Joseph McCoy’s: “The Expedient”
Addressed to Mr Jefferson
Let the slave, with treacherous zeal,
Skill’d to weave the flattering wile,
Win, without a heart to feel,
Folly’s friendship, greatness’ smile;
Sage, not such addrisses thee—
No, to freedom early won,
Proud he boasts a spirit free,
Friend of all as slave of none.
Calm, thro thy eventful time,
Wedded to thy country’s fame,
Thou hast led thy march sublime,
Honor’d still, for still the same.
Peace thy lov’d retirement guard!
Happy be thy rural reign!
Were desert its own reward
Not my warmest wish were vain.
But not mine ’tis here to seek
Praise’s language, Sage revered;
Let a glorious nation speak!
Let the great & good be heard!
Thou thy fondest wish dost gain,
Ease domestic, rural peace;
Hast thou done? does nought remain?
Do thy public wishes cease?
No, while lives a vital spark,
Glowing in that patriot breast,
As its genius shalt thou mark
Every movement of the West:
As its genius, fondly true,
Watch to ward impending ill;
As its genius cherish too
Taste & Wisdom, Toil & skill.
Hence, the undistinguish’d Muse
Fond thy bow’rs among would steal;
Haply fanciful her views—
Haply all his merit Zeal—
Nations have their infant time;
Slow the steps, progressive traced,
Which have led them to the prime
Mark’d by knowledge, Wealth, & Taste
As political advance,
So is literary made,
Harmonizing, not by chance1
This by that has still been sway’d.
So the Nations have come forth,
But the western world is new;
Not alone by recent birth,
But by modes of thinking too.
Empires have been born, have grown,
Shook the world, & passed away;
Yet, as this peculiar, none
Ever issued into day.
Young in an enlighten’d time,
Well Columbia truth explored;
Wisdom’s radience on her clime
Rich as morning sunshine pour’d
Hence the mild & stable form
Of her plan of ruling pow’r;
Not th’expedient in a storm
Rashly seazed to serve the hour.
Balancing & balanced all,
’Tis a system self secure;
On, as the terrestrial ball,
Rolling regular & sure.
Yet this cause, that misery check’d,
And advanced this glorious end,
Visits us with an effect
Which should wake his country’s friend.
Britain’s2 rude barbaric rage
Gradual, feelings mild replaced;
Gradual mounting, stage by stage,
Rose her learning, arts, & taste.
How were those, in early time,
To the pen their lives who gave?
Fed by Vanity or Crime
Or dependents of a slave.
Public taste the Muse should guard;
Public taste gave not support;
Great the toil for small reward,
Hence the piteous poor resort.
Yet ’twas thus the british muse
Up the heights of glory drew
But the course which she could choose
Will the western Muse persue?
No: the cause her steps that press’d
Here exerts to urge astray;
But strong causes of the West
Work with counteracting sway.
Britain, tho up reason’s hill
Marching ’fore the neighbouring climes,
Lugg’d with her, as lugs she still,
Relic’s of her feudal times
Mark’d distinctions, severing wide
These from those, the gentle mind,
Chill repress’d its native pride,
Oft to this poor shift inclined.
No such here; or if there were
Where’s the man of regal wealth
Animating stately glare
With thy eye-beam labouring Health?
Or suppose that selfish care
Here might feed a minion crew;
Yet what oft was kindness there
Were flat insult in our view.
Thus, th’intelligence that gave
Western liberty to live,
Then secured, to bless the brave,
All equality can give
That, with ordering hand sublime,
Framed our mighty league profound,
Fill’d with works of peace our [time?]3
Breathing life & joy around
Habits settles, thoughts inspires,
Blackening the dependent’s views;
For the West, while freedom fires,
Claims an independent Muse.
Or if public scorn, that great,
Pow’rful scourge of graceless deed,
By some spell had lost its weight,
Nor could make a heart to bleed;
Genius ever had its pride,
Nought can combat here its force;
Nor by birth nor wealth outvied
Merit mounts its lofty course—
Here this pride, then, ne’er can fail
Ever, hence, must Genius’ soul
Spurn, tho wrechedness assail,
Ostentation’s chilling dole.
There’s the point: methinks tis plain
What oft guarded Britain bard,
Individual bounty vain,
Ne’er the western muse can guard.
Shall she perish then unknown?
Shall her pride her lyre destroy?
Or, if not, shall she alone
Weep amidst a world of Joy?
Time will come, a glorious time!
Rising fast, nor far away,
When her warble, round our clime,
Welcome as delight, shall stray.
Nought to cheer her, then, indeed,
Need peculiar hand extend,
No defender will she need,
For a world will be her friend.
Everywhere her steps shall rove,
All the continent her home,
Open arms & looks of love
Waiting her where’er she roam
Duty, then, shall, martyring Will,
Wake no more th’enthusiast’s sigh
Wild her airy harp shall thrill
Vivid roll her radient eye.
