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

Southern States: Mount Vernon, Va.

Mount Vernon

By David Humphreys (1752–1818)

Written at Mount Vernon, August, 1786

BY broad Potomac’s azure tide,

Where Vernon’s mount, in sylvan pride,

Displays its beauties far,

Great Washington, to peaceful shades,

Where no unhallowed wish invades,

Retired from fields of war.

Angels might see, with joy, the sage,

Who taught the battle where to rage,

Or quenched its spreading flame,

On works of peace employ that hand,

Which waved the blade of high command,

And hewed the path to fame.

Let others sing his deeds in arms,

A nation saved, and conquest’s charms:

Posterity shall hear,

’T was mine, returned from Europe’s courts,

To share his thoughts, partake his sports,

And soothe his partial ear.

To thee, my friend, these lays belong:

Thy happy seat inspires my song,

With gay, perennial blooms,

With fruitage fair, and cool retreats,

Whose bowery wilderness of sweets

The ambient air perfumes.

Here spring its earliest buds displays,

Here latest on the leafless sprays

The plumy people sing;

The vernal shower, the ripening year,

The autumnal store, the winter drear,

For thee new pleasures bring.

Here, lapped in philosophic ease,

Within thy walks, beneath thy trees,

Amidst thine ample farms,

No vulgar converse heroes hold,

But past or future scenes unfold,

Or dwell on nature’s charms.

What wondrous era have we seen,

Placed on this isthmus, half between

A rude and polished state!

We saw the war tempestuous rise,

In arms a world, in blood the skies,

In doubt an empire’s fate.

The storm is calmed, serened the heaven,

And mildly o’er the climes of even

Expands the imperial day:

“O God, the source of light supreme,

Shed on our dusky morn a gleam,

To guide our doubtful way!

“Restrain, dread Power, our land from crimes!

What seeks, though blest beyond all times,

So querulous an age?

What means to freedom such disgust;

Of change, of anarchy the lust,

The fickleness and rage?”

So spake his country’s friend, with sighs,

To find that country still despise

The legacy he gave,—

And half he feared his toils were vain,

And much that man would court a chain,

And live through vice a slave.

A transient gloom o’ercast his mind;

Yet, still on providence reclined,

The patriot fond believed,

That power benign too much had done,

To leave an empire’s task begun,

Imperfectly achieved.

Thus buoyed with hope, with virtue blest,

Of every human bliss possessed,

He meets the happier hours:

His skies assume a lovelier blue,

His prospects brighter rise to view,

And fairer bloom his flowers.