The Glorious Fourth of July | Anonymous

The following poem, written in September 1849, was published in the left wing Democratic Review, edited by George Julian Harney.[1] The name of the author remains unknown and, for what it’s worth, I do not think that this writer aspired to be a “great” poet. Nevertheless, it celebrates independence day the rise of democracy in the United States of America and looks forward to a future day when America’s influence would spread from pole to pole. One wonders what the author would make of America today—its influence can certainly be felt the world over, although whether that is for better or for worse is a debate for another time.—Stephen Basdeo.

The early United States “Betsy Ross” Flag

The Glorious Fourth of July

Written without Premeditation and Dedicated to Everybody

O! for a muse that knows the tropes, to sing e’en in cursory way,

In any verse, the blessed dawn of freedom’s anniversary day,

O! that my mighty “breadth of thought,” that pants for the hexameter,

Expressed in long Longfellow lines, could show its vast diameter.

Then would I execrate Lord North, and ban the stamp and tea tax,

And put it into George the Third as savage as a meat-ax.

Then would I sing of Lexington, and Bunkerhill, and Princeton,

And many other wondrous feats that Yankee Doodle’s since done.

I’d tell of Saratoga’s fight, and with the hand that now pens

Describe John Bull;s predicament when cornered at the Cowpens,

Extol the deeds of Washington and all the patriot signers,

And show how Marion cleared the swamps in both the Carolinas.

But, ah! to my prosaic brain comes no “divine afflatus;”

I’m no more like a genuine bard than peas are like potatoes.

O! for hexameters as long as tails of Chinese mandarines:

My loose thoughts have not elbow room—confound these Alexandrines!

An epic! that would be the thing for Liberty ‘s hosanna.

“An epic!” some scared reader cries “O, ipecacuanha!”

Well, well, don’t cry before you’re hurt; if you’ve no taste for music

That’s your misfortune, not my fault, and so I won’t make you sick.

But yet I must a stave uplift, though it amaze the welkin,

About the biggest eagle egg that ever had a yelk in.

The bird o’freedom laid the egg, the sun o’freedom hatched it;

And now behold the full grown fowl—the world has never matched it.

One wing flaps o’er the At-a-lantic wave and one o’er the Pacific,

His tale o ‘ershadows Mexico, and, vision beatific!

He holds within his specie claws, so big and broad and horny,

The goose that lays the golden eggs—immortal Californy!

Depict’d o’er Columbia’s shield, he seems to wield the thunder,

And bid the universe look out, and likewise stand from under.

But now he’s dropped his thunderbolts and smoothed his plumes to suit us,

And left the court of Jupiter to take a turn with Plutus.

Our country always seems in luck. When Brennus-like, her sabre

She cast into the ransom scale of her inflated neighbour,

No Aztec Cincinatus spoke—and we kept such a din up,

That very soon with tearful eyes, she had to plank the tin up.

Perchance, at some not distant day, she’ll humbly beg permission

To link herself for good and all with our great coalition.

If so, we’ll take the stranger in—and when she comes to greet us,

Extend our friendship to the men and kiss the senoritas.

Of one thing, reader, be thou sure—the Yankee eagle one day

Will stretch his wings from Behring’s Straits beyond the Bay of Fundy,

And from the Pole to Panama, when sleeping I and you be,

Will all belong to Uncle Sam some future Fourth of July .

[1] Anon. ‘The Glorious Fourth of July’, Democratic Review, September 1849, 153–54.