Occasioned by General Washington's Arrival in Philadelphia, On His Way to His Residence in Virginia

Philip Freneau

The great, unequal conflict past,
   The Briton banish'd from our shore,
Peace, heav'n-descended, comes at last,
   And hostile nations rage no more;
      From fields of death the weary swain
      Returning, seeks his native plain.
In every vale she smiles serene,
   Freedom's bright stars more radiant rise,
New charms she adds to every scene,
   Her brighter sun illumes our skies;
      Remotest realms admiring stand,
      And hail the Hero of our land:
He comes!—the Genius of these lands—
   Fame's thousand tongues his worth confess,
Who conquered with his suffering bands,
   And grew immortal by distress:
      Thus calms succeed the stormy blast,
      And valour is repaid at last.
O Washington!—thrice glorious name,
   What due rewards can man decree—
Empires are far below thy aim,
   And sceptres have no charms for thee;
      Virtue alone has thy regard,
      And she must be thy great reward.
Encircled by extorted power,
   Monarchs must envy thy Retreat,
Who cast, in some ill fated hour,
   Their country's freedom at their feet;
      'Twas thine to act a nobler part
      For injur'd Freedom had thy heart.
For ravag'd realms and conquer'd seas
   Borne gave the great imperial prize,
And, swelTd with pride, for feats like these,
   Transferr'd her heroes to the skies:—
      A brighter scene your deeds display,
      You gain those heights a different way.
When Faction rear'd her bristly head,
   And join'd with tyrants to destroy,
Where'er you march' d the monster fled,
   Tim'rous her arrows to employ;
      Hosts catch'd from you a bolder flame,
      And despots trembled at your name.
Ere war's dread horrors ceas'd to reign,
   What leader could your place supply?—
Chiefs crowded to the embattled plain,
   Prepaid to conquer or to die—
      Heroes arose— but none like yon
      Could save our lives and freedom too.
In swelling verse let kings be read,
   And princes shine in polish'd prose;
Without such aid your triumphs spread
   Where'er the convex ocean flows,
      To Indian worlds by seas embrac'd,
      And Tartar, tyrant of the waste.
Throughout the east you gain applause,
   And soon the Old World, taught by you,
Shall blush to own her barbarous laws,
   Shall learn instruction from the New:
      Monarchs shall hear the humble plea,
      Nor urge too far the proud decree.
Despising pomp and vain parade,
   At home you stay, while France and Spain
The secret, ardent wish convey'd,
   And hail'd you to their shores in vain:
      In Vernon's groves you shun the throne,
      Admir'd by kings, but seen by none.
Your fame, thus spread to distant lands,
   May envy's fiercest blasts endure,
Like Egypt's pyramids it stands,
   Built on a basis more secure;
      Time's latest age shall own in you
      The patriot and the statesman too.
Now hurrying from the busy scene,
   Where thy Potowmack's waters flow,
Mayt thou enjoy thy rural reign,
   And every earthly blessing know;
      Thus He* whom Rome's proud legions sway'd,
      Beturn'd, and sought his sylvan shade.
Not less in wisdom than in war
   Freedom shall still employ your mind,
Slavery shall vanish, wide and far,
   'Till not a trace is left behind;
      Your counsels not bestow'd in vain
      Shall still protect this infant reign,
So when the bright, all-cheering sun
   From our contracted view retires,
Though fools may think his race is run,
   On other worlds he lights his fires:
      Cold climes beneath his influence glow,
      And frozen rivers learn to flow.
O say, thou great, exalted name!
   What Muse can boast of equal lays,
Thy worth disdains all vulgar fame,
   Transcends the noblest poet's praise,
      Art soars, unequal to the flight,
      And genius sickens at the height.
For States redeem'd— our western reign
   Restored by thee to milder sway,
Thy conscious glory shall remain
   When this great globe is swept away,
      And all is lost that pride admires,
      And all the pageant scene expires.
* Cincinnatus
December, 1783

Poems by This Author

A Political Litany by Philip Freneau
From a junto that labour with absolute power
American Liberty by Philip Freneau
Once more Bellona, forc'd upon the stage
The Wild Honeysuckle by Philip Freneau
Fair flower, that dost so comely grow

Further Reading

Poems about Historical Events
by Czeslaw Milosz
Cashel Man
by Sean Frederick Forbes
Daytime Begins with a Line by Anna Akhmatova
by Yusef Komunyakaa
Indian Stream Republic
by Stephen Burt
Longing to Commodious
by Rob Halpern
Matriot Acts, Act I [History of Mankind]
by Anne Waldman
Oklahoma City: The Aftermath
by Ira Sadoff
On Seeing Larry Rivers' Washington Crossing the Delaware at the Museum of Modern Art
by Frank O'Hara
On the Day of Nixon's Funeral
by Ira Sadoff
Paul Revere's Ride
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Rouen, Place de la Pucelle
by Maria White Lowell
by Robert Pinsky
by Valzhyna Mort
Suicide of a Moderate Dictator
by Elizabeth Bishop
The Present Crisis
by James Russell Lowell
by David Keplinger
William Dawes
by Eileen Myles
American Revolution
America, a Prophecy, Plates 3 and 4
by William Blake
A Farewell to America
by Phillis Wheatley
A Nation's Strength
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
A Political Litany
by Philip Freneau
by Walt Whitman
American Liberty
by Philip Freneau
Daniel Boone
by Stephen Vincent Benét
England in 1819
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
His Excellency General Washington
by Phillis Wheatley
I Hear America Singing
by Walt Whitman
On Being Brought from Africa to America
by Phillis Wheatley
Paul Revere's Ride
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Poems of the American Revolution
Song of Myself, III
by Walt Whitman
The Star-Spangled Banner
by Francis Scott Key
To the Right Honourable William, Earl of Dartmouth
by Phillis Wheatley
When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd
by Walt Whitman