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THE SPUNKIAD: OR HEROISM IMPROVED. A CONGRESSIONAL DISPLAY OF SPIT AND CUDGEL. A POEM, IN FOUR CANTOES.

BY AN AMERICAN YOUTH.

NEWBURGH: PRINTED AND SOLD BY D. DENNISTON. M, DCC, XCVIII.

[Page]THE SPUNKIAD, &c.

CANTO I.

INDULGENT Muse! thy genial fire impart,
And glow refulgent in my youthful heart,
Dwell in my soul, while I in strains sublime,
Relate the wonders of the western clime;
Teach me to sing, in animating lays,
The strange transactions of the modern days;
Thy pow'r, O CLIO! and thy spirit lend,
My song enliven, and my cause befriend;
Thou, whose immortal rapture breathing fire
Didst HOMER, BARLOW, and FRENEAU inspire,
Now deign to shed thine influence divine,
Inspire my pen, and bless the great design,
[Page 4] Nor Grecian heroes, nor the Trojan flame,
The Spartan prowess, nor the Roman fame,
Deserv'd more amply of thy pow'rful aid,
Than the grand subject of the Spunkiad.
Let other Poets chaunt their am'rous strains,
Of Cupid's victims, and of Hymen's chains;
Let others sing of seasons and of times,
Of diff'rent nations and of diff'rent climes;
A theme more noble for my song I chuse,
Still more adapted to awake the muse;
Of Legislators, fraught with spunk, I sing,
Whose fame ere long in distant climes shall ring.
One undertakes his brother's face to scrub,
And he with vengeance wields the hick'ry club.
Attend the tale, ye social free-born bands!
The MUSE awhile th' attentive ear demands.
In modern date on fam'd Columbia's shore,
The seat of science and of useful lore,
Where reigns no despot and no tyrant frowns,
And where exist no sceptred monarchs' crowns;
But where the freeman, bless'd with equal laws,
Stands firm and faithful in his righteous cause—
Our sapient sages, men of worth and weight,
Conven'd in Congress for the wise debate
[Page 5] Some were for honor, some for riches came,
Some thought of glory and eternal fame,
And some (perhaps too few) wise laws to frame.
But language pauses, and scarce deigns to tell
What dire mishap their rising fame befel!
From cold Vermont's far northern frigid clime,
Where the Green Mount uprears its cliffs sub­lime,
Whose verdant hue a noble prospect lends,
And awful scenery with the pleasant blends;
Brave LYON'S self to join their body came,
More for his country's good than wealth or fame,
A zealous stickler for the people's cause,
"Who fear'd no frowns and sought no blind ap­plause;"
At splendid pageantry and pomp he frown'd,
Despis'd all formal rites as empty sound;
Like some tall oak, the hero of the wood,
Which scorns to bend before the raging flood,
His dauntless soul despis'd the tyrant's nod,
And crouch'd beneath no vile despotic rod.
Such was the man, whom those of diff'rent creed,
Combin'd to smother, and his cause impede.
[Page 6] Long did the sage, with freedom's voice inspir'd,
Cry down the rites by custom's slaves requir'd;
Whilst in amaze, and with a dread surprize,
His colleagues star'd and scarce believ'd their eyes,
To see the plain-bred mountaineer refuse,
To join their throng, and custom thus abuse;
Long did they urge our hero to comply,
To what they'd long observ'd, they knew not why,
But he relentless stood, and plead his cause,
Without one second and without applause.
Firm and upright th' undaunted hero stood,
The scourge of tyrants on his native sod;
No custom sway'd him, and no frowns impress'd,
But truth and virtue fir'd his manly breast.
Thus stood the sage, whose heart with freedom glow'd,
And Vermont's sons their grateful praise bestow'd.

CANTO II.

