Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AT RICHMOND, by WILLIAM ALLEN BUTLER



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AT RICHMOND, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: At richmond, in the month of may
Last Line: Or hurl your heroes to the dust!
Subject(s): Freedom; Patriotism; Richmond, Virginia; Virginia (State); Liberty


AT Richmond, in the month of May,
I climbed the city's lofty crest;
Below, the level landscape lay,
And proudly streamed, from east to west,
The glories of the dawning day.

There stand the statues Crawford gave
His country, while with bleeding heart
She showered upon his open grave
The laurels of victorious Art,
And wept the life she could not save.

How grandly, on that granite base,
The youthful hero sits sublime;
The leader of the chosen race,
The noblest of the sons of Time,
With all his future in his face.

And he who framed the matchless plan
For freedom and his fatherland,
Type of the just, sagacious Man,
Like Aristides, calm and grand,
Within the Roman Vatican.

Nor less he wears the patriot wreath,
The foremost of the three, who stands
As when with his prophetic breath,
And flashing eyes, and out-stretched hands,
He cried for "Liberty or Death!"

Here surely it is good to be,
Where Freedom's native soil I tread,
And, on the mount, transfigured see
The Fathers, with whose fame we wed
The endless blessings of the free.

But when the summit's ample crown
Flamed with the morning's fiercer heat,
I turned, and slowly passing down,
With curious gaze, from street to street,
Went wandering through the busy town.

And lingered, where I chanced to hear
The voices of a crowd, that hung,
With laugh and oath and empty jeer,
Beside a door o'er which was swung
The red flag of the auctioneer.

In truth, it was a motley crew:
The brutal trader, sly and keen;
The planter, with his sunburnt hue;
The idle townsman, and between,
With face unwashed, the foreign Jew.

Within, O God of grace! what sight
Was this for eyes which scarce had turned
From yonder monumental height,
For thoughts upon whose altars burned
The fires just kindled in its light!

So when the rapt disciples came
From Tabor on that blessed morn,
What chilled so soon their hearts of flame?
The fierce demoniac, wild and torn,
The cry of human guilt and shame.

For here were men, young men and old,
Scarred with hot iron and the lash;
And women, crushed with griefs untold;
And little children, cheap for cash—
All waiting, waiting—to be sold!

For me, each hourly good I crave
Comes at the bidding of my will;
For them, the shadows of the grave
Have gathered, or the woes that fill
The life-long bondage of the slave.

Too long my thoughts were schooled to see
Some pretext for such fatal thrall;
Now reason spurns each narrow plea,
One thrill of manhood cancels all,
One throb of pity sets me free.

Virginia! shall the great and just,
Like sentries, guard the slaver's den?
O, rise, and from your borders thrust
This thrice-accursed trade in men,
Or hurl your heroes to the dust!





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