Thomas Jefferson Papers

Enclosure: Verses to Daniel McKinnen, 5 February 1801

Verses to Daniel McKinnen

To Daniel McKinnen Esqr

The man whom the muses have markd as their own

On whose birth they benignant have smild

His name on the turf or on ’change is unknown

He looks with contempt on that bauble a crown

Nor searches for glory in fields of renown

Where pity still weeps & horror stalks wild.

At the bar amid cunning contention & noise

No brawling attorney is he

In Assembly or Senate he never enjoys

The rewards which a profligate party employs

As shackles to fetter the free.

But where Hudson his high lands has torn from their base

And rolls on majestic between

There the muses have found for McKinnen a place

Where embodied by fancy those forms he may trace

Which by none but the poet are Seen

Yes happy are those Whom the Muses inspire

with their fancy their numbers divine

For me while thus rudely I snatch at the Lyre

If one Spark should elicit of poetrys fire

Tho transient that Spark Shall be thine

MS (same); in Livingston’s hand; above title: “Quem tu Melpomene &c.,” the opening of ode 3, book 4, of Horace’s Odes; an endorsement by TJ, also at head of text, identifies the ode.

Daniel Mckinnen was a lawyer in New York State (Syrett, Hamilton, description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends 22:266n; Kline, Burr, description begins Mary-Jo Kline, ed., Political Correspondence and Public Papers of Aaron Burr, Princeton, 1983, 2 vols. description ends 1:295n).

Torn from their base … majestic between: the words underlined in the MS, apparently by Livingston to call attention to his “stolen” imagery, echo a passage in the Notes on the State of Virginia in which TJ described the passage of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers through the Blue Ridge: “In the moment of their junction they rush together against the mountain, rend it asunder, and pass off to the sea.” The rivers “have torn the mountain down from its summit to its base,” leaving it “cloven asunder” (Notes, ed. Peden, 19).

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