Tuesday, July 24, 2018

William Penn - POEMS from the "Southern Literary Messenger" - 1834


William Penn (1644 –  1718) was an English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, early Quaker, and founder of the English North American colony the Province of Pennsylvania. He was an early advocate of democracy and religious freedom, notable for his good relations and successful treaties with the Lenape Native Americans. Under his direction, the city of Philadelphia was planned and developed.

In 1681, King Charles II handed over a large piece of his American land holdings to Penn to appease the debts the king owed to Penn's father. This land included present-day Pennsylvania and Delaware. Penn immediately set sail and took his first step on American soil in New Castle in 1682 after his trans-Atlantic journey. On this occasion, the colonists pledged allegiance to Penn as their new proprietor, and the first general assembly was held in the colony. Afterwards, Penn journeyed up the Delaware River and founded Philadelphia. However, Penn's Quaker government was not viewed favourably by the Dutch, Swedish, and English settlers in what is now Delaware. They had no "historical" allegiance to Pennsylvania, so they almost immediately began petitioning for their own assembly. In 1704 they achieved their goal when the three southernmost counties of Pennsylvania were permitted to split off and become the new semi-autonomous colony of Lower Delaware. As the most prominent, prosperous and influential "city" in the new colony, New Castle became the capital.

As one of the earlier supporters of colonial unification, Penn wrote and urged for a union of all the English colonies in what was to become the United States of America. The democratic principles that he set forth in the Pennsylvania Frame of Government served as an inspiration for the United States Constitution. As a pacifist Quaker, Penn considered the problems of war and peace deeply. He developed a forward-looking project for a United States of Europe through the creation of a European Assembly made of deputies that could discuss and adjudicate controversies peacefully. He is therefore considered the very first thinker to suggest the creation of a European Parliament.

A man of extreme religious convictions, Penn wrote numerous works in which he exhorted believers to adhere to the spirit of Primitive Christianity. He was imprisoned several times in the Tower of London due to his faith, and his book No Cross, No Crown (1669), which he wrote while in prison, has become a Christian classic.


        Go, Holy Book!
Tell those whom many woes assail
        On thee to look;
They'll find how weak it is to wail
Though every earthly comfort fail.

        The Orphan's tear
Go wipe away, and bid his heart
        To be of cheer;
Heal thou his bosom's sorest smart,
And gild with Hope misfortune's dart.

        Say thou to those,
Shut out from every good on earth,
        Lost to repose,
Baptized in sorrow at their birth,
That worldly joy's of little worth.

        The poor soul tell,
The poor, lone, wretched, friendless man,
        Though his heart swell,
The ways of God, he must not scan—
But trust the Universal plan.

        Tell poor disease,
Bravely to bear the piercing pain;
        Eternal ease,
Waits those who do not poorly plain,
And worldly loss is heavenly gain.

        Tell those who sigh
Over some friend's untimely doom,
        That all must die;
He whom they saw laid in the tomb,
In God's own paradise may bloom.

        Go, say to those
Doom'd still to groan and till the soil,
        That soon repose
Shall wipe away their drops of toil,
And stay for aye their weary moil.

        Tell those who pine
In the damp dungeon's dreary gloom,
        There yet will shine
Through their poor melancholy dome,
A light to guide their footsteps home.

        Tell the Pilgrim,
When storms are blackening round his head,
        'Tis good for him;
What though his thorn torn feet have bled,
The heart's blood of his God was shed.

        The Mariner,
Who bides the tempest's fiercest blaze,
        Bid not to fear;
Though thunders hurtle in the air,
The Launcher of the thunder's there.

        Tell those who fear
Their sins can never be forgiven,
        To be of cheer—
If they have call'd on God and striven,
There's mercy for them still in Heaven.

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O! ever skilled to wear the form we love!
    To bid the shapes of fear and grief depart,
Come gentle Hope! with one soft smile remove
    The wasting sadness of an aching heart.

Thy voice benign, enchantress let me hear;
    Say that for me some pleasures yet shall bloom;
That Fancy's radiance. Friendship's precious tear
    Shall brighten or shall soothe misfortune's gloom.

But come not glowing with the dazzling ray,
    Which once, with dear illusions charmed my eye!
O! strew no more, sweet flatterer! on my way,
    The flowers I fondly thought too bright to die.
Visions less fair will soothe my pensive breast,
That asks not Happiness, but longs for rest.

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The half-orbed Moon hangs out her silvery lamp,
    A liquid lustre pouring o'er the scene;
While silk-winged zephyrs bathed in dewy damp
    Scarce move the pensile leaves, or break the calm serene.

Radiant she rests upon the brow of night,
    The lucid diadem that crowns the sky;
So softly beautiful, so mildly bright,
    She sways the ravished heart, and feeds the insatiate eye.

In jocund boyhood erst her magic face
    Impressed no feeling but a gentle joy;
For moonlit memory knew not then to trace
    The saddened scenes of youth that later hopes alloy.

When dawning manhood, fired by fancy's ray,
    Enrobed all nature in her rainbow hues,
Then fond affection loved at eve to stray
    And, gazing on the Moon, with thrilling heart to muse.

But when advancing years have broke the ties
    Formed at the altar of the Moonlit Heaven,
The thoughts of buried joys in sadness rise,
    And tear-drops glisten in the silent light of even.

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                The fitful beam
                Of the rippled fountain,
                The purple gleam
                Of the eve-lit mountain,
                The vanishing glance
                Of the meteors motion,
                The lights that dance
                On the darkened ocean,
Are the faithful types of the hopes that won us,
While the dew of our youth still sparkled upon us.

                The arid sands
                Of the sun-dried river,
                The rock that stands
                Where lightnings quiver,
                The pitiless rush
                Of the earthquake's ruin,
                The startling hush
                Of the sea-storm brewing,
Are as truly types of the sorrows that found us,
When the hopes that we nursed had all fled from around us.

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For fortune's prize let others pant,
And count the "yellow slave,"
No joys can gathered jewels grant,
No sickening sorrows save—
    But bustling and jostling
    To swell the treasured heap,
    It cloys us, annoys us,
    And leaves the heart to weep.

Let others climb the dizzy height
Where glory shines afar,
Alas! renown is but the light
That decks the falling star.
    Still driving and striving
    To reach the radiant prize,
    We grasp it and clasp it,
    And in our touch it dies.

But, oh! let mine the treasure be
That social joys impart,
And mine the glory, sympathy
Beams on the feeling heart—
    Still soothing and smoothing
    The grief of friends distrest,
    And lending and spending,
    That others may be blest.