Poem on Presenting Franklin with a Walking Stick from the Duchesse de Deux-Ponts
Printed by Didot l’aîné (1783): Yale University Library, University of Pennsylvania Library, Library of Congress
This undated poem and Kéralio’s letter of July 20 written on behalf of the duchesse de Deux-Ponts (below), concern the gift reproduced on the facing page: a walking stick topped with a gold pommel in the shape of a liberty cap. The duchesse sent it to replace the walking stick she had given to Franklin in 1779, which he had lost.8 The author of this poem is unknown, and no manuscript copy has been found.9 Because Kéralio probably delivered the gift, he also may have written the lines.
In a codicil to his will, Franklin bequeathed his “fine Crabtree Walking Stick with a Gold Head curiously wrought in the Form of the Cap of Liberty” to his “Friend and the Friend of Mankind, General Washington.” He added that “If it were a Sceptre he has merited it, and would become it. It was a present to me from that excellent Woman Madame de Forbach, the Dowager Duchess of Deux Ponts, connected with some Verses which should go with it.”1 If a copy of the verses did accompany the bequest, it has not survived among Washington’s papers.2
[before July 20, 1783]
En lui présentant, de la part de Madame la Comtesse Douairiere de Deux Ponts, un bâton d’épine surmonté d’une pomme d’or, figurant le chapeau de la liberté.
Dans les plaines de Marathon,
Où l’insolence Musulmane
A d’éternels affronts condamne
La postérité de Solon;
Parmi la ronce et les épines
Qui couvrent ces bords malheureux,
Et cachent les cendres divines
Des sages, des héros fameux,
La Liberté, votre déesse,
Avant d’abandonner la Grece,
Arracha ce bâton noueux:
On le vit aux Alpes Pennines,
Pour terrasser l’Autrichien,
Briller entre les javelines
Du valeureux Helvétien;3
Elle en fit depuis une lance,
Lorsque dans les champs de Trenton
Elle dirigeoit la vaillance
Et l’audace de Washington.
Ce symbole de la victoire
Qu’orne aujourd’hui le chapeau du grand Tell,
Ce ferme appui que votre gloire
Rendra désormais immortel,
Assurera vos pas au Temple de Mémoire.
DE L’IMPRIMERIE DE DIDOT L’AÎNÉ, 1783.
8. For the original gift see XXIX, 710, 748.
9. Three examples of the imprint have been located to date, as listed in our source note. It is discussed and reproduced in Luther S. Livingston, Franklin and His Press at Passy … (New York, 1914), pp. 190–2. Livingston conjectures that BF must have received the verses in handwritten form and commissioned the imprint. We are skeptical of the latter claim, given the poem’s extravagant hyperbole.
1. Codicil to BF’s Will, July 17, 1788 (APS).
2. See W. W. Abbot et al., eds., The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series (16 vols. to date, Charlottesville and London, 1987– ), V, 388–90.
3. William Tell, the hero of Swiss legend and title character in Antoine-Marin Lemierre’s 1767 tragedy, which established him as a symbol of national liberation; see XXXIV, 543n.