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

Southern States: Jamestown, Va.

Ode to Jamestown

By James Kirke Paulding (1779–1860)

OLD cradle of an infant world,

In which a nestling empire lay,

Struggling awhile, ere she unfurled

Her gallant wing and soared away;

All hail! thou birthplace of the glowing west,

Thou seem’st the towering eagle’s ruined nest!

What solemn recollections throng,

What touching visions rise,

As, wandering these old stones among,

I backward turn mine eyes,

And see the shadows of the dead flit round,

Like spirits, when the last dread trump shall sound.

The wonders of an age combined

In one short moment memory supplies;

They throng upon my wakened mind,

As time’s dark curtains rise.

The volume of a hundred buried years,

Condensed in one bright sheet, appears.

I hear the angry ocean rave,

I see the lonely little bark

Scudding along the crested wave,

Freighted like old Noah’s ark,

As o’er the drownéd earth ’t was hurled,

With the forefathers of another world.

I see a train of exiles stand,

Amid the desert, desolate,

The fathers of my native land,

The daring pioneers of fate,

Who braved the perils of the sea and earth,

And gave a boundless empire birth.

I see the sovereign Indian range

His woodland empire, free as air;

I see the gloomy forest change,

The shadowy earth laid bare;

And, where the red man chased the bounding deer,

The smiling labors of the white appear.

I see the haughty warrior gaze

In wonder or in scorn,

As the pale faces sweat to raise

Their scanty fields of corn,

While he, the monarch of the boundless wood,

By sport, or hair-brained rapine, wins his food.

A moment, and the pageant’s gone;

The red men are no more;

The pale-faced strangers stand alone

Upon the river’s shore;

And the proud wood-king, who their arts disdained,

Finds but a bloody grave where once he reigned.

The forest reels beneath the stroke

Of sturdy woodman’s axe;

The earth receives the white man’s yoke,

And pays her willing tax

Of fruits, and flowers, and golden harvest fields,

And all that nature to blithe labor yields.

Then growing hamlets rear their heads,

And gathering crowds expand,

Far as my fancy’s vision spreads,

O’er many a boundless land,

Till what was once a world of savage strife

Teems with the richest gifts of social life.

Empire to empire swift succeeds,

Each happy, great, and free;

One empire still another breeds,

A giant progeny.

Destined their daring race to run,

Each to the regions of yon setting sun.

Then, as I turn my thoughts to trace

The fount whence these rich waters sprung,

I glance towards this lonely place,

And find it, these rude stones among.

Here rest the sires of millions, sleeping round,

The Argonauts, the golden fleece that found.

Their names have been forgotten long;

The stone, but not a word, remains;

They cannot live in deathless song,

Nor breathe in pious strains.

Yet this sublime obscurity to me

More touching is than poet’s rhapsody.

They live in millions that now breathe;

They live in millions yet unborn,

And pious gratitude shall wreathe

As bright a crown as ere was worn,

And hang it on the green-leaved bough,

That whispers to the nameless dead below.

No one that inspiration drinks;

No one that loves his native land;

No one that reasons, feels, or thinks,

Can mid these lonely ruins stand,

Without a moistened eye, a grateful tear

Of reverent gratitude to those that moulder here.

The mighty shade now hovers round,—

Of him whose strange, yet bright career

Is written on this sacred ground

In letters that no time shall sere;

Who in the Old World smote the turbaned crew,

And founded Christian empires in the New.

And she! the glorious Indian maid,

The tutelary of this land,

The angel of the woodland shade,

The miracle of God’s own hand,

Who joined man’s heart to woman’s softest grace,

And thrice redeemed the scourges of her race.

Sister of charity and love,

Whose life-blood was soft Pity’s tide,

Dear goddess of the sylvan grove,

Flower of the forest, nature’s pride,

He is no man who does not bend the knee,

And she no woman who is not like thee!

Jamestown, and Plymouth’s hallowed rock

To me shall ever sacred be,—

I care not who my themes may mock,

Or sneer at them and me.

I envy not the brute who here can stand

Without a thrill for his own native land.

And if the recreant crawl her earth,

Or breathe Virginia’s air,

Or in New England claim his birth,

From the old pilgrims there,

He is a bastard, if he dare to mock

Old Jamestown’s shrine or Plymouth’s famous rock.