Dedication

Dedicated

 

To the memory 

of

 

Colonel Daniel Gillespie

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Grave Inscription

Col Daniel Gillespie
who was born in
Frederick County Virginia
Oct 13th 1743

The son of pious and worthy parents.
Endowed by nature with a mind
above the ordinary grade
with a strong love of Liberty
and great decision of Character
tho without the advantages
of a Liberal Education
He will never the less
be ranked by a grateful posterity
among that noble band of Patriots
whose skill and valor in the field of battle
during our struggle for National Independence
and whose Wisdom and Integerity
in the Council Chamber
where the principles were discussed
and the platform constructed
of the happiest government on earth
were the pride, the ornament
and the security of their Country
Having through a long Life, discharged the duties
of Husband, Father, and Friend.
Soldier, Statesman, and Citizen.
with uncommon Fidelity
He died in a good old age.

Jan 17th 1829

 


 

INDEPENDENCE

THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

1/1: WASHINGTON

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VALLEY FORGE

If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live
Martin Luther King Jr.

****

America, carv’d long by ice & fire,
Twyx endless streams of blinding orison,
Tho’ dream me here in Burnley, Lancashire,
My wife’s ancestor fought for Washington
& him no less than colonel, in the strain
Of desperate refusal to the crown,
When East of Mississippi’s vital vein
Upsoar from field & homestead, port & town,
Brave men to sever, with portentous knives,
King George’s haughty hold upon their lives.

As Macingwane, first cub of Jama,
From Chunu’s fierce nation, when first he heard
Of the defeated Zwide, grew calmer
& collected, then rejected the word
Which wails ‘surrender,’ aghast to remain
In servitude; like Alfred at the marsh,
Collecting force to thwart th’invading Danes;
George Washington sets winter’s quarters harsh,
Eleven thousand cold & hungry men
Down-huckl’d like the grizzly in its den.

The woods were free of game by November,
By Christmas Day countless were desertions,
New Year was as hapless as December,
Everyone’s exhausted by exertions,
While coughs of inter-racial diseases
Into sick silence splutter’d by end-day;
Among these woes a son of the Ceasars
All crises calms, ‘friends, gather round & pray,
To better our deliverance & plight –
Man’s native freedom is his sacred right!’

By February fledgling Congress acts,
Supplies pocosin flooded up the camp,
Revitalizing protests to the tax
Threadneedle spun, gunpowder on the ramp
Gone rattling down the gantry to explode
In socialist commotion – human voice
Means nothing if this utter’d far abroad –
America presents an easy choice;
Repel the tithes, then rebel strong & free,
Or coolie down in buck-tooth’d savagery.

E Pluribus unum, out of many
Comes one, one came, still burns the perfect flame
His Excellency lit, unlike any
Before, or since, protector of the fame
Emitting from his Presidential Seat,
Which steers the Heavens & Humanity,
To bust up evil causes we may meet,
Or trust us when we seem pernickety –
Remembering, with votive monolith,
He fought for justice, country, kin & kith.


Epode

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WHEATLEY

A cottage in Boston 1780
Phillis Wheatley, a freed ex-slave,
Is reading her poetry to her visitor,
General George Washington

Wheatley
Muse! bow propitious while my pen relates
How pour our armies through a thousand gates,
In bright array they seek the work of war,
Where high unfurl’d the ensign waves in air;
Anon Britannia droops the pensive head,
While round increase the rising hills of dead,
Proceed, great chief, with virtue on thy side,
Thy ev’ry action let the goddess guide,
Thee, first in peace and honours… we demand
The grace and glory of thy martial band.

Washington
Miss Phillis, this much pleases me to hear,
You sing the English linguals as a saint,
Your too kind words ne’er fail to wrench a tear,
Nor color thoughts with patriotic paint,
As such you would inspire us from defeats
When all your smiling Massachusetts men
& others rush’d from many peaceful streets
To battle’s strife, en-nobled by thy pen;
When members, tho’ they operated small,
Formidable, for now share we one soul.