ERE yet four moons revolving had expir'd,
Again they met, with equal ardor fir'd;
But O! what language can suffice to tell
What tumult reign'd where peace and love should dwell.
[Page 7] From eastern climes the famous Griswold came,
Whose thirst for honor fed ambition's flame;
Early he rose to posts of trust and gain,
And early fell to infamy again;
In buffoon wit and impudence he shone,
Yet thought no wisdom could excell his own.
'Gainst freedom's cause a furious war he wag'd,
And factious daemons in his bosom rag'd.
Such was the man whom future bards shall sing,
And with his fame make hills and vallies ring;
Whose nervous arm did wield the hick'ry cane
Upon his unarm'd foe's defenceless brain.
And now the council of the western world
The fates of nations and of states unfurl'd;
The wise, the great, the patriot and the sage,
In learn'd debate did each with warmth engage.
Brave Gallia's sons, so late our warmest friends,
Complain'd of trespass and requir'd amends;
Our ships they plunder'd, and our commerce spoil'd,
And all our trade in ruin's gulf embroil'd;
Denounc'd dire vengeance and in angry mood.
Declar'd if longer in their light we stood,
Our plains they'd deluge in the crimson flood.
[Page 8] Indignant millions caught the dread alarm,
While amor patriae nerv'd each hero's arm,
And all with horror view'd th' approaching storm.
In this great crisis of impending fate,
(I blush when I the shameful tale relate)
That cordial friendship once our council's boast,
On this occasion was forgot and lost;
If one's opinion differ'd from the rest,
Malicious rancor lurk'd in ev'ry breast
Against the man who dar'd their will oppose,
Or who against their fav'rite schemes arose.
Thus persecution's unrelenting hand,
E'en to this place with fury did extend.
'Twas thus the pattern of all realms beside,
Had dwindled down to selfishness and pride.
While Congress then each threat'ning cloud sur­vey'd,
And schemes and plans in wisdom's scales were weigh'd,
A deed was done, which casts eternal shame
On hist'ry's leaf, and blots the page of fame.
In private converse numbers were engag'd,
Some this opinion, and some that alledg'd;
[Page 9]
When Vermont's son, with much impatience fir'd,
To see some men by selfish views inspir'd,
Address'd his colleagues who around him stood.
In this reproving but good humor'd mood:
"Believe, my friends, that (tho' you may not see
The truth of this, 'tis very plain to me,)
My colleagues here from eastern parts who came,
Have nought in view but interest and same,
Regardless of their country's good they come,
Obtain their wishes and again go home;
Self-interest and gain inspires their mind,
This they pursue, and leave all else behind;
I know the minds of those by whom they're sent,
And who ere long will give their feelings vent;
Oft in contention I've with them engag'd,
And oft convincd them of the truth alledg'd."
Meanwhile, the man whom Lyon had expos'd,
With anger fir'd to see his views oppos'd,
Now felt his pluck fast rising in his throat,
Which threatened soon to find its passage out;
He quell'd it with this base unmanly word,
Sir did you fight them with your wooden sword? *
[Page 10] A peal of laughter burst from diff'rent lungs,
At this the wittiest of all witty tongues.
The sage conceal'd his ire (if aught he found)
Suppress'd his feelings and despis'd the sound.
While thus resum'd his yet undaunted strain,
And calm, address'd th' attentive croud again:
"Yes, gentlemen, were I to try my hand,
I'd change the creed of that deluded land;
They'd soon discharge this selfish set of men,
And then would justice rear her head again;
I'd soon dispel those fable mists, that rise
And shed delusion o'er the people's eyes;
I'd tear the veil with one consuming blast,
Which o'er their faces has so long been cast,
And form a revolution in their minds at last.
Ere long, should fortune my endeavors bless,
Perhaps I'll try them with a Printing-Press,
And then I'll shed th' effulgent blaze around,
Then will I sight them on a nearer ground;
Their self applauding leaders then shall find
The nose is not the place by which to lead man­kind."
Young Griswold now no longer could contain
The rip'ning rage which long had fir'd his brain,
[Page 11] With hasty steps straight from his seat he rose,
And plac'd himself just under Lyon's nose;
Then jogg'd his arm, determin'd to be heard,
Affected coolness in his mien appear'd;
While frequent grins his inward mind betray'd,
With much sang froid deliberate he said—
"Should you go there according to your word,
Sir, would you take along your wooden sword?"
This pierc'd too far; his patience now was spent,
His bosom rag'd to give its feelings vent;
The foaming torrent, burst the stormy place,
And shed its moist contents on Griswold's face.
Thus sweetly bath'd, the hero took alarm,
Half choak'd with rage, he brac'd his nervous arm,
Prepar'd to strike the all destroying blow,
Which straight should send him to the realms be­low;
But suddenly he check'd his furious ire,
Suppress'd a while his fierce revengeful fire;
Perhaps he thought, "should I begin the treat,
I might get d—'d black eyes and sorely beat;
Whereas, should Dayton lift th' avenging rod,
He'd drive him hence, and save a deal of blood,
Then would my direful vengeance be complete,
To see him sneak disgraceful from his seat:
[Page 12] But, should my colleagues not approve the plan,
I'll steal a sly revenge whene'er I can."
Lull'd with this tho't, he brook'd the vile disgrace,
And wip'd the frothy plaister from his face.
As when some dread volcano's lab'ring breast,
Whose swelling torrent long has been supprest,
With horrid grumbling shakes the vale below,
And trembling natives view th' impending woe,
Withholds its flames, 'till, dreaming nought of harm,
They fall o'erwhelm'd beneath the fiery storm:
Thus he reserv'd, until some future day,
The direful storm which then should burst its way,
When Lyon should unarm'd by him be seen,
Then wreak his fury, and with vengeful spleen
Dicharge his thunder from its torrid bed,
In dreadful torrents on his aged head!

