On the Great Western Canal of the State of New York

by Philip Freneau

Philip Freneau

The nation true to honor's cause,
To equal rights and equal laws ,
Is well secured, and well released
From the proud monarchs of the east.

Thus Holland rose from Spain's controul,
And thus shall rise from pole to pole
Those systems formed on reason's plan
That vindicate the Rights of man. —

Nature , herself, will change her face,
And arts fond arms the world embrace;
In works of peace mankind engage,
And close the despot's iron age.

And here behold a work progress,
Advancing through the wilderness,
A work, so recently began,
Where Liberty enlightens man:
Her powerful voice, at length, awakes
Imprisoned seas and bounded lakes.

The great idea to pursue,
To lead the veins the system through;
Such glorious toils to emulate,
Should be the task of every State.

From Erie's shores to Hudson's stream
The unrivalled work would endless seem;
Would millions for the work demand,
And half depopulate the land.

To Fancy's view, what years must run,
What ages, till the task is done!
Even truth , severe would seem to say,
One hundred years must pass away: —

The sons might see what sires began,
Still unperformed the mighty plan,
The impeded barque, in durance held,
By hills confined, by rocks repelled. —

Not China's wall, though grand and strong,
Five hundred leagues it towers along,
Not China's wall, though stretching far,
Which this vast object can compare,

With such gigantic works of old
This proud Canal may be enrolled,
Which to our use no tyrant gave
Nor owes its grandeur to one Slave. —

If kings their object tribes compell'd
With toil immense, such walls to build,
A new Republic in the west
(A great example to the rest)
Can seas unite, and here will shew
What Freedom's nervous sons can do.

See Commerce here expand her sail,
And distant shores those waters hail,
As wafting to Manhattan's coast
The products that new regions boast.

And hence our fleets transport their freights
To jealous kings and sister states,
And spread her fame from shore to shore,
Where suns ascend, or billows roar,

To make the purpose all complete,
Before they bid two oceans meet;
Before the task is finished, all,
What rocks must yield, what forests fall?

Three years elapsed , behold it done!
A work from Nature's chaos won;
By hearts of oak and hands of toil
The Spade inverts the rugged soil
A work, that may remain secure
While suns exist and Moon's endure.

With patient step I see them move
O'er many a plain, through many a grove;
Herculean strength disdains the sod
Where tigers ranged or Mohawks trod;
The powers that can the soil subdue
Will see the mighty project through.

Ye patrons of this bold design
Who Erie to the Atlantic join,
To you be every honour paid —
No time shall see your fame decayed: —
Through gloomy groves you traced the plan,
The rude abodes of savage man.

Ye Prompters of a work so vast
That may for years, for centuries last;
Where Nature toiled to bar the way
You mark'd her steps, but changed her sway.

Ye Artists, who, with skillful hand,
Conduct such rivers through the land,
Proceed! — and in your bold carreer
May every Plan as wise appear,
As this , which joins to Hudson's wave
What Nature to St. Lawrence gave.

Last updated January 11, 2023