Wheatley
Yours is the highest praise I’ll ever know,
Compelling forth my second book of verse,
Alas, the numbers stumble faint & slow,
These never with clear polish I’ll rehearse,
For since my kindly master died & I
Free woman made, only the scullery
Provides me daily meat & milk & rye,
& wastes my muse, a poet’s irony;
Some rustic, obscurantist Ayrshire bard,
Dreams drowning in the tides of toil-too-hard.

Washington
We must all share such straits in mood & mind
Until we keep the promise of the state,
When we’ll see War, the plague that lames mankind,
Banish’d from this green earth, we’ll cultivate
Peace gardens, where squabbling planet factions
May mellow with the fragrance of a bloom,
Consecrating all their future actions
With springtime odours in a pink perfume;
These times must come, but first I long to hear
The fresh song-bounty of thine endow’d ear.

Wheatley
Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
‘Their colour is a diabolic die;’
Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’angelic train;
Despite all this, thro’ leaden night’s I’ll pray
Others won’t feel my fate’s tyrannic sway.


Antistrophe

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INAUGARATION

This land of ours by right of birth
This land is ours by right of toil
We helped to turn its virgin earth,
Our sweat is in its fruitful soil
James Weldon Johnson

As rivers whirr with bloodshed’s thick-red flow,
As wide plains ring with chivalry of sorts,
A monarch obstinate is made to know
America has flung him from the ports,
When since the surrender of Cornwallis,
No longer heel-kept subjects forced to be,
Grown citizens, not of the colonies,
But thirteen states combin’d especially,
Sitting in peace, sharing their hearty meals,
Unhearing England’s borish law’s appeals.

The flag of British union down-torn,
Another crowns the steeples, hangs in bars,
A thing of beauty, Philadelphi born,
Of thirteen stripes; & in the canton, stars
Also thirteen – they’ll ever represent
A curlecued republic wrought anew,
As if a second Henghist, hopp’d to Kent,
Had threatened London with a hungry few,
Whose immigration plants a nation’s bed
That one day half-a-continent shall spread.

The games of nation-building are begun,
There is a sense of dancing in the heat,
As to a general, George Washington,
Not quite a throne is granted, but a seat,
Unanimous for him the vote proceeds,
& renders him the Potomac behind,
Thro’ Baltimore & Trenton drive his steeds,
At every bend in raptures did he find
His common-folk cheering a proud salute,
While cannon-throats fireballs of triumph shoot.

He cross’d the Hudson by bucksnatcher barge,
Decorated for inaugaration,
New York, the national citadel, grew large
As electricity of elation
With victory combin’d – the sanity
Of self-respect – down to Federal Hall
He went, heads of excutivity
Preceed his coach, to the corner of Wall
& Nassau, on the balcony he stood,
A gentleman defender of the Good.

As planetary fires by diamonds kept,
An oath was set in stone, in which the sky
Shone boundless, all the concourse call’d & wept,
Their chosen one paid fealty with, ‘I
Do solemnly swear,’
(such regal reserve),
‘To maintain with faithful execution
The office of President; to preserve
Protect & defend the constitution
!’
While thirteen cannon flatter’d with salvos
He kiss’d his Bible as he’d sniff a rose.

L’A I: Inaugural Address

The magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of my Country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens, a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with dispondence, one, who, inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpractised in the duties of civil administration, ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies. In this conflict of emotions, all I dare aver, is, that it has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just appreciation of every circumstance, by which it might be affected. All I dare hope, is, that, if in executing this task I have been too much swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or by an affectionate sensibility to this transcendent proof, of the confidence of my fellow-citizens; and have thence too little consulted my incapacity as well as disinclination for the weighty and untried cares before me; my error will be palliated by the motives which misled me, and its consequences be judged by my Country, with some share of the partiality in which they originated.

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station; it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either.

No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. And in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their United Government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most Governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage.