CANTO III.

HARK! whence this shrill, this loud alarm­ing sound,
Which rends the skies and shakes the trembling ground?
[Page 13] 'Tis Fame; whose voice flies o'er each land and clime,
And spares no cause, no season, age or time;
Her brazen trump, with shrill and piercing sound,
Proclaim'd the tale to distant shores around;
Exulting despots heard the noise afar,
And smil'd with pleasure at the shameful jar;
"Soon (cry'd the tyrant) soon we'll see the day,
When they to us shall fall an easy prey,
Their liberty and boasted freedom's flame,
Will prove ere long to be an empty name;
Now fast approaching is the joyful time
When thrones and crowns shall rule the western clime."
Such was the plan (no doubt) they held in view,
And this perhaps may yet be sound too true;
These jarring frays no future good portend,
On these some adverse daemon must attend,
From these I view the dreadful storm at hand,
Which hangs impending o'er my native land.
Arise Columbia's sons, united strive
To quell the storm, bid freedom's sun revive.
As erst old BABELS' heav'n aspiring crew,
Receiv'd the check to their presumption due,
[Page 14] When unknown language dwelt on ev'ry tongue
And loud confusion through the rabble rung;
So rang the hall from side to side around,
Contending voices form'd a murm'ring sound;
The foes if LYON with exulting strain,
In secret hail'd th' approaching monarch's reign;
Rejoic'd together, and with smiles beheld,
The wish'd for time when he should be expell'd;
When freedom's blaze, extinguish'd weak and dim,
Should shine no more upon their mystic scheme;
'Till ADAMS should to sceptred glory rise,
And reign the monarch of the western skies;
But in this house some patriots yet were found,
To check their progress and their hopes confound.
And now behold with all attentive eyes,
See diff'rent men of diff'rent parties rise,
Some could forgive, some not, and some despise;
See them on oath rehearse the shameful tale,
While partial turns, and prejudice prevail;
One talks of honour, dignity and fame,
Another fears their everlasting shame;
Thus they prolong'd their useless dry debate,
And thus they drain'd the coffers of the slate,
[Page 15]
As when some wight gets beaten and abus'd,
His sconce is broken or most sadly bruised.
A quack forthwith displays chirurgic skill,
And sees a chance his empty purse to fill;
Quick to the patient then he gravely struts,
First cuts and views and next he views and cuts,
A nostrum next, which long has grac'd the shelf,
Whose virtues none could find except himself,
With much encomium, to the wound applies,
Mal-treated thus, the fatal symptoms rise,
The wound grows larger and the patient dies;
Just so our dignity thus torn and bruis'd,
When wrongly dress'd, ill-treated and misus'd;
Instead of healing up, the wound is worse,
And quacks exulting bear away our purse.
Our mountaineer with deep concern beheld,
All order banish'd and all hope dispel'd;
Contrition's pangs now kindled in his breast,
And to his colleagues this defence addrest.
"My friends, had I foreseen the ill effect
Of this rash deed, my anger had been check'd;
I never dreamt when I my ire display'd
That mountains out of molehills would be made.
[Page 16] If I have err'd, forgiveness now I ask,
And let's resign this vile ungrateful task.
