John Trumbull poems

John Trumbull(24 April 1750 - 11 May 1831 / Watertown, Connecticut)
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The Owl And The Sparrow

- by John Trumbull 21

In elder days, in Saturn's prime,
Ere baldness seized the head of Time,
While truant Jove, in infant pride,
Play'd barefoot on Olympus' side,
Each thing on earth had power to chatter,
And spoke the mother tongue of nature.
Each stock or stone could prate and gabble,
Worse than ten labourers of Babel.
Along the street, perhaps you'd see
A Post disputing with a Tree,
And mid their arguments of weight,
A Goose sit umpire of debate.
Each Dog you met, though speechless now,
Would make his compliments and bow,
And every Swine with congees come,
To know how did all friends at home.
Each Block sublime could make a speech,
In style and eloquence as rich,
And could pronounce it and could pen it,
As well as Chatham in the senate.

Nor prose alone.--In these young times,
Each field was fruitful too in rhymes;
Each feather'd minstrel felt the passion,
And every wind breathed inspiration.
Each Bullfrog croak'd in loud bombastic,
Each Monkey chatter'd Hudibrastic;
Each Cur, endued with yelping nature,
Could outbark Churchill's[2] self in satire;
Each Crow in prophecy delighted,
Each Owl, you saw, was second-sighted,
Each Goose a skilful politician,
Each Ass a gifted met'physician,
Could preach in wrath 'gainst laughing rogues,
Write Halfway-covenant Dialogues,[3]
And wisely judge of all disputes
In commonwealths of men or brutes.

'Twas then, in spring a youthful Sparrow
Felt the keen force of Cupid's arrow:
For Birds, as ?sop's tales avow,
Made love then, just as men do now,
And talk'd of deaths and flames and darts,
And breaking necks and losing hearts;
And chose from all th' aerial kind,
Not then to tribes, like Jews, confined
The story tells, a lovely Thrush
Had smit him from a neigh'bring bush,
Where oft the young coquette would play,
And carol sweet her siren lay:
She thrill'd each feather'd heart with love,
And reign'd the Toast of all the grove.

He felt the pain, but did not dare
Disclose his passion to the fair;
For much he fear'd her conscious pride
Of race, to noble blood allied.
Her grandsire's nest conspicuous stood,
Mid loftiest branches of the wood,
In airy height, that scorn'd to know
Each flitting wing that waved below.
So doubting, on a point so nice
He deem'd it best to take advice.

Hard by there dwelt an aged Owl,
Of all his friends the gravest fowl;
Who from the cares of business free,
Lived, hermit, in a hollow tree;
To solid learning bent his mind,
In trope and syllogism he shined,
'Gainst reigning follies spent his railing;
Too much a Stoic--'twas his failing.

Hither for aid our Sparrow came,
And told his errand and his name,
With panting breath explain'd his case,
Much trembling at the sage's face;
And begg'd his Owlship would declare
If love were worth a wise one's care.

The grave Owl heard the weighty cause,
And humm'd and hah'd at every pause;
Then fix'd his looks in sapient plan,
Stretch'd forth one foot, and thus began.

"My son, my son, of love beware,
And shun the cheat of beauty's snare;
That snare more dreadful to be in,
Than huntsman's net, or horse-hair gin.
"By others' harms learn to be wise,"
As ancient proverbs well advise.
Each villany, that nature breeds,
From females and from love proceeds.
'Tis love disturbs with fell debate
Of man and beast the peaceful state:
Men fill the world with war's alarms,
When female trumpets sound to arms;
The commonwealth of dogs delight
For beauties, as for bones, to fight.
Love hath his tens of thousands slain,
And heap'd with copious death the plain:
Samson, with ass's jaw to aid,
Ne'er peopled thus th'infernal shade.

"Nor this the worst; for he that's dead,
With love no more will vex his head.
'Tis in the rolls of fate above,
That death's a certain cure for love;
A noose can end the cruel smart;
The lover's leap is from a cart.
But oft a living death they bear,
Scorn'd by the proud, capricious fair.
The fair to sense pay no regard,
And beauty is the fop's reward;
They slight the generous hearts' esteem,
And sigh for those, who fly from them.

Just when your wishes would prevail,
Some rival bird with gayer tail,
Who sings his strain with sprightlier note,
And chatters praise with livelier throat,
Shall charm your flutt'ring fair one down,
And leave your choice, to hang or drown.

Ev'n I, my son, have felt the smart;
A Pheasant won my youthful heart.
For her I tuned the doleful lay,[4]
For her I watch'd the night away;
In vain I told my piteous case,
And smooth'd my dignity of face;
In vain I cull'd the studied phrase,
And sought hard words in beauty's praise.
Her, not my charms nor sense could move,
For folly is the food of love.
Each female scorns our serious make,
"Each woman is at heart a rake."[5]
Thus Owls in every age have said,
Since our first parent-owl was made;
Thus Pope and Swift, to prove their sense,
Shall sing, some twenty ages hence;
Then shall a man of little fame,
One ** **** sing the same.

