MAPPING THE CITY: DC Places, Part
Anne Lynch Botta
"When I and all those that
hear me shall have gone to our last home, and when the mould may have
gathered on our memories, as it will on our tombs..."
—Daniel Webster's Speech in the Senate, July, 1850
The mould upon thy memory!—No,
Not while one note is rung,
Of those divine, immortal songs
Milton and Shakespeare sung;—
Not till the night of years enshrouds
The Anglo-Saxon tongue.
No! let the flood of Time roll on,
And men and empires die;—
Genius enthroned on lofty heights
Can its dread course defy,
And here on earth, can claim the gift
Can save from that Lethean tide
That sweeps so dark along,
A people's name;—a people's fame
To future time prolong,
As Troy still lives and only lives
In Homer's deathless song.
What though to buried Nineveh
The traveller may come,
And roll away the stone that hides
That long forgotten tomb;—
He questions its mute past in vain,
Its oracles are dumb.
What though he stand where Balbec stood
Gigantic in its pride;
No voice comes o'er that silent waste,
Lone, desolate and wide;—
They had no bard, no orator,
No statesman,—and they died.
They lived their little span of life,
They lived and died in vain;—
They sank ingloriously beneath
Oblivion's silent reign,
As sank beneath the Dead Sea wave
The Cities of the Plain.
But for those famed, immortal lands,
Greece and imperial Rome,
Where Genius left its shining mark,
And found its chosen home,
All eloquent with mind they speak,
Wood, wave and crumbling dome.
The honeyed words of Plato still
Float on the echoing air,
The thunders of Demosthenes
Aegean waters bear,
And the pilgrim to the Forum hears
The voice of Tully there.
And thus thy memory shall live,
And thus thy fame resound,
While far-off future ages roll
Their solemn cycles round,
And make this wide, this fair New World
An ancient, classic ground.
Then with our Country's glorious name
Thine own shall be entwined;
Within the Senate's pillared hall
Thine image shall be shrined;
And on the nation's Law shall gleam
Light from thy giant mind.
Our proudest monuments no more
May rise to meet the sky,
The stately Capitol o'erthrown,
Low in the dust may lie;
But mind, sublime above the wreck,
Anne Lynch Botta lived in DC from 1850
to 1853, while serving as personal secretary to Henry Clay. She is the
author of Poems (1849) and A Handbook of Universal Literature
(1860, a widely used textbook), and editor of an anthology, The
Rhode Island Book. Born in 1815, she was educated at the Albany
Female Academy, and taught briefly in Albany and Providence, RI, and
after her sojourn to DC, she settled in New York, teaching at the Brooklyn
Girls' Academy, writing freelance articles for magazines, and hosting
a renowned salon in her home, frequented by some of the most famous
writers of the time, including William Cullen Bryant, Edgar Allen Poe,
Helen Hunt Jackson, Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Horace Greeley,
and Fanny Kemble. In middle age, she married a Dante Scholar who taught
at New York University. After her death in 1891, her husband compiled
her unpublished poems, along with letters and tributes, and published
the posthumous Memoirs of Anne C. L. Botta: Written By Her Friends
in Volume 11, Number 4, Fall 2010.