In the South, as breaks the morn,
Oft shall she, while all is still,
Listening to the farm house horn,
Pause upon the distant hill
Then from high too widely see
Driving Teams, & Youths who come
O’er gray heights, with shouts of glee,
Hurrying to the harvest home.
But when flames the sun on high,
Languid, hush’d the world beneath,
Then, when scarce the South’s warm sigh
Stirs the thistle on the heath
Wrapt into the mighty grove,
Cool while play the rustling leaves,
She shall find the maid of love
Whose full bosom anxious heaves;
And with wildest mellowest lay
Soothe her thought of fondness pure,
Where the waters dash, that stray
Sounding down the dell obscure.
Then the lover shall she mark
Gliding thro the path unknown
Tracing swift the winding dark
Hid now in th’Elysium lone.
In the North she fond shall stray
Where, to neighbouring shoreland height,
Hums the lively City gay,
All its bustling ports in sight.
Proud moves out th’Adventurer new,
Looking forth to unknown skies;
Hark! she sounds the long adieu,
Wide the shouting port replies!
Rising o’er the white sea foam
Mounts the dim sail, far away
Lofty, now, rejoicing home,
Comes the great ship, thundering gay.
Where near woody headland rude
Busy fishers haunt the shore
Oft shall she, across the flood,
Sit to mark the clanking oar.
And while in th’inclement night
Whistling whirls the drifting snow,
From thy fairy watch-tow’r, White!
Hear the stormy sea below.
Then, how will she shrinking gaze,
When, thro squally4 gloom so dark,
Lone the lanthern’d ship-light’s blaze
Dances with the bounding bark.
Or when, thro the night unblest,
Awful from the roaring main
Signal guns of Ship distress’d
Flash, & pause, & flash again.
Yes, her glorious day shall come,
Bright to rise, & long to last;
But shall she unheeded roam
Till her day of gloom be past?
Let us not th’unjudging join
Pleased to blame the mind:
Gold is moulded ’ere ’tis coin
Form’d a nation ’ere refined.
Flying crualty, & shame,
Persecuted, lorn, distress’d
When the fathers of our name
Sought the solatery West
Scatter’d round the mighty coast
Where treed Bear oft growl’d from high
Was it their’s of song to boast?
Or in letter’d love to vie?
No: while Safety might have bred
Genius to each art of grace;
Danger that same Genius led
Proud to toil, to fight, & chace.
When the rising Country’s hum,
Shrieks & war-whoops swell’d afar
When the rolling frontier drum
Roused them to the midnight war
Bold would they, with flaming eye,
Fortress seek array’d for fight;
Or to marshalling bugle fly
Sounding from the ridgy height
Then rush forth: The foes give way,
Dogg’d thro dell & woodland thick,
Round the hills the bugles play,
Rattling rifles flashing quick.
Toiling, battling, mastering game,
All their pow’rs & thoughts required
Excellence in these gave fame
These Ambition roused & fir’d
Thus were form’d the men to ills
Who in time we well may boast
Bursting from their hundred hills
Hurl’d the ruthless from our coast.
Revolution’s tumults o’er,
Purchased liberty divine,
Might they Taste’s fair worlds explore
Anxious but to please, refine?
Happier toil the race endears:
Freedom, as its nature pure,
Hardly won, with blood & tears,
Twas their glory to secure.
Struggling from their dangerous state
Careful they, new born to fame,
As some tuneful Organ great,
Built their government’s fair frame
Faintly yet Taste’s glimmer shone;
Yet the grand machine was new,
Genuine to preserve its tone
Fir’d each thought, & fix’d each view.
Thus, if languish Poesy
Without favour or applause,
Ill distressful! yet may we
Trace it to a glorious cause.
Murmers, then, were vile & vain,
Selfish spleen’s resort unwise,
Yet, forbearing to complain,
Let us not the theme despise.
Poesy, in Rudeness’ spite,
Wins to gentleness the mind;
And, tho wild, it wakes delight,
Leaves no latent thorn behind.
Here, where broadest views expand
Of a world of peace & joy,
Skillful be the Muse, & bland,
Nor let drivelling thrift destroy.
How has wakeful Wisdom watch’d
O’er the western counsels blest;
Battle’s Genius, how unmatch’d,
Hast thou thunder’d in the West!
Thou, Philosophey, hast mild
Bid the dancing lightnings play
Round thy brow, & roving wild,
Off thy pointed finger stray!
Fond Health’s guardian genius cheers
Beauty sinking on his breast;
Sage, yet kind as youth in tears,
Goes he forth in blessing blest.
Nor depress’d the maid who still
Spends in silent walk her hours,
Thro the vale & round the hill
Placed gathering plants & flow’rs.
Moral ethics, Politics
Clime more favouring never knew;
Idle, hence, the Juggler’s tricks,
But, alas! deplored by few,
Poesy the fields alone,
All her feet with brambles torne,
Loose in air her tresses blown,
Strays, neglected girl! forlorn.
On the lonely rock reclined,
Listening to the sounding fall,
World! what art thou to her mind,
With thy cares & follies all!