Long have I labor'd in my country's cause,
With approbation and unfeign'd applause;
And Vermont's sons, by whose decree I came,
Could soon assure you of my spotless name.
When war's dread horrors reign'd within our land,
And freedom's voice invok'd the hero's hand;
When tyrants strove to make our brethren slaves
To foreign realms beyond th' Atlantic waves;
When savage hosts from northern wilds came forth,
And spar'd no sex, no age, degree or birth;
Then I obtain'd that pure unfeign'd esteem,
Which fills my heart with gratitude supreme;
And tho' a stigma on my name was thrown,
They're now convinc'd the fault was not my own.
Could I alone abide the dang'rous post,
When ev'ry man had fled the threat'ning host?
Yet none escap'd the mortifying doom,
I'd rather made the savage maw my tomb.
In dark oblivion's gulf the tale was drown'd,
Awhile was hush'd the vile ungrateful sound,
Till meddling envy, with her spiteful train,
Tore up the wound within my breast again;
[Page 17] Since then I've acted in a higher sphere,
Discharg'd important trusts from year to year;
Sincere applause from ev'ry quarter burst,
And I was chosen for my present trust;
Since then I've strove their kindness to repay,
And spoke whate'er I thought themselves would say;
Does it become me, as a man of trust
To brook such insults? sure it is unjust;
Impartial men, who rightly view the fact,
I trust, will pardon and forgive the act."
In vain to hush the rising storm he sought,
His plain and just defence avail'd him nought,
Their utmost skill his angry foes apply'd,
T'extract this bramble from their aching side;
Should we (thought they) get this curst whig dismiss'd,
'Twould strike one vote from democratic list;
Each little helps, and to our side will add,
We'll help the good by taking from the bad.
'O dire disgrace!' some hot-bloods would exclaim,
'A seat with him would be an odious shame;
Vile wretch! to daub our noble brother's face,
Our honor's gone, should he sustain his place?
[Page 18] See heart-rent OTIS wipe his moist'ning eyes,
While thus to each attentive wight he cries:
"When radiant Phoebus' orient beams arise,
Or in meredian splendor deck the skies;
Or gloomy night her sable curtain draws,
And splendid Phoebus' gleaming ray withdraws;
When drowsy MORPHEUS with his leaden mace
Bids senses rest, and ev'ry nerve unbrace;
Still, still the horrid vision haunts my brain,
And all the scene seems acted o'er again,
LYONS and GRISWOLDS in dreadful contest rise,
And sleep forsakes my sorrow flowing eyes."
Again, O MUSE, thy aid I now implore,
While I rehearse Sir Dayton's thunder o'er.
A feeling man, * whom all good men shall bless,
Whose praise may each indulgent Muse express,
Expulsion he as too severe oppos'd,
And in its stead a reprimand propos'd:
'A reprimand! quoth Dayton, 'trifling doom!
I'd sooner see him in the silent tomb:
Grant me thy bolt, O father of the world,
With vengeance pointed, and with fury hurl'd;
[Page 19] Red hot from Vulcan's furnace let it come,
Grant me thy strength to point my vengeance home,
And strike the vile detested rascal dumb!'
Thus spake the man (or thus at least he thought,)
With anger bloated, and with vengeance fraught.
But now the Muse demands a short repose,
That she a tale more dreadful may disclose.

