America: a poem

O, who has not heard of the Northmen of yore,
How flew, like the sea-bird, their sails from the shore;
How westward, they stayed not till, breasting the brine,
They hailed Narragansett, the land of the vine!

Then the war-songs of Rollo, his pennon and glaive,
Were heard as the danced by the moon-lighted wave,
And their golden-haired wives bore them sons of the soil,
While raced with redskins their feud and turmoil.

And who has not seen, ‘mid the summer’s gay crowd,
That old pillared tower of their fortalice proud,
How stands solid proof of the sea chieftains’ reign
Ere came with Columbus those galleys of Spain!

Twas a claim for their kindred: an earnest of sway,
By the stout-hearted Cabot made good in its day;
Of the Cross of St. George, on the Chesapeake’s tide,
Where lovely Virginia arose like a bride.

Came the Pilgrims with Winthrop; and, saint of the West,
Came Robert of Jamestown, the brave and the blest;
Came Smith, the bold rover, and Rolfe – with his ring,
To wed sweet Matoaka, child of a king.

Undaunted they came, every peril to dare,
Of tribes fiercer far than the wold in his lair;
Of the wild irksome woods, where in ambush they lay;
Of their terror by night and their arrow by day.

And so where our capes cleave the ice of the poles,
Where grooves of the orange scent sea-coast and shoals,
Where the forward Atlantic uplifts its last crest,
Where the sun, when he sets, seeks the East from the West;

The clime that from ocean to ocean expands,
The fields to the snowdrifts that stretch from the sands,
The wilds they have conquered of maintain and plain;
Those Pilgrims have made them fair Freedom’s domain.

And the bread of dependence if proudly they spurned,
Twas the soul of the fathers that kindled and burned,
Twas the blood of old Saxon within them that ran;
They held – to be free is the birthright of man.

So oft the old lion, majestic of mane,
Sees cubs of his cave breaking loose from his reign;
Unmeet to be his if they braved not his eye,
He gave them the spirit his own defy.

Arthur Cleveland Coxe

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