Pro Patria: America, 1861

by Adah Isaacs Menken

Adah Isaacs Menken

God's armies of Heaven, with pinions extended,
Spread wide their white arms to the standard of Light;
And bending far down to the great Heart of Nature,
With kisses of Love drew us up from the Night.
Proud soul of the Bondless! whose stars fleck with crimson,
And warm dreams of gold ev'ry pillar and dome,
That strengthens and crowns the fair temples upswelling
To glitter, far-seen, in our Liberty's home-
The spirits of Heroes and Sires of the People,
Leaned down from the battlements guarding the world;
To breathe for your Destiny omens of glory
And freedom eternal, in Honor impearled.
The storm-goaded mountains, and trees that had battled
With winds sweeping angrily down through the years,
Turned red in the blood of the roses of Heaven,
'Neath fires lit by sunset on vanishing spears.
The soft Beam of Peace bronzed the rocks of stern ages,
And crept from the valley to burn on the spire;
And stooped from the glimmer of gems in the palace,
To glow in the hovel a soul-heating fire.
Each turret, and terrace, and archway of grandeur,
Its beauty up-rounded through laughs of the light;
And world-crown'd America chose for her standard
The blush of the Day and the eyes of the Night.
Then Liberty's sceptre, its last jewel finding,
Was waved by a God o'er the years to be born,
And far in the future there rusted and crumbled
The chains of the centuries, ne'er to be worn.
The wave-hosts patrolling the sullen Atlantic,
With helmets of snow, and broad silvery shields,
Ran clamoring up to the seed-sown embrasures,
And fashioned new dews for the buds of the fields:
They spread their scroll shields for the breast of Columbia,
And turned their storm-swords to the enemy's fleet;
Their glory to humble the tyrant that braved them,
Their honor to lave fair America's feet!
No hot hand of Mars scattered red bolts of thunder
From out the blest land on their message-wind's breath;
But softly the murmur of Peace wantoned o'er them,
And soothed War to sleep in the Cradle of Death,
Then hiding their snow plumes, they slept in their armor,
And as the sun shone on their crystalline mail;
Lo! Freedom beheld, from her mountains, a mirror,
And caught her own image spread under a sail!
So, blest was Columbia; the focus of Nature's
Best gifts, and the dimple where rested God's smile;
The Queen of the World in her young strength and beauty,
The pride of the skies in her freedom from guile.
Aloft on the mount of God's liberty endless,
Half-veiled by the clouds of His temple she stood,
Arrayed in the glory of Heaven, the mortal,
With vigor Immortal unchained in her blood.
A bright helm of stars on her white brow was seated,
And gold were the plumes from its clusters that fell
To light the gaunt faces of slaves in old kingdoms,
And show them the way to the hand they loved well.
No gorget of steel rested on her bare bosom,
Where glittered a necklace of gems from the skies;
And girding her waist was the red band of sunset,
With light intertwined 'neath the glance of her eyes.
The sword that had bridged in the dark time of trouble,
Her heart's grand Niagara rolling in blood;
Still sheathless she held; but it turned to a sunbeam,
And blessed what it touched, like a finger of God!
The robes of her guardian Angels swept round her,
And flashed through the leaves of the grand Tree of Life,
Till all the sweet birds in its depths woke to music,
And e'en the bruised limbs with new being were rife.
The Eagle's gray eyes, from the crag by the ocean,
Undazed by the sun, saw the vision of love,
And swift on the rim of the shield of Columbia,
The bold Eagle fell from the white throne of Jove.
Columbia! My Country! My Mother! thy glory
Was born in a spirit Immortal, divine;
And when from God's lips passed the nectar of heaven,
Thy current baptismal was deified wine!
Thou born of Eternal! the hand that would harm thee
Must wither to dust, and in dust be abhorred,
For thine is the throne whose blue canopy muffles
The footfalls of angels, the steps of the Lord!
But hush! 'Twas the flap of the raven's dark pinions
That sounded in woe on the breeze as it passed;
There cometh a hum, as of distance-veiled battle,
From out the deep throat of the quivering blast;
There cometh a sound like the moan of a lost one
From out the red jaws of Hell's cavern of Death;
The Eagle's strong wing feels the talon of Discord,
And all the fair sunlight goes out with a breath!
And see how the purple-hued hills and the valleys
Are dark with bent necks and with arms all unnerved;
And black, yelling hounds bay the soul into madness-
The Huntsman of Hell drives the pack that has swerved!
The pale steeds of Death shake the palls of their saddles,
And spread their black manes, wrought of shrouds, to the wind,
The curst sons of Discord each courser bestriding,
To guide the Arch-Demon, who lingers behind
They thunder in rage, o'er the red path of Battle,
Far up the steep mount where fair Liberty keeps
The soul of a Tyrant in parchment imprisoned;
God pity us all, if her Sentinel sleeps!
Our Father in Heaven! the shadow of fetters
Is held in the shade of the Dove's little wing;
And must it again on our smothered hearts settle?
Peace slain-and the knell of our Honor they ring!
Behold! from the night-checkered edge of the woodland
A wall of red shields crowdeth into the land,
Their rims shooting horror and bloody confusion,
Their fields spreading darkness on every hand.
A forest of morions utter grim murder-
Threats kissed by the sun from their long tongues of steel;
Lo, forests of spears hedge the heart of Columbia,
And soon their keen points her fair bosom may feel!
Her Cain-branded foes! How they crawl in the valley,
And creep o'er the hills, in their dastardly fear!
Afraid, lest their victim should suddenly waken
And blast them for e'er with a womanly tear!
Like hunters who compass the African jungle,
Where slumbers Numidia's lion by day,
They falter and pale, looking back at each other,
And some, in their falsehood, to Providence pray!
Assassins of Liberty! comes there not o'er you
A thought of the time, when the land you would blight,
Though slumbering 'mid tombs of a hundred dead nations,
Though Britain's steel bulwarks broke into the light?
And can ye forget the hot blood-rain that deluged
The Hearts of the Fathers, who left to your care
The beautiful Trust now in slumber before you,
They starved, fought, and fell to preserve from a snare?
Would ye splash, in your madness, the blood of the children,
With merciless blows, in the poor mother's face?
Turn back, ye Assassins! or wear on your foreheads
For ever the brand of a God-hated race!
Down, down to the dust with ye, cowards inhuman!
And learn, as ye grovel, for mercy to live,
That Love is the Sceptre and Throne of the Nation,
And Freedom the Crown that the centuries give!
Unrighteous Ambition has slept in our limits
Since fearless Columbia sheathed her bright blade:
And at her dread Vengeance on those who awake it,
The soul of the stoutest might well be dismayed.
Beware! for the spirit of God's Retribution
Will make a red sunrise when Liberty dies;
The Traitors shall writhe in the glow of a morning,
And drown in the blood that is filling their eyes!
The bright blade of old, when it leaps from the scabbard
Like Lightning shall fall on the traitorous head,
And hurl with each stroke, in its world-shock of thunder,
A thrice cursed soul to the deeps of the Dead!
Beware! for when once ye have made your Red Ocean,
Its waves shall rise up with tempestuous swell,
And hurl your stained souls, like impurities, from them
Up death's dark slope, to the skull beach of Hell!

Last updated July 05, 2015