I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my Country can inspire: since there is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists in the economy and course of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness, between duty and advantage, between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy, and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity: Since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained: And since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.

Having thus imported to you my sentiments, as they have been awakened by the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign parent of the human race, in humble supplication that since he has been pleased to favour the American people, with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquility, and dispositions for deciding with unparellelled unanimity on a form of Government, for the security of their Union, and the advancement of their happiness; so his divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.

1/2: MOUNT VERNON

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PRESIDENT

We have dared to be free – let us continue free by ourselves, & for ourselves
Jean-Jaques Dessalines

No semi-sacred Caesar was his birth,
But natural profundity of mind
Had made a kingdom of this sway of Earth,
Whose earliest progresses must be signed,
Those ten amendments of the ‘Bill of Rights,’
Offers Mosaic substance, guarantees
Essential liberties; he ends the fights
With Indian Ohio, while the seas
Stuff’d up with ships… but each slave fugitive
Demands recaptur’d – these he can’t forgive.

Before they’d heard Karttikeya’s acclaim,
Some prosperous brood of distant Sulgrave,
Earn’d a certain, middling Virginian fame,
Long built on lands tobacco-sewn by slave;
Fields of fragrant flowers chok’d by that weed
Which renders lungs asthmatic, that did drain
Vile scum from England, scrumming to succeed
In dollar dynasties, & to obtain,
While Africa beshackl’d at the forge!
As much of this brave world that they could gorge.

The hypocrite-in-chief has gone to town;
Behind him, Mount Vernon’s metronome slaves,
Bondsman’s intol’rable sun up, sun down;
Working ‘til strength… fails… flops in early graves,
Rudimentary huts – musty, squalid,
Full families frame… pallet-beds, latrine,
Rag-children strew the floor, fireplace pallid,
Swarming pickaninnies rarely clean,
All kept illiterate, & from the kirk,
To focus fading minds on banal work.

Up in the Big House, far from rheumy rooms,
Good mistress, Martha Washington, commands
The best domestics, Betty at the looms
True seamstress was, a needle in her hands
Conducted Verdi like swans on water;
Between them both, with eyes of beaming bronze,
Sits Ona Judge, Betty’s pretty daughter,
Who once tried on the hat her master dons
For presidential meetings, ‘Look at me!’
She giggl’d, ‘I am noble, I am free!’

The President returns, the Potomac
Lies stiff, thrapping ankles shrouded by snow,
‘Lets keep them working warm,’ as whip-teeth crack
From frozen swamps tough tree-stumps pull’d up slow,
As old man in a sling attempts a shirk,
He’s chastised in a flash by his master,
You use that hand to eat, use it to work!
Overseers, we’ll work this rascal faster!’
When, finding the cold disagreeable,
George Washington sped home at the double.

Epode

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WASHINGTONS

Mount Vernon 1794: George Washington & his wife are taking their evening meal

Martha
I’ve sensed a certain slackness on their part,
If duty is not given by fair means
We must apply coercion, steel our heart
If trusted force be used, those brutal scenes
Deem rather proper, such impertinence
Should prosecuted be by public eye,
I’ll never trust a nigger – such pretence,
They’ whip each other softer than a fly –
But hand no more the whip to Hyland Crow,
He hates the negro & he lets them know.

George
My love, be sure, I’ll pass on your concerns,
But there is something else needs must attend,
In Pennsylvania most Blacks are free
& if a slave resides in that strange state
A full six months, they’ll earn their liberty,
An owner’s rights shall then lawfully end,
I heard that impudent huzzy, Betty,
Has been hollerin’ a storm of vain hope,
Thinkin’ Philadelphia is her fate –
I’d rather see her danglin’ from a rope.

Martha
The solution, as I plainly see it,
Always advise excuses to return
To our beloved homestead, so be it
Good & just for those wretches to learn
We own their fates, & if a slave believes
In six months freedom, let us leave in five,
I have no pity for these rogues & thieves;
Our apples, corn & meat here used to thrive,
While every time they serve a glass of wine
Those vultures guzzle two by shrewd design.