But such scene not still employs,
She is but of human mould,
Human cares still human Joys,
Twining viper like, enfold.
Till the bard unpunish’d may
Make his life a life of song,
How shall she, till that proud day,
Struggle thro the listless throng?
Shall she, as in Europe oft,
Be the minion of the Great
While her gentle spirit soft
Sinks beneath dependence’ weight?
Shall e’er, amidst th’alarms
Of mischance & poverty,
Fly into a villain’s5 arms,
Or embrace an idiot’s knee?
O, forbid it, Sire of Time!
Rather let the Maid unblest
Never with a gleam sublime
Hence emblaze to shame the West—
For the West is freedom’s home,
And, while seasons take their round,
Never there, whate’er her doom,
Be a shackled spirit found.
Yet to cheer her early hours
Can no glorious patron be?
Sure not worthless that whose pow’rs
Soothe the gentle, fire the free.
Let Columbia then be heard,
And, to bid her genius rise,
From her senate house revered,
Shew on high the annual prize
But not song alone should claim
Honours from the nation’s hand;
Every studious son of fame
Scatters riches round the land.
Nay, the theme must soon be scan’d;
Else some institution blest,
National & bountious plan’d
Shall enliven Genius’ breast.
Thus might grecian days revive
Maros, Newtons come again
Talents would with Talents strive,
Never could such strife be vain.
Yet the nation’s finger free
Annual pointing out th’elect,
Tho it genius roused, would be
Still more glorious in effect.
For the frequent test to ply
Must o’er genius’ toils refined
Throw an air of import high
That would catch the public mind.
Not all Homer’s blaze of soul
With all Newton’s world of mind
Could so much effect the Whole
If to that one end combined.
Silent as the mellowing dew
Show’rs refreshing thro night veil
Would th’impression, soft as true,
On th’unconscious nation steal
So enquiry, curious still,
Wide would knowledge rich difuse;
And with touch of joy & skill
O’er her loved harp live the Muse
O, whence was it, melting oft,
Long, that spelling pow’r you stole,
That sweet witchery that so soft
Weaves itself thro feeling’s soul?
Not rude genius e’er alone
Could the fairy charm impart;
For, tho but to genius known,
Yet is, Poesy an art.
One in which not taste refined
Genius pow’rful, subtile, warm,
Till long practice mould his mind,
Can the graceful master form.
Wandering rays, dispersed in air,
To a focus, must be lured
’Ere, concentring, glowing there,
Sense be of their force assured.
At a point the mental beams
Thus converged, we bright behold;
But if lost in scatter’d gleams
Faint each fitful glimmer cold.
Where the mind’s full force to bind
Sweet seductive song to thee,
Were fond boyhood’s dreams to end
E’en in want & misery.
Shall the drivelling dolt complain
That his country’s genius sleeps?
Nay, while, hapley, waked in vain,
Haughty in disgust, it6 weeps—
Be the people roused to guard
Those who form the mind & heart;
Let their toils command reward,
Else what bard dare court his art?
For still be it full in mind,
The Republican with scorn,
Child of feeling, proud as kind!
Private Patronage will spurn.
Taste for fancy’s toils of fame
Rapidly gains ground, tis true,
Nature, every where the same,
Renders sure its triumph too;
Yet to it the touch of pow’r
May a hastening impulse give—
So may Bards, at no far hour,
Live to write & write to live.
In his vale, then, blest to prove
Thought & feeling’s full controul,
Shall the son of song & love
Form his little world of soul
Take sweet Eve’s relaxing walk
With his fond one, who, the while,
Asks & tells, in playful talk
Twenty nothings, for a smile
Elegance & tasteful care
Shall that home of love pervade
Books & hearts each thought to share
Make it all home can be made.
There shall fond, oer human strife,
Breathe the philanthropic pray’r;
Pow’rful as the pulse of life,
Thrill the patriot feeling there.
Thence shall, o’er our country wide,
Th’informing light of Genius play;
Thence, in glow of patriot pride,
Come his Glory’s lofty lay.
Honour’d be the Poet’s name!
Ever honour’d they who dare
Glorious raise their country’s fame,
Tho denied that country’s care.—
As for me, my pow’r is nought;
Fond the patriot thought I tell,
Tho without t’endear that thought
E’en a friend to say “tis well”—
Yet oft flying city noise
As thy banks that court delay
Schuylkill, dear for pensive joys
In sequester’d walk I stray
Pleased can I the strain unknown,
Hanging oft the blue wave o’er,
Mingle with the gale that lone
Breathes along the silent shore.
Nature’s both, they both shall die,
As, while no one listening heeds,
Falls the Evening’s latest sigh,
Waving slow the distant reeds
MS (CSmH: JF-BA); undated; entirely in McCoy’s hand.
maros: the reference is to the Roman poet Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro).
1. Manuscript: “chace.”
2. Manuscript: “Britian’s.”
3. Omitted word editorially supplied.
4. Manuscript: “sqully.”
5. Manuscript: “villian’s.”
6. Manuscript: “in.”