firm hand thine eyes expiring closed,

Pleased, to the will of heaven resigned thy breath,

And smiled as nature’s struggles closed in death.