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Best Famous John Trumbull Poems

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Written by John Trumbull |

To A Young Lady

 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 Æsop'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.

Written by John Trumbull |

The Owl And The Sparrow

 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 Æsop'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.

Written by John Trumbull |

To Ladies Of A Certain Age

 Ye ancient Maids, who ne'er must prove
The early joys of youth and love,
Whose names grim Fate (to whom 'twas given,
When marriages were made in heaven)
Survey'd with unrelenting scowl,
And struck them from the muster-roll;
Or set you by, in dismal sort,
For wintry bachelors to court;
Or doom'd to lead your faded lives,
Heirs to the joys of former wives;
Attend! nor fear in state forlorn,
To shun the pointing hand of scorn,
Attend, if lonely age you dread,
And wish to please, or wish to wed.
When beauties lose their gay appearance, And lovers fall from perseverance, When eyes grow dim and charms decay, And all your roses fade away, First know yourselves; lay by those airs, Which well might suit your former years, Nor ape in vain the childish mien, And airy follies of sixteen.
We pardon faults in youth's gay flow, While beauty prompts the cheek to glow, While every glance has power to warm, And every turn displays a charm, Nor view a spot in that fair face, Which smiles inimitable grace.
But who, unmoved with scorn, can see The grey coquette's affected glee, Her ambuscading tricks of art To catch the beau's unthinking heart, To check th' assuming fopling's vows, The bridling frown of wrinkled brows; Those haughty airs of face and mind, Departed beauty leaves behind.
Nor let your sullen temper show Spleen louring on the envious brow, The jealous glance of rival rage, The sourness and the rust of age.
With graceful ease, avoid to wear The gloom of disappointed care: And oh, avoid the sland'rous tongue, By malice tuned, with venom hung, That blast of virtue and of fame, That herald to the court of shame; Less dire the croaking raven's throat, Though death's dire omens swell the note.
Contented tread the vale of years, Devoid of malice, guilt and fears; Let soft good humour, mildly gay, Gild the calm evening of your day, And virtue, cheerful and serene, In every word and act be seen.
Virtue alone with lasting grace, Embalms the beauties of the face, Instructs the speaking eye to glow, Illumes the cheek and smooths the brow, Bids every look the heart engage, Nor fears the wane of wasting age.
Nor think these charms of face and air, The eye so bright, the form so fair, This light that on the surface plays, Each coxcomb fluttering round its blaze, Whose spell enchants the wits of beaux, The only charms, that heaven bestows.
Within the mind a glory lies, O'erlook'd and dim to vulgar eyes; Immortal charms, the source of love, Which time and lengthen'd years improve, Which beam, with still increasing power, Serene to life's declining hour; Then rise, released from earthly cares, To heaven, and shine above the stars.
Thus might I still these thoughts pursue, The counsel wise, and good, and true, In rhymes well meant and serious lay, While through the verse in sad array, Grave truths in moral garb succeed: Yet who would mend, for who would read? But when the force of precept fails, A sad example oft prevails.
Beyond the rules a sage exhibits, Thieves heed the arguments of gibbets, And for a villain's quick conversion, A pillory can outpreach a parson.
To thee, Eliza, first of all, But with no friendly voice I call.
Advance with all thine airs sublime, Thou remnant left of ancient time! Poor mimic of thy former days, Vain shade of beauty, once in blaze! We view thee, must'ring forth to arms The veteran relics of thy charms; The artful leer, the rolling eye, The trip genteel, the heaving sigh, The labour'd smile, of force too weak, Low dimpling in th' autumnal cheek, The sad, funereal frown, that still Survives its power to wound or kill; Or from thy looks, with desperate rage, Chafing the sallow hue of age, And cursing dire with rueful faces, The repartees of looking-glasses.
Now at tea-table take thy station, Those shambles vile of reputation, Where butcher'd characters and stale Are day by day exposed for sale: Then raise the floodgates of thy tongue, And be the peal of scandal rung; While malice tunes thy voice to rail, And whispering demons prompt the tale-- Yet hold thy hand, restrain thy passion, Thou cankerworm of reputation; Bid slander, rage and envy cease, For one short interval of peace; Let other's faults and crimes alone, Survey thyself and view thine own; Search the dark caverns of thy mind, Or turn thine eyes and look behind: For there to meet thy trembling view, With ghastly form and grisly hue, And shrivel'd hand, that lifts sublime The wasting glass and scythe of Time, A phantom stands: his name is Age; Ill-nature following as his page.
While bitter taunts and scoffs and jeers, And vexing cares and torturing fears, Contempt that lifts the haughty eye, And unblest solitude are nigh; While conscious pride no more sustains, Nor art conceals thine inward pains, And haggard vengeance haunts thy name, And guilt consigns thee o'er to shame, Avenging furies round thee wait, And e'en thy foes bewail thy fate.
But see, with gentler looks and air, Sophia comes.
Ye youths beware! Her fancy paints her still in prime, Nor sees the moving hand of time; To all her imperfections blind, Hears lovers sigh in every wind, And thinks her fully ripen'd charms, Like Helen's, set the world in arms.
Oh, save it but from ridicule, How blest the state, to be a fool! The bedlam-king in triumph shares The bliss of crowns, without the cares; He views with pride-elated mind, His robe of tatters trail behind; With strutting mien and lofty eye, He lifts his crabtree sceptre high; Of king's prerogative he raves, And rules in realms of fancied slaves.
In her soft brain, with madness warm, Thus airy throngs of lovers swarm.
She takes her glass; before her eyes Imaginary beauties rise; Stranger till now, a vivid ray Illumes each glance and beams like day; Till furbish'd every charm anew, An angel steps abroad to view; She swells her pride, assumes her power, And bids the vassal world adore.
Indulge thy dream.
The pictured joy No ruder breath should dare destroy; No tongue should hint, the lover's mind Was ne'er of virtuoso-kind, Through all antiquity to roam For what much fairer springs at home.
No wish should blast thy proud design; The bliss of vanity be thine.
But while the subject world obey, Obsequious to thy sovereign sway, Thy foes so feeble and so few, With slander what hadst thou to do? What demon bade thine anger rise? What demon glibb'd thy tongue with lies? What demon urged thee to provoke Avenging satire's deadly stroke? Go, sink unnoticed and unseen, Forgot, as though thou ne'er hadst been.
Oblivion's long projected shade In clouds hangs dismal o'er thy head.
Fill the short circle of thy day, Then fade from all the world away; Nor leave one fainting trace behind, Of all that flutter'd once and shined; The vapoury meteor's dancing light Deep sunk and quench'd in endless night