George
If you insist, my dear, but deep inside
I’m fluster’d by an ineffective sense
Of something waspish, this I can’t abide,
I see the white man by his picket fence,
Facing rough fields where black men labor long
In grating chains of slavery, rough-slapp’d,
I listen to the beauties of their song
& feel in them the soul of freedom trapp’d –
Our Union, & human dignity,
Depends on rootin’ out brute slavery.

Martha
There is a life to which the babe must yield,
My love, by fate or fortune, from its birth –
Tight-rooted wolfsbane, twisted in a field,
Or rhododendron of an arcade earth;
Ours was run plantations in Virginia,
Theirs, help us to run them by best means,
Let us unwaver from the linear,
Remembering to grow our maize & beans,
Leaving these problems to a future age
Whose abolitionists they’ll assuage.

 

Antistrophe

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ONA JUDGE

You can’t separate peace from freedom because no-one can be at peace unless he has freedom
Malcolm X

****

As when remarkable Gunnodoyak
Maw-bottom’d in the belly of a snake;
So little Ona Judge was born a black
In blasted age when black backs bent to break,
But as she watch’d them work the master’s wheat,
Wanting instruction, moral & mental,
She thirsted freedom, easy & complete,
Did daily muse; noble, transcendental –
For tho’ the white folk acted deity
She pitied them for lacking piety.

As adolescence sweetens & matures,
The ragged hedge seems less persistent cage
For one young lass, struck by the world’s allures
Prepares the flit, & dares the bold outrage,
Prepares to make the river run uphill
The night before she’s dragg’d back to Vernon,
Out slip’t she thro’ the moonlit window sill
Her heart was poundin’, her fate was burnin’ –
Meanwhile, downstairs, the Washington’s did dine,
On lovely supper with a Bordeaux  wine.

From Philly’s fervid hotbed of progress
Fled Ona via friendly Captain Bowles,
The President, pedantic with distress,
Like Loki scratching runescars on lost souls,
Declares how this freckl’’d mulatto girl
Had shown them persnickety ingratitude,
She was to them more child than servant churl,
& treat her with a better attitude –
To anyone trusted with her return
A hundred dollars shall they justly earn.

New Hampshire is a haven for a slave
Where good, god-fearing folk think all made one
Upon this earth that Jesus came to save;
Discovering where Ona Judge has gone,
The President persuades his own nephew,
The scour-faced Burwell Basset she to seize
When up on business; brazen warnings flew
To Ona, she with swaddling infant flees,
Like Charlie when he parley’d as a lass,
To Hide in Greenland til all dangers pass.

No more those warm snows of summer, no more
The snapping whip, no more the sodden hay
Soak’d thro’ with tears as men wept on the floor,
No more the dawnings of the Devil’s day,
For Ona Judge was crown’d a chain-free wife!
A mother & a child of God remade,
Happy to lead the lapse of her long life,
Without the threat of yet one more tirade –
She is American, her rights upstand,
To live by law, free worship, & buy land.

L’A II: Jefferson on the West

To Meriwether Lewis, esquire, Captain of the 1st regiment of infantry of the United States of America.

The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri river, & such principal stream of it, as, by it’s course & communication with the water of the Pacific ocean may offer the most direct & practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce.

The interesting points of the portage between the heads of the Missouri & the water offering the best communication with the Pacific ocean should be fixed by observation, & the course of that water to the ocean, in the same manner as that of the Missouri.

In all your intercourse with the natives treat them in the most friendly & conciliatory manner which their own conduct will admit; allay all jealousies as to the object of your journey, satisfy them of it’s innocence, make them acquainted with the position, extent, character, peaceable & commercial dispositions of the U.S., of our wish to be neighborly, friendly & useful to them, & of our dispositions to a commercial intercourse with them; confer with them on the points most convenient as mutual emporiums, & the articles of most desirable interchange for them & us.

