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“On Emigration to America and Peopling the Western Country” (1784), by Philip Freneau
To western woods, and lonely plains,
Palemon from the crowd departs,
Where Nature’s wildest genius reigns,
To tame the soil, and plant the arts-
What wonders there shall freedom show, 5
What mighty states successive grow!
From Europe’s proud, despotic shores
Hither the stranger takes his way,
And in our new found world explores
A happier soil, a milder sway, 10
Where no proud despot holds him down,
No slaves insult him with a crown.
What charming scenes attract the eye,
On wild Ohio’s savage stream!
There Nature reigns, whose works outvie 15
The boldest pattern art can frame;
There ages past have rolled away,
And forests bloomed but to decay.
From these fair plains, these rural seats,
So long concealed, so lately known, 20
The unsocial Indian far retreats,
To make some other clime his own,
When other streams, less pleasing flow,
And darker forests round him grow.
Great Sire of floods! whose varied wave 25
Through climes and countries take its way,
To whom creating Nature gave
Ten thousand streams to swell thy sway!
No longer shall they useless prove,
Nor idly through the forests rove; 30
Nor longer shall your princely flood
From distant lakes be swelled in vain,
Nor longer through a darksome wood
Advance, unnoticed to the main,
Far other ends, the heavens decree– 35
And commerce plans new freights for thee.
While virtue warms the generous breast,
There heaven-born freedom shall reside,
Nor shall the voice of war molest,
Nor Europe’s all-aspiring pride– 40
There Reason shall new laws devise,
And order from confusion rise.
Forsaking kings and regal state,
With all their pomp and fancied bliss,
The traveller owns, convinced though late, 45
No realm so free, so blest as this–
The east is half to slaves consigned,
Where kings and priests enchain the mind.
O come the time, and haste the day,
When man shall man no longer crush, 50
When Reason shall enforce her sway,
Nor these fair regions raise our blush,
Where still the African complains,
And mourns his yet unbroken chains.
Far brighter scenes a future age, 55
The muse predicts, these States will hail,
Whose genius may the world engage,
Whose deeds may over death prevail,
And happier systems bring to view
Than all the eastern sages knew. 60