the horseman washington

by Joseph Fulford Folsom

Image: Einar Einarsson Kvaran https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:JMRWashington.jpg CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9215445 CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Image: Einar Einarsson Kvaran via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Today, Rhind’s masterpiece unveil’d, we feel
        A sense of olden time. Light horsemen ride
        On Jersey roads, and sleepless foemen hide
In ambush. Everywhere the flash of steel.

The age of romance backward turns again,
        The din of modern traffic dies away;
        Once more we tribute to a hero pay,
And cease awhile our wonted quest of gain.

Yon horseman in heroic bronze, who stands
        So nobly pois’d beside his pawing steed,
        Is Washington, who, in his country’s need,
Rode many weary leagues through many lands.

‘Twas chill November when, in brave retreat,
        He pass’d this ancient common long ago;
        November brings him back again, but lo,
A victor, ever rais’d above defeat!

Thus stood he by his charger when at last
        He paus’d his troops to wish a fond farewell:
        Then, homeward mounting, rode away to dwell
In peace, with all alarms of battle past.

Thus may he stand forever in our street,
        Ready to mount and ride in our defence;
        Or win us back with silent eloquence
To nobler tasks, and daily lives more sweet.

This poem’s fourth and fifth stanzas recall the desperate early months of the American rebellion and its successful conclusion: the retreat of George Washington’s army across New Jersey, with a four-day encampment in Newark in November 1776, and Washington’s farewell address to his troops in November 1783, upon resigning his command.

Clergyman and historian Joseph Fulford Folsom read these lines on November 2, 1912, at the unveiling of J. Massey Rhind’s bronze statue of a dismounted General Washington, which stands at the south end of Washington Park.

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