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A Rhapsody

( Originally Published 1927 )



BY CASSIUS MARCELLUS CLAY

I MAY be an enthusiast ; but I cannot but give utterance to the conceptions of my own mind. When I look upon the special developments of European civilization ; when I contemplate the growing freedom of the cities, and the middle class which has sprung up between the pretenders to divine rule on the one hand, and the abject serf on the other; when, I consider the Reformation, and the invention of the press, and see, 0n the southern shore of the continent, an humble individual, amidst untold difficulties and repeated defeats, pursuing the mysterious suggestions which the mighty deep poured unceasingly upon his troubled spirit, till at last, with great and irrepressible energy of soul, he discovered that there lay in the far western ocean a continent open for the infusion of those elementary principles of liberty which were dwarfed in European soil,— I conceive that the hand of destiny was there !

When I see the immigration of the Pilgrims from the chalky shores of England,— in the night fleeing from their native home,— so dramatically and ably pictured by Mr. Webster in his celebrated oration,—when father, mother, brother, wife, sister, lover, were all lost by those melancholy wanderers —" stifling," in the language of one who is immortal in the conception, "the mighty hunger of the heart," and landing, amidst cold and poverty and death, upon the rude rocks of Plymouth,— I venture to think the will of Deity was there !

When I have remembered the Revolution of '76,-the Seven Years' War—three millions of men in arms against the most powerful nation in history, and vindicating their independence,— I have thought that their sufferings and death were not in vain ! When I have seen the forsaken hearthstone,— looked upon the battlefield, upon the dying and the dead,— heard the agonizing cry, "Water, for the sake of God! water; " seeing the dissolution 0f being—pale lips pressing in death the yet loved images 0f wife, sister, lover,— I have not deemed — I will not deem all these things in vain ! I cannot regard this great continent, reaching from the Atlantic to the far Pacific, and from the St. John's to the Rio del Norte, as the destined home of a barbarian people of third-rate civilization.

Like the Roman who looked back upon the glory of his ancestors, in woe, exclaiming,

"Great Scipio's ghost complains that we are slow, And Pompey's shade walks unavenged among us," the great dead hover around me — Lawrence, " Don't give up the ship."— Henry, " Give me liberty or give me death ! "— Adams, " Survive or perish, I am for the Declaration."— Allan, " In the name of the living God, I come ! "

Come then, Thou Eternal, wh0 dwellest not in temples made with hands, but who, in the city's crowd or by the far forest stream, revealest Thyself to the earnest seeker after the true and right, inspire my heart ; give me undying courage to pursue the promptings of my spirit ; and whether I shall be called in the shades of life to look upon as sweet and kind and lovely faces as now, or shut in by sorrow and night, horrid visions shall gloom upon me in my dying hour, O my country, mayest thou yet be free!



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