Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Introductory to America


By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

(From Ode on Venice)

THE NAME of Commonwealth is past and gone,

Over three fractions of the groaning globe:—

Venice is crushed, and Holland deigns to own

A sceptre, and endures a purple robe:

If the free Switzer yet bestrides alone

His chainless mountains, ’t is but for a time;

For tyranny of late has cunning grown,

And, in its own good season, tramples down

The sparkles of our ashes. One great clime,

Whose vigorous offspring by dividing ocean

Are kept apart, and nursed in the devotion

Of Freedom, which their fathers fought for, and

Bequeathed,—a heritage of heart and hand,

And proud distinction from each other land,

Whose sons must bow them at a monarch’s motion,

As if his senseless sceptre were a wand

Full of the magic of exploded science,—

Still one great clime, in full and free defiance,

Yet rears her crest, unconquered and sublime,

Above the far Atlantic! She has taught

Her Esau-brethren that the haughty flag,

The floating fence of Albion’s feebler crag,

May strike to those whose red right hands have bought

Rights cheaply earned with blood. Still, still, forever

Better, though each man’s life-blood were a river

That it should flow and overflow, than creep

Through thousand lazy channels in our veins,

Dammed, like the dull canal, with locks and chains,

And moving, as a sick man in his sleep,

Three paces, and then faltering: better be

Where the extinguished Spartans still are free,

In their proud charnel of Thermopylæ,

Than stagnate in our marsh; or o’er the deep

Fly, and one current to the ocean add,

One spirit to the souls our fathers had,

One freeman more, America, to thee!