Should you reach the Pacific ocean, inform yourself of the circumstances which may decide whether the furs of those parts may not be collected as advantageously at the head of the Missouri (convenient as is supposed to the waters of the Colorado & Oregon or Columbia) as at Nootka sound or any other point of that coast; & that trade be consequently conducted through the Missouri & U.S. more beneficially than by the circumnavigation now practised.

“On your arrival on that coast, endeavor to learn if there be any port within your reach frequented by the sea-vessels of any nation, and to send two of your trusty people back by sea, in such way as shall appear practicable, with a copy of your notes. And should you be of opinion that the return of your party by the way they went will be eminently dangerous, then ship the whole, & return by sea by way of Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope, as you shall be able.

Thomas Jefferson

1/3: LEWIS & CLARK

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PIONEERS

Buried was the bloody hatchet,
Buried was the dreadful war-club,
Buried were all warlike weapons,
And the war-cry was forgotten
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

****

As out of Iceland sail’d Eirik the Red,
For Greenland, furthest footfall of the Norse;
Herjolfsson, from his fleet, blown far off course,
Unto a fertile coast where demons tread,
Dark Thule-sons, Thorgilsson named them Skrælings,
Where grapes gush golden wine, the paradise
Auld Skalds in dreams did send beyond the ice
Since hearing of Brendan’s sacred sailings –
So has this brave Corps of Discovery
Left westwards out of restless Saint Louis.

Captain Meriweather Lewis was friends
With Second Lieutenant William Clark;
Like Phinehas heaving the Hyksos Ark,
Gone dragging baggage round Missouri’s bends,
With them, Sacagewea, native miss,
A slave call’d York, with others strength unspent,
Task’d with ‘traverse the entire continent
Stretch’d by the Louisiana Purchase!’
Stated their President, Jefferson, clear,
‘Let deep Pacific sweep our last frontier!’

Into great plains, immensities of skies,
Between the Rockies vaulting gem-cut peaks,
Upcountry westward wound their wildlife weeks,
When each new day was fill’d with fresh surprise,
Chief-after-chief made converse with respect,
& trading goods both parties hearty pleas’d,
Sometimes Wasi cum Sapi’s skin was seiz’d,
Then vigorously rubb’d to no effect,
This man the very first from Africa
To ford the heart-streams of America.

They spent a happy season with the Sioux,
Learning to gut a bison with a spear,
While drums & whistles summon’d without fear
The spirits in a strutting rooster crew,
As Chief Black Buffalo with love enclos’d
His guests, the swaddling bosom of his tribe,
All smok’d the pipe of peace, all did imbibe
The White Man’s whiskey, doing this dispos’d
All racial ignorance, its bars & gripes,
Wrapping a new born in the Stars & Stripes.

Rising aslant a Continent’s divide,
Rivers interfluent toward sunset,
Ice-chew’d & sunburnt, bug-bitten & wet,
By stony embrazures, sandbars & snags,
Sharing all tribulation as a team,
At every station slave York dares to dream
Of freedom; once, alone, atop the crags,
Peering down upon long open spaces,
‘Here be room for all the Good Lord’s races.’

Epode

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DEMOCRACY

Cape Disappointment, 1805: Having reached the mouth of the Columbia River at the Pacific, the Corps of Discovery is deliberating on where they should spend the Winter.

Lewis
Good day, my friends, on this day we’ll decide
A site to pass this winter’s season hence,
Should we remain beside an ocean tide
Whose waters foaming always groans immense,
Perching like falcons on a headland rock?
Or should we to the Nez Perce run the tracks,
For they were very kind, a perfect flock
About their pleasant chief – or then perhaps
We might relax close by this river mouth
Across the waters, some place to the south.

Clark
Wherever we may find ourselves that morn
When born our savior to Man’s sinful spheres,
There’ll be fruit, I hope, vegetables & corn,
Not just this boil’d, unsalted meat of deer
& Elks, which we’ve been livin’ on so long;
But then if wait we here, this sorry spot
Could one glad day some vessel set among
That sea of ghosts, we’d give ’em what we’ve got
Regarding our sojourns up to this shore,
Preserving our endeavors evermore.