Written by John Trumbull |

Beneath A Mountains Brow

 "Beneath a mountain's brow, the most remote 
And inaccessible by Shepherds trod, 
In a deep cave, dug by no mortals hands 
An Hermit lived,--a melancholy man 
Who was the wonder of our wand'ring swains: 
Austere and lonely--cruel to himself 
They did report him--the cold earth his bed, 
Water his drink, his food the Shepherd's alms.
I went to see him, and my heart was touched With reverence and pity.
Mild he spake, And entering on discourse, such stories told, As made me oft re-visit his sad cell.
"

Written by John Trumbull |

The Country Clown

 Bred in distant woods, the clown 
Brings all his country airs to town; 
The odd address, with awkward grace, 
That bows with half-averted face; 
The half-heard compliments, whose note 
Is swallow'd in the trembling throat; 
The stiffen'd gait, the drawling tone, 
By which his native place is known; 
The blush, that looks by vast degrees, 
Too much like modesty to please; 
The proud displays of awkward dress, 
That all the country fop express: 
The suit right gay, though much belated, 
Whose fashion's superannuated; 
The watch, depending far in state, 
Whose iron chain might form a grate; 
The silver buckle, dread to view, 
O'ershadowing all the clumsy shoe; 
The white-gloved hand, that tries to peep 
From ruffle, full five inches deep; 
With fifty odd affairs beside, 
The foppishness of country pride.
Poor Dick! though first thy airs provoke The obstreperous laugh and scornful joke Doom'd all the ridicule to stand, While each gay dunce shall lend a hand; Yet let not scorn dismay thy hope To shine a witling and a fop.
Blest impudence the prize shall gain, And bid thee sigh no more in vain.
Thy varied dress shall quickly show At once the spendthrift and the beau.
With pert address and noisy tongue, That scorns the fear of prating wrong 'Mongst listening coxcombs shalt thou shine, And every voice shall echo thine.