To A Young Lady

- by John Trumbull 20

In vain, fair Maid, you ask in vain,
My pen should try th' advent'rous strain,
And following truth's unalter'd law,
Attempt your character to draw.
I own indeed, that generous mind
That weeps the woes of human kind,
That heart by friendship's charms inspired,
That soul with sprightly fancy fired,
The air of life, the vivid eye,
The flowing wit, the keen reply--
To paint these beauties as they shine,
Might ask a nobler pen than mine.

Yet what sure strokes can draw the Fair,
Who vary, like the fleeting air,
Like willows bending to the force,
Where'er the gales direct their course,
Opposed to no misfortune's power,
And changing with the changing hour.
Now gaily sporting on the plain,
They charm the grove with pleasing strain;
Anon disturb'd, they know not why,
The sad tear trembles in their eye:
Led through vain life's uncertain dance,
The dupes of whim, the slaves of chance.

From me, not famed for much goodnature,
Expect not compliment, but satire;
To draw your picture quite unable,
Instead of fact accept a Fable.

One morn, in ?sop's noisy time,
When all things talk'd, and talk'd in rhyme,
A cloud exhaled by vernal beams
Rose curling o'er the glassy streams.
The dawn her orient blushes spread,
And tinged its lucid skirts with red,
Wide waved its folds with glitt'ring dies,
And gaily streak'd the eastern skies;
Beneath, illumed with rising day,
The sea's broad mirror floating lay.
Pleased, o'er the wave it hung in air,
Survey'd its glittering glories there,
And fancied, dress'd in gorgeous show,
Itself the brightest thing below:
For clouds could raise the vaunting strain,
And not the fair alone were vain.

Yet well it knew, howe'er array'd,
That beauty, e'en in clouds, might fade,
That nothing sure its charms could boast
Above the loveliest earthly toast;
And so, like them, in early dawn
Resolved its picture should be drawn,
That when old age with length'ning day
Should brush the vivid rose away,
The world should from the portrait own
Beyond all clouds how bright it shone.

Hard by, a painter raised his stage,
Far famed, the Copley[1] of his age.
So just a form his colours drew,
Each eye the perfect semblance knew;
Yet still on every blooming face
He pour'd the pencil's flowing grace;
Each critic praised the artist rare,
Who drew so like, and yet so fair.

To him, high floating in the sky
Th' elated Cloud advanced t' apply.
The painter soon his colours brought,
The Cloud then sat, the artist wrought;
Survey'd her form, with flatt'ring strictures,
Just as when ladies sit for pictures,
Declared "whatever art can do,
My utmost skill shall try for you:
But sure those strong and golden dies
Dipp'd in the radiance of the skies,
Those folds of gay celestial dress,
No mortal colours can express.
Not spread triumphal o'er the plain,
The rainbow boasts so fair a train,
Nor e'en the morning sun so bright,
Who robes his face in heav'nly light.
To view that form of angel make,
Again Ixion would mistake,[2]
And justly deem so fair a prize,
The sovereign Mistress of the skies,"

He said, and drew a mazy line,
With crimson touch his pencils shine,
The mingling colours sweetly fade,
And justly temper light and shade.

He look'd; the swelling Cloud on high
With wider circuit spread the sky,
Stretch'd to the sun an ampler train,
And pour'd new glories on the main.
As quick, effacing every ground,
His pencil swept the canvas round,
And o'er its field, with magic art,
Call'd forth new forms in every part.

But now the sun, with rising ray,
Advanced with speed his early way;
Each colour takes a differing die,
The orange glows, the purples fly.
The artist views the alter'd sight,
And varies with the varying light;
In vain! a sudden gust arose,
New folds ascend, new shades disclose,
And sailing on with swifter pace,
The Cloud displays another face.
In vain the painter, vex'd at heart,
Tried all the wonders of his art;
In vain he begg'd, her form to grace,
One moment she would keep her place:
For, "changing thus with every gale,
Now gay with light, with gloom now pale,
Now high in air with gorgeous train,
Now settling on the darken'd main,
With looks more various than the moon;
A French coquette were drawn as soon."

He spoke; again the air was mild,
The Cloud with opening radiance smiled;
With canvas new his art he tries,
Anew he joins the glitt'ring dies;
Th' admiring Cloud with pride beheld
Her image deck the pictured field,
And colours half-complete adorn
The splendor of the painted morn.

When lo, the stormy winds arise,
Deep gloom invests the changing skies;
The sounding tempest shakes the plain,
And lifts in billowy surge the main.
The Cloud's gay dies in darkness fade,
Its folds condense in thicker shade,
And borne by rushing blasts, its form
With lowering vapour joins the storm.

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