Sacagewea
The other day with Shinook braves I spoke
They said they see one ship a year, or worse;
This rough, tough land, this breathless pictoverse,
Enough to make the best of dreamers choke,
Tho’ drier weather Nez Perce may possess,
& this, the bleakest of the bleakest beach,
For us to here remain I do beseech,
To live in peace & with a soft impress
Leave such a cherish’d memory of us,
Next ones out West they’ll welcome without fuss.

Joseph Whitehouse
I like the Nez Perce & that game call’d base
They shoot with stick & ball in diamond square,
But most of all I love this crystal air,
These perfect trees framing this pearl of place;
Alas, I’ll thrust a drawback in the belt,
Those Shinook taint with dear extravagance
The faintest produce, this is not fair France,
Shops billowing with buttons, lace & felt –
Our clothes must rot & cannot be repair’d
Like farmlands of a gamble-addict laird.

York
I dare say we’ve been given up for dead,
If folks back home could see the wanton marks
Of sharp-jabb’d hunger, the way the barks
Are stripp’d & turn’d to bacca… but with lead
A-plenty & powder & clean rifles
A Continent’s been conquer’d, yes I think
Your specimens, your paper & your ink
Have proved that fact, trials turn to trifles
When you boys read your journals back & raise
Remembrances of my best living days.

Antistrophe

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HEROES

Man is not only what he does but what he thinks & what he aims at
C.L.R. James

****

The hard-tack of winter, no ships sighted,
But cometh spring-bud home they bouyant drive,
Unbudded like butterflies, & alive,
To them all humanity beknighted,
For they had seen Jack Rabbit, Giant Spruce,
Candlefish, Huckleberries evergreen,
& among the boundless, unfolding scope
Of prairie, native wolf & antelope,
For those fine fellows life flew loose & free,
With a final flourish,  to St Louis.

By Yellowstone banks the ancient Crow reigns
& all thro’ which their pointing lances sweep,
Where on the herding Buffalo they keep
Good watch to Palomino ‘cross the plains,
King spiders in a web of long-trod trails,
Accepted in these travelers as friends,
Among them a squaw beauty, thro’ the lens
Of love, spies York, as puff’d up as the sails
Oer the barque of Cleopatra’s passion
For Ceasar, & then for Octavian.

With every step they felt like fishermen,
Who thro’ a savage night of cat-claw’d waves
Did beg the lord to fend them from their graves,
To kiss & hold their families again;
Crossing fast rivers older than the flow
Of human blood, they witness’d divine art
In outcrops shaped strangely, sonorous heart
Beholding swarming salmon, spotless snow
Spread over mountains goldening with morn –
The verve of young America is born!

When rolls a morning’s mist thro’ creek’s bottom
When nothing might be seen but veils of spray,
When in an instance the eyelet of day
Appearing like a blood-splash on cotton,
Begins its shine; setting starheat to work,
An earth-cloud steaming up from woods & stream,
As if the mind was shaken from a dream,
As if a lantern blasted thro’ the mirk –
So was Thomas Jefferson as he learn’d
His Corps of Discovery has return’d.

Theirs was the Roman triumph of the West,
Riches on each & acreage bestow’d,
But for a slave call’d York, tho’ he was owed
Most certainly his freedom, richest best
Among them when the pressures test distraught;
No, no, whenever he was ‘uppity,’
Neoptolemusian savagery
Spat from Clarke’s fists, ’til boring of the sport
After five years, York freed; ‘Where will you go?’
‘To where love bless’d me out west with the Crow.’

L’A III: The National Anthem

STAR SPANGLED BANNER 

Oh say can you see,
By the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed,
At the twilight’s last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars,
Through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched,
Were so gallantly streaming.

And thy rocket’s red glare,
Thy bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through thee night,
That our flag was still there.

Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

And where is that band
who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war
and the battle’s confusion

A home and a Country
should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out
their foul footstep’s pollution.

No refuge could save
the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight
or the gloom of the grave.

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Louis Daniel Armstrong (1812)

Wherever our jurisdiction extends, it carries with it the chain & the scourge – wherever our flag floats, it is the flag of slavery. If so, that flag should have the light of the stars & the streaks of the morning red erased from it; it should be dyed black, & its device should be the whip & the fetter
William Cullen Bryan

 

1/4: WAR OF 1812

Strophe

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JOUSTING

There’s a dark thresold in every human soul,
between the dawn man and the dawn woman
Frederick W Turner

This stage in the age of global affairs
Sends Washington three substantial rivals;
The Mexicans strewn thro’ the arid South,
While East of Mississippi indogenes
Declaring for the folly of the peace
Extended them once happily, but find
Their lands of ancient sacredness desired
By greed-eyed hawks, while to the open north
The mystery of Canada extends,
There Britain’s battle banner flutters free.

Election year, of course, has come around,
The President is losing in the polls
What better than a military jaunt
To rouse indifferent voters for him,
Upon his chest pin Washingtonian
Glory – upon some mercantile pretext,
To Canada he march’d his mobile arms,
Wasting the properties of Britishers,
So savage act, this was no remonstrance,
But brutal theft as when the Hun rode west.

With London fueling flashing thundersticks
What fierce war-whoops enflame the western sky;
The Winnebago, Shawnee, Fox & Sauk,
Tenskwatawa follow, whose open mouth,
Praises sky-panther’d brother, Tecumesh,
Like Ga-oh & Hino, rode these the winds
Of harsh revolt, old Europe’s ways defied,
An evil spirit, whose swarming children
Back-beaten be must be, in battle slain
Was Tecumesh, when war-whoops glibly fade.

From Aganippe’s Well brave John Paul Jones,
Hard capture the Drake of Carrickfergus,
Terrorize the fragile Irish freighting;
As when a brig call’d Argus Shannon sail’d
& stol’n were twenty prizes; Lake Erie
Kept Perry’s tars, battling Queen Charlotte’s fleet,
Deathsparks of lightning, bark dash’d on the line,
That squadron captur’d whole, intact, that day,
Unpents America’s naval prestige!

As when a troupe of cowboys shoots thro’ town
Unstoppable, & robs its little bank,
When word, spread thro’ the counties all around,
Sends sheriffs off to help, but while them gone,
The towns they left protectless in the dark ,
Descended into anarchy & crime,
Until the sheriffs rode back from justice –
So too Europa’s ogre has been chain’d
On Elba’s isle, freeing fierce scarlet lines,
Those battle-harden’d veterans of war.

Epode

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DOLLY MADISON

The Executive Mansion, Washington, August 24th, 1811: The First Lady, Dolly Madison is with the gardener, John McGraw, John Souissat & her manservant, Paul Jennings

Paul Jennings
I’ve never heard a noise like I’ve just heard,
It seems the Devil’s stepp’d out of his den
& hurl’d his fire & brimstone at our boys,
Strange, infernal, terrifying rockets
Flew at our lines, men dropp’d their muskets, ran
Faster than when a storm’s burst overhead
& you might be one half-mile outta home,
Knowing if you’d sprint back you’d keep best dry –
Faster than that – sweet life was in account;
Ah Carrol comes, he’ll add to my telling.

Charles Carrol
Mrs Madison, Mrs Madison,
I bring ya’ll tidings, with a weeping heart;
The British are coming, a regatta
Of frigates, sloops & schooners; they have fought
A battle up at Bladenburg, they’ve drove
Our legion from the field, twas like a race –
But flight has grown essential, you should flee
The capital, who knows what they’ll enact?
I’ve heard they’re furious at poisonous
Whiskey folks left when emptying the farms.

