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A poem by Will Carleton

At The Summit Of The Washington Monument

Title:     At The Summit Of The Washington Monument
Author: Will Carleton [More Titles by Carleton]

[From Arthur Selwyn's Note-book.]

Look North! A white-clad city fills
This valley to its sloping hills;
Here gleams the modest house of white,
The statesman's longed-for, dizzy height.
Beyond, a pledge of love to one
Who in two lands was Freedom's son--
The holder of an endless debt--
Our nation's brother, Lafayette.
But yonder lines of costly homes
And bristling spires and swelling domes,
And far away the spreading farms
Where thrift displays substantial charms,
And hamlets creeping out of sight,
And cities full of wealth and might,
Must own the fatherhood of him
Whose glory Time can never dim.
All who can reckon Freedom's worth
Would write across this whole broad earth,
With pen dipped in the golden sun,
The magic name of Washington!
If we can keep the rules he gave
This land he more than fought to save,
Our future fame will glisten forth
Grand as the winter-lighted North!

* * * * *

[Illustration: FROM THE MONUMENT.]

Look South!--where, in its coat of gray,
The broad Potomac creeps away,
And seeks the blue of distant skies;
But pauses where the great chief lies
Within his humble, hallowed tomb,
Amid Mount Vernon's deathless bloom.
As glides this stream, great corse, past thee,
First to the bay, and then the sea,
So flowed thy life to rural rest,
Ere thou wast Heaven's eternal guest.
Oh strong, high man! whose patriot heart
Climbed from all common greeds apart;
To whom men's selfish ways were small,
As from this tower, serenely tall
(Built that all years thy fame may know),
Men look while creeping there below!
How weak was power to thy clear gaze,
Builder of nations joined in one,
Kindler of splendors still to blaze,
Finder of glories just begun!
Live on, great sleeper! as this stone,
Highest from earth that man has known,
So shall be ranked thy solid worth,
Highest of heroes on the earth!
Happy, secure, and cherished name,
Love is the pillar of thy fame;
Thy praise comes from each patriot's mouth,
Warm as the sunbeams of the South!

* * * * *

Look East! The Nation's castle walls
Spread out in massive beauty now;
Their lofty dome and pictured halls
In homage to this summit bow.
Oh, well that from these palaced lands
The marble spire obeisance win;
But for the one for whom it stands,
This chieftain-town had never been!
Yon plot, so full of brain and will,
Had staid a bleak and lonely hill!
If at five thousand dizzy feet
This shaft the whirling clouds could meet,
Until our gaze for miles, might be,
To the uncrowned but royal sea,
'Twere not too much of honor then,
To grant our crownless king of men.
You who the Nation's laws indite,
Look to this summit's honest white,
Where, throned on walls that must endure,
Pure fame entreats you to be pure;
Until our glory be increased,
Like sunbeams from the dazzling East!

* * * * *

Look West! There lie the hilly fields
Where brothers fought through days of dread,
Where mothers brooded o'er their dead,
And soil the thrift of carnage yields;
Where cannon roared and bullets sung,
Till every hillock had a tongue.
O Nation being and to be,
That silent blood speaks loud to thee!
God grant, if e'er our guns again
Must tear the quivering flesh of men,
The leaden hail-storm may be pressed
Against some foul invader's breast--
Against some alien tribe and zone--
And not, as then, to kill our own!
May all the fruitful strifes of peace
The thrilling bonds of love increase;
May yonder orb, in his quick change
From mountain range to mountain range,
From valley to rich valley o'er,
From river shore to river shore,
From wave to wave--may yonder sun
One Nation count, and only one;
Until he dips his fiery crest
Into the ocean of the West!

* * * * *

Look up! The phantom clouds of gray--
Grim ghosts of storm--have passed away;
The veiling of the sky is done,
And downward shines the welcome sun.
He kindles grand and peaceful fires
Upon the city's domes and spires;
He sends his strong magnetic glow
Through yonder moving throngs below.
Thou art, O sky serene and clear,
A symbol of our country here!
What land in all this world of pain,
This earth, where millions toil in vain,
Where famine, pestilence, and strife
Play careless games with human life,
Where Superstition clouds the soul,
And heartless brains sad hearts control--
What country, framed in frost or flowers,
Can see so clear a sky as ours?
Peace throws her mantle, broad and free,
O'er all who peaceable will be;
Plenty her sheltering flag doth wave
O'er those who will but toil and save;
Enlightenment each day shall rise
For all who do not cloud their eyes;
While Liberty from every race
Has made this land a refuge-place.
Let our deep thanks forever fly
Far as the reaches of the sky!


[From Farmer Harrington's Note-book.]

NOVEMBER 5, 18--.

Went to Mount Vernon; and I wouldn't have lost
That trip, for fifteen hundred times its cost!
Those farm-lands sleeping in the autumn sun;
The house HE slept in when his work was done;
The trees he planted with his own brave hand,
That set out Freedom's trees all o'er the land:
The humble tomb he lies in, which--like me--
Pilgrims from all the world have come to see:
These look up in one's eyes and sadly smile,
And preach a funeral sermon all the while!
Even the river-boats upon their way
Toll bells, as if he'd died that very day!
And through it all this precept may be traced:
The noblest men are simplest in their taste.

I've read how grand, Napoleon's tomb is made,
And all the surface-honors to him paid;
But I don't think the people that come there
Bring any heartfelt sympathy to spare;
While every true-brained patriot, night and morn,
Thanks God for letting Washington be born!

While I was standing, hat off, at the tomb,
A youth approached, three-quarters made of bloom;
And with his hat perched on his close-sheared head,
And smoking a small white cigar, he said:
"Sirrh, would you kindly just enlighten me
As to where Gawge cut down the cherry-tree?"
Said I, "Young man, just please at once disgorge
The fool-idea of calling that man 'George;'
His body, mind, and soul were firmly set
Higher, no doubt, than you will ever get.
He isn't the man, though lying dead, 'tis true,
When friends are near, to be half-named by you.
Take off your hat, and bow; if you rebel,
I'll get a cherry switch and trounce you well."

He looked at me a moment in surprise,
And mutiny stood foremost in his eyes;
But I was quite indignant, and could feel
The blood of Bunker Hill all through me steal.
I said, "One minute more will be allowed;"
The fine young man took off his hat, and bowed.

Irreverence is the fashion, nowadays,
And shows itself in good and evil ways;
Its mission is legitimate and clear
In cases where there's nothing to revere;
But they who use it must be judgment-fixed,
And not get reverend and unreverend mixed.


[From Arthur Selwyn's Note-book.]

Through these broad streets do I fly--
Furlongs and miles I defy,
Till the "magnificent distance"
Vanishes out of existence.
Let me with pencil prolong
Strains of the Bicycler's Song:

[The end]
Will Carleton's poem: At The Summit Of The Washington Monument