CANTO IV.

THE Muse, awaken'd, now renews her fire,
Once more she deigns to touch th' obedient lyre.
Attend, while I relate in song sublime,
A tale, whose fame shall e'en outlive old Time.
Ye Nine! direct me, and begin the song,
To such a theme immortal strains belong.
When Griswold heard the thund'ring Speaker roar
His soul expanded and escap'd the floor.
High o'er the azure void his spirit flew,
And from the earth his deathless part withdrew;
With rapid flight he reach'd the bright abodes
Of bliss celestra, and the seat of Gods,
[Page 20] High on his throne, old HERCULES he spy'd,
Then bow'd submissive, and thus trembling cry'd;
'Father of might, indulge my small request,
A Lyon doth my mortal frame infest;
Lend me thy club, or one small part at least,
That I may fly to kill the angry beast."
The nervous god, with much contempt, reply'd;
'Thou wield my club! what vain presumptuous pride!
Vain mortal, know my club is not so small,
It weighs as much as thou dost, guts and all:
But, to content thee, if thou hast a knife.
I'll split enough to take the Lyon's life."
Th' indulgent god, cut, while he dreamt no harm,
A stick as big, almost, as Griswold's arm.
(But had he known what Lyon 'twas he meant,
To PLUTO's realms Sir Griswold had been sent,
For Herkey was, as I have heard it said,
As good a whig as ever wore a head.)
With gratitude he bow'd, and grimly smil'd,
Pursu'd his journey through the trackless wild;
Arriv'd on earth, the heav'n-wro't club he twirl'd
Around his head, and banter'd all the world.
[Page 21] Tow'rds Congress hall his hasty steps he bent,
To give the storm within its dreadful vent;
The happy chance now met his watchful eye,
His Lyon now unarm'd he saw with joy;
His head uncover'd, and his cane aside.
With flashing eyes the' approaching hero spy'd;
His lifted arm with tenfold vigor grasp'd,
He breath'd dire vengeance while the club he clasp'd:
When Hercules the Nemaean lion fought,
And hard to kill the furious beast he wrought,
With horrid cracks the thund'ring strokes resound,
And echoing woods repeat the noise around:
Our hero thus, his direful vengeance fed,
With equal fury on his foe's bare head
Thus unprepar'd: th' astonish'd Lyon rose,
And sought a refuge from the furious blows;
'Till clos'd alike, in angry conflict bound,
They both at length came tumbling to the ground.
Our thund'ring speaker view'd the scene awhile,
And horribly he grinn'd a ghastly smile!
'Till some less sanguine flew to Lyon's aid,
And thus awhile the furious combat staid.
[Page 22] Our Lyon now, astonish'd and perplex'd,
To find himself thus beaten, bruis'd and vex'd,
Was forc'd at present to endure his fate,
Yet vow'd to crush the coward soon or late.
Fortune ere long revers'd the former scene,
And wink'd to Lyon to emit his spleen;
Our injur'd wight the pressing moment caught,
And brac'd the arm which ne'er in vain had wro't,
But Griswold, ere the thund'ring storm began,
Escap'd the field and from the battle ran;
Till some humane, some sympathizing hand,
Convey'd a weapon to his flying friend:
But now alas, the thundering Speaker bawl'd,
And order soon from ev'ry side was call'd;
Our order-loving Dayton, fore afraid,
To see his darling get a broken head,
Soon found a way to check the gath'ring storm,
And screen his Griswold from impending harm.
When much debate on ev'ry side had past,
They came to this conclusive point at last;
That they no more their country should disgrace,
But FIGHT IT OUT, some other time and place!
[Page 23]
Thus ends the tale, which stamps eternal shame
On freedom's sons, and on Columbia's name;
Whose fame shall gall the blushing patriot's breast,
The game of tyrants, and of kings the jest;
A pantomime, which in some future age,
Shall shine in farce, and grace the comic stage.
I sing no more: now Phoebus gilds the west,
The POET drops his lyre, the MUSE retires to rest.
FINIS.

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