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James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

March 5

Lines on the Death of Gen. Joseph Reed

By Philip Freneau (1752–1832)

  • A member of the Continental Congress and General in the Revolution. He died March 5, 1785.

  • SWIFT to the dust descends each honored name

    That raised their country to these heights of fame,

    Sages that planned, and chiefs that led the way

    To freedom’s temple—all too soon decay;

    Alike submit to one unaltered doom.

    Their glories closing in perpetual gloom,

    Like the dim splendors of the evening, fade,

    While night advances to complete the shade.

    Reed! ’tis for thee we shed th’ unpurchased tear,

    Bend o’er thy tomb, and plant our laurels here,

    Thy own brave deeds the noblest pile transcend,

    And virtue, patriot virtue, mourns her friend,

    Gone to those realms where worth may claim regard,

    And gone where virtue meets her best reward.

    No single art engaged his manly mind,

    In every scene his active genius shined,

    Nature in him, in honor to our age,

    At once composed the soldier and the sage;—

    Firm to his purpose, vigilant, and bold,

    Detesting traitors and despising gold,

    He scorned all bribes from Britain’s hostile throne—

    For all his country’s wrongs were thrice his own.

    Reed, rest in peace, for time’s impartial page

    Shall blast the wrongs of this ungrateful age:

    Long in these climes thy name shall flourish fair,

    The statesman’s pattern, and the poet’s care;

    Long on these plains thy memory shall remain,

    And still new tributes from new ages gain,

    Fair to the eye that injured honor rise—

    Nor traitors triumph while the patriot dies.