poetry quarterly

10th anniversary

MAPPING THE CITY: DC Places, Part II

Joel Barlow

 


Three Excerpts from THE COLUMBIAD

...Resplendent o'er the rest, the regent god
Potowmak towers, and sways the swelling flood;
Vines clothe his arms, wild fruits o'erfill his horn,
Wreaths of green maize his reverend brows adorn,
His silver beard reflects the lunar day,
And round his loins the scaly nations play...

>>>

Then shall your federal towers my bank adorn,
And hail with me the great millennial morn
That gilds your capitol. Thence earth shall draw
Her first clear codes of liberty and law;
There public right a settled form shall find,
Truth trim her lamp to lighten humankind,
Old Afric's sons their shameful fetters cast,
Our wild Hesperians humanize at last,
All men participate, all time expand
The source of good my liberal sages plann'd...

>>>

In this mid site, this monumental clime,
Rear'd by all realms to brave the wrecks of time
A spacious dome swells up, commodious great,
The last resort, the unchanging scene of state.
On rocks of adamant the walls ascend,
Tall columns heave and sky-like arches bend;
Bright o'er the golden roofs the glittering spires
Far in the concave meet the solar fires;
Four blazing fronts, with gates unfolding high,
Look with immortal splendor round the sky:
Hither the delegated sires ascend,
And all the cares of every clime attend...

 

 


Joel Barlow (1754-1812) was a diplomat who served as American Consul to Algiers, where he negotiated the Tripoli Treaty (1796); and American Plenipotentiary to France, where he negotiated a commercial treaty with Napoleon. He established a weekly newspaper in Hartford, CT, the American Mercury, in 1784, and published several books, including Hasty Pudding (1793), the Conspiracy of Kings (1792), and the patriotic epic poem The Columbiad (1807), from which this excerpt is taken. From 1805 to 1811, he lived in Washington, DC in an estate he named Kalorama (now the site of both the Embassy of Myanmar and the Textile Museum on S Street NW). The mansion stood long enough to serve as a Civil War hospital, and was razed in 1888, but the surrounding neighborhood retains the name (and the "beautiful view" which inspired it).

 

Published in Volume 11, Number 4, Fall 2010.