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Trent and Wells, eds. Colonial Prose and Poetry. 1901.

Vol. III. The Growth of the National Spirit: 1710–1775

Benjamin Church

BENJAMIN CHURCH was a man of mixed fame, but it is quite plain that he was one of the ablest characters of his generation. He was born at Newport in 1734, graduated at Harvard in 1754 and studied medicine in London, three years later (1757), published his poem The Choice in the manner of Pomfret, established quite a literary reputation, and soon rose to considerable eminence as a physician in Boston. He also dabbled in politics, and like his friend, Samuel Adams, contributed numerous articles to the periodicals. He took the patriotic side at first, as in his strong satire The Times (1765); but though talented, was unscrupulous, and he offered secretly to sell his services to the Tories. His real character not being known, he was chosen to deliver the patriotic oration in the Old South Meeting House on the victims of the Boston Massacre. He was a leader in the Boston Tea Party, and was made Surgeon General and Director of Hospitals by the Provincial Congress (1775). Soon afterwards his treasonable correspondence with the British was discovered, and. he was sentenced to imprisonment for life; but falling sick in prison, he was finally allowed to leave the country. He embarked in 1776 for the West Indies, but the ship in which he sailed was never heard from. His facile reputation soon declined, and his talents hardly to-day receive their due praise, although this, forsooth, is not superlative.


After the manner of Mr. Promfret.


Boston: Printed and Sold by Edes and Gill in Queen-Street,

  • Modest Desires.
  • IF youthful Fancy might its Choice pursue,
  • And act as natural Reason prompts it to;
  • If Inclination could dispose our State,
  • And human Will might govern future Fate;
  • Remote from Grandeur, I’d be humbly wise,
  • And all the Glitter of a Court despise:
  • Unskil’d the Proud, or Vicious to commend,
  • To cringe to Insolence, or Fools attend;
  • Within myself contented and secure,
  • Above what mean Ambition can endure;
  • Nor yet so anxious to obtain a Name,
  • To bleed for Honour in the Fields of Fame;
  • Empty Parade, is all that Heroes know,
  • Unless fair Virtue hover in the Show,
  • No needless Show my modest Dome should claim,
  • Neat and genteel without, within the same;—
  • Thy mellow vintage, Lisbon! should abound,
  • Pouring a mirthful Inspiration ’round;
  • While laughing Bacchus baths within the Bowl,
  • Love, Mirth, and Friendship swallow up the Soul.
  • Nor these alone, should on my shelves recline,
  • But awful Pope! majestically shine,
  • Unequal’d Bard! Who durst thy Praise engage?
  • Not yet grown reverend with the Rust of Age;
  • Sure Heav’n alone thy Art unrival’d taught,
  • To think so well, so well express the Thought;
  • What Villain hears thee, but regrets the Smart?
  • But tears the lurking Demon from his Heart?
  • Virtue attends thee, with the best Applause.
  • Conscious Desert! great Victor in her Cause,
  • She faithful to thy Worth; thy Name shall grace,
  • Beyond all Period, and beyond all Space:
  • Go, shine a Seraph and thy Notes prolong
  • For Angels only merit such a Song!
  • From The Times.
  • POLLIO, be kind! nor chide an early crime,
  • Spawn of chagrin, and labored waste of time;
  • This heart misguides me with a bent so strong,
  • It mocks restraint, and boldly errs in song:
  • Thus crimes indulged, such vigorous growth obtain,
  • Your friendly caution frowns rebuke in vain.
  • ’Tis not great Churchill’s ghost that claims your ear
  • For even ghosts of wit are strangers here;
  • The patriot-soul to other climes removed,
  • Well-pleased enjoys that liberty he loved;
  • No pang resents for Wilkes to exile driven,
  • Exults that worth and Pratt are dear to heaven:
  • Young sure it is not, from whose honeyed lays
  • Streams a rank surfeit of redundant praise;
  • For guilt like his what genius shall atone?
  • Curse the foul verse that daubs a Stuart’s throne.
  • To the Heirs of the Pilgrim.
    [From the Same.]
  • FAIR liberty, our soul’s most darling prize,
  • A bleeding victim flits before our eyes:
  • Was it for this our great forefathers rode
  • O’er a vast ocean to this bleak abode!
  • When liberty was into contest brought,
  • And loss of life was but a second thought;
  • By pious violence rejected thence,
  • To try the utmost stretch of providence;
  • The deep, unconscious of the furrowing keel,
  • Essayed the tempest to rebuke their zeal;
  • The tawny natives and inclement sky
  • Put on their terrors, and command to fly;
  • They mock at danger; what can those appall?
  • To whom fair liberty is all in all.
  • See the new world their purchase, blest domain,
  • Where lordly tyrants never forged the chain;
  • The prize of valor, and the gift of prayer,
  • Hear this and redden, each degenerate heir!
  • Is it for you their honor to betray,
  • And give the harvest of their blood away?
  • Look back with reverence, awed to just esteem,
  • Preserve the blessings handed down from them;
  • If not, look forward, look with deep despair,
  • And dread the curses of your beggared heir.
  • What bosom beats not, when such themes excite?
  • Be men, be gods, be stubborn in the right.