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WHATCHEER;

OR,

ROGER WILLIAMS IN BANISHMENT,

INTRODUCTION.

TO THE REV. ROMEO ELTON,

PROFESSOR OF LANGUAGES IN BROWN UNIVERSITY.

What time, dear Elton, we were wont to rove

From classic Brown along fair Seekonk's vale,
And, in the murmurs of his storied cove,

Hear barbarous voices still our Founder hail;
E'en then my bosom with young rapture hove

To give to deathless verse the exile's tale;
And every ripple's moan, or breeze's sigh,
Brought back whole centuries as it murmured by.

But soon the transient dream of youth was gone,

And different labors to our lots were given :
You at the shrine of peace and glory shown;

Sublime your toils, for still your theme was Heaven-
I, upon life's tempestuous billows thrown-

A little bark before the tempest driven-
Strove for a time the surging tide to breast,
And up its rolling mountains sought for rest.

Wearied, at length, with the unceasing strifo,

I gave my pinnace to the harbor's lee,
And left that ocean, still with tempests rife,

To mad ambition's heartless rivalry ;
No longer venturing for exalted life,

(For storms and quicksands have no charms for me,)
I, in the listless labors of the swain,
Provoke no turmoil, and awake no pain.

To drive the team afield, and guide the plough,

Or lead the herds to graze the dewy mead,
Wakes not the glance of lynx-eyed rival now,

And makes no heart with disappointment bleed;
Once more I joy to see the rivers flow,

The lambkins sport, and brindled oxen feed,
And o'er the tranquil soul returns the dream,
Which once she cherished by fair Seekonk's stream.

And when stern winter breathes the chilling storm,

And night comes down on earth in mantle hoar,
I guide the herds and flocks to shelter warm,

And sate their hunger from the gathered store ;
Then round the cottage hearth the circle form

Of childhood lovelier than the vernal flower,
Partake its harmless glee and prattle gay,
And soothe my soul to tune the artless lay.

Thus were the numbers taught at first to flow,

Scarce conscious that they bore a tale along-
Beneath my hand still would the pages grow-

They were not labor, but the joy of song-
Still every line would unsung beauties show

In Williams' soul, and still the strain prolong ;
'Till, all in rapture with the theme sublime,
My thoughts spontaneous sought the embodying rhyme.

No man was he of heart with love confined

With blessings only for his bosom friend-
His glowing soul embraced the human kind-

He toiled and suffered for earth’s farthest end.
Touched by the truths of his unyielding mind,

The human soul did her long bondage rend;
Stern Persecution paused—blushed-dropped the rod-
He strove like man, but conquered like a God.

And now, my Elton, as in hours of ease,

With aimless joy I filled this frail balloon,
So like blind impulse bids me trust the breeze,

And soar on dancing winds to fate unknown;
And be my lot whatever chance decrees-

Let gales propitious gently waft me on,
Or tempests dash far down oblivious night-

Whate'er the goal, I tempt the heedless flight.
Tiverton, R. I., September, 1832.

WHATCHEER.

CANTO FIRST.

(SCENES. The Fire-Side at Salem-The Wilderness—The Wigwam.)

I sing of trials stern, and sufferings great,

Which FATHER Williams in his exile bore,
That he the conscience-bound might liberate,

And her religious rights the soul restore;
How, after flying persecution's hate,

And roving long by Narraganset's shore,
In lone Mooshausick's vale at last he sate,

And gave soul-liberty her Guardian State.

II.

He was a man of spirit true and bold;

Feared not to speak his thoughts whate'er they were;
His frame, though light, was of an iron mould,

And fitted well fatigue and change to bear;
For God ordained that he should breast the cold

Of northern Wilderness in winter drear,
And of red savages protection pray
From Christians, but—more savage far than they.

III.

Midwinter reigned; and Salem's infant town,

Where late were cleft the forests' skirts away,
Showed its low roofs, and from the thatching brown,

The sheeted ice sent back the sun's last ray;
The school-boys left the slippery hillock's crown,

So keen the blast came o'er the eastern bay.
And the pale sun in vapors thick went down,
And the glassed forest cast a sombre frown.

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