John McGraw
I say we should sing rally songs & fight,
All thro’ this war we’ve whipp’d the Old Country,
How dare those confounded sarpants anchor
In these fair waters, barges of arm’d men
Frighten good families, all tarnations
To them & their Tory machinations,
I might be Scots-bred but I dare not care
For London’s turpid guile, aye, long erewhile
The Jacobites were brutally repress’d,
Let’s fight, I say, these insults pay with blood.

John Souissat
The city is abandoned by soldiers,
Most ignominiously, officers
Have simply vanished; a sauve qui pert
Situation has arisen, & I
Do not intend to fight these men alone;
I urge you, Mrs President, no sense
There is in staying put, with graceful air
Greet enemies with fineries of state –
Risk grows too great, they might be gentlemen
But you are our First Lady, Heaven sent.

Dolly Madison
Oh! Very well, we’ll go, but not before
The Landsdowne portrait safely pack’d away,
It would become an Eagle of the French
Fallen in English hands, to be uphung
In some captain of Surrey’s sitting room,
No! Break the frame, the screws too tight to move
Within this tiny time, boys break the frame!
Get to it, & then roll the canvas smooth,
Boys, whisk it up to New York ’til the day
We’ll stand back in this room, & unafraid!

Antistrophe

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WHITE HOUSE

I never lost. Something just happened to keep me from winning.
Sugar Ray Robinson

Into the place where this strange war began
By jeers, & cheers, & strokes of inky pen,
A place of magnificent distances,
March the British, whose sharpshooter surprise
Ensures an onset of grim destruction
That has begun already, blazing glow
Floats oer the Naval Yard, while in the streets
Flames surge up doors & windows; nothing spar’d
That keeps for State – Treasury, Library,
Newspapers & the mansion Madison.

An empty city is emptier still,
Except for crimson Cockneys, Scotch & Welsh,
Tough faces in the torchlight until Dawn
Drags up its smoking wracks of destruction;
Tho’ private properties were left as found
The map with all the government buildings
Shows crosses red spread slowly oer a grid,
Beseeming as by Freemason design,
Whose noblest part, tho’ gutted, parch’d & black,
Stands defiant to this dreadful damage!

Arise yon Phoenix palace from the flames,
Emulsion’d in purest absolution,
A promise heaven-sworn in every heart
That beats American; ‘never again
Shall foreign sov’reigns & their armies lord
About our sacred capital,’
a song
Erewhile composed by captive, Francis Key,
Watching Fort Henry fall by Baltimore,
But soaked in British blood, he was the first
To sing ‘Star Spangl’d Banner’ from the heart.

Just before Christmas the Treaty of Ghent
Free sign’d; dwindle shadows of man’s ravage,
But millions added to national debts
Enriching Rotheschildes & other such names;
Reason prevails, an unwinnable war,
Suspended was uti possidetis,
Territory mutually restor’d,
As each side of a Continental line
Two nations branding landage eternal,
Americans, Canadians, at peace.

Our sun is a bauble of red heather
Up in the Lammermuirs, so many stars,
The Universe is distance, as is Earth,
For while in Belgium laughter blends with wine
On Chistmas morn, tho’ foes the day before,
Down New Orleans brule battle rages on,
Where black & white united for the cause,
Protecting beauty from the filthy grip
Of British rapists, God fell on their right,
Skittling Redcoats back to panicking ships.

L’A IV: On Labour

If they are good workmen, they may be of Asia, Africa, or Europe. They may be Mahometans, Jews or Christian of an Sect, or they may be Athiests.
George Washington

Wherever free labor has gone forth on this continent, the forest has bowed before it; towns & villages have sprung up like magic in its track; canals, railroads, & busy industry, in all its imaginable forms, have marked its progress; civilization, in its highest attributes, follows it; knowledge & religion go with it hand in hand
John Dix

The way it seem to me, the slave only got two choices. The first is to make up his mind to wake up every day a slave or steal away in the wind in the night. And even if the lot he draws is to pick cotton every day he breathe, he can decide to be the best picker who ever was or fill the bottom of his burlap with rocks & dirt
Frank X Walker

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