Farewell to Virginia

An Electronic Edition · Alexander Wilson (1766-1813)

Original Source: First Last, "Farewll to Virginia." In . Edited by Percy H. Boynton. New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1918.

Copyright 2011. Thist text is freely available provided the text is distributed with the header information provided

Full Colophon Information


American Poetry

Farewell to Virginia*

Farewell to Virginia, to Berkley adieu,
Where, like Jacob, our days have been evil and few!
So few—they seemed really but one lengthened curse;
.And so bad the Devil only could have sent worse. 


Poetical Letter To William Duncan, His Nephew, Seneca County, New York State*

HERE left o’er books and figur’d slates to pore,
While you the wilds of Northern woods explore;
How wide remov’d from social converse sweet!
And shares again the joyous feast
How parted! haply never more to meet.
Yet, though detain’d by fate’s superior will,
My faithful following heart, attends you still,
And, borne on Fancy’s wings to Northern lakes,
In all your toils, and all your joys partakes.
I saw, when full equipt with knapsack load,
You and your fellow-pilgrim took the road,
A road immense—yet promis’d joys so dear,
That toils, and doubts, and dangers disappear.
I saw you then, Hope sparkling in your eye,
Pierce the deep wood, and scale the mountain high,
Pass where the Lelu rolls her silver tide,
Cross nameless brooks and streams, and rivers wide;
Now down through dismal swamps pursue your way,
Where pine and hemlocks thick obscure the day,
Whose mingled tops, an hundred feet in air,
The clustering nest of swarming pigeons bear;
Thence climb the rugged mountain’s barren ride[sic],
Where snorting bears through rustling forests glide;
Where Wilkesbarre’s fertile plains extend in view,
And far in front the Allegany blue,
Immensely stretch’d. While in the vale below
The painted cots and colour’d meadows glow.
Beyond this little town, ’midst fields of grass,
With thoughtful hearts the fatal field you pass,
Where Indian force prevail’d, by murder fir’d,
And warriors brave, by savage hordes expir’d.
Advancing still, the river’s course you keep,
And pass the rugged, narrow, dangerous steep.
Thence vales and mountains rude promiscuous lie,
And wretched huts disgust the passing eye;
Sure sign of sloth within, that will not toil,
But starves in rags upon the richest soil.
Through Wilhalvossing now your steps you bend,
Where numerous herbs and pastures rich extend;
But hens and sheep, here lucklessly decay,
To wolves and foxes sly, a nightly prey.
High on the steep that near Tioga soars,
Where deep below the parted river roars,
With cautious steps and throbbing hearts you go,
And eye the gulph profound that yawns below,
Or from the height sublime, around descry
One waste of woods encircling earth and sky;
Now, sunk in hoary woods, you scour along,
Rousing the echoes with your jovial song,
Through scenes where late the sculking Indian trod,
Adorn’d with scalps, and smear’d with infants’ blood.
See Nature’s rudest scenes around you rise,
Observe some ancient trees stupendous size,
Gaze while the startled deer shoots bounding by,
And wish the deadly rifle at your eye;
Or stop some settler’s fertile fields to see,
And say, so our own fields shall shortly be.
Ten days of tedious toil and marching past,
The long-expected scenes appear at last,
The lake thro’ chequering trees, extended blue
Huzza! Huzza! Old Seneca’s in view!
With flying hat you hail the glorious spot,
And every toil and every care’s forgot. 

So when of late we ploughed the Atlantic waves,
And left a land of despots and their slaves,
With hearts o’erjoy’d Columbia’s shores we spy’d,
And gave our cares and sorrows to the tide. 

Still with success may all your toils be blest,
And this new enterprise crown all the rest.
Soon may your glittering axe, with strength applied,
The circling bark from mossy trunks divide;
Or, wheel’d in air, while the deep woods resound,
Bring crashing forests, thund’ring to the ground.
Soon may your fires in flaming piles ascend,
And girdled trees their wintry limbs extend.
Soon may your oxen clear the root away,
And give the deep black surface to the clay;
While fields of richest grain, and pasture good,
Shall wave where Indians stray’d, and forests stood;
And as you sweat, the rustling sheaves among,
Th’ adjoining woods shall echo to your song. 

These are the scenes of purest joy below,
From these, health, peace, and independence flow.
Blest with the purest air and richest soil,
What generous harvests recompence your toil.
Here no proud Lordling lifts his haughty crest,
No scoundrel landlord tramples the opprest,
No thief in black demands his tenth in sheaves,
But man from God abundantly receives.
In rustic dress you cheerful range the woods,
Health makes you gay, and simple manners good.
Society’s whole joys your bosoms know,
And Plenty’s smiling bliss, without its woe. 

Farewell, dear Bill, thy hardy toils pursue;
Keep independence constantly in view;
Fear not success.—If one attempt should fail,
Fate yields when strength and constancy assail.
Store up thy harvests, sow thy winter grain,
Prepare thy troughs the maple’s juice to drain,
Then, when the wintry North outrageous blows,
And nought is seen but one wide waste of snows,
Ascend the fleeting height, and, like the wind
Sweep o’er the snows, and leave the woods behind;
Along the rugged swamp and mountain high,
’Mid rocks and narrows, make thy horses fly;
Shoot o’er the Susquehanna’s frozen face,
And bleak Wioming’s lofty hills retrace,
Nor let the hunter’s hut, or ven’sons stale,
Or his lov’d bottle, or his wondrous tale
Of bears, and deer, thy lingering steps detain,
But swift descend, and seek the southern plain.
Here where the clouds of Philadelphia rise,
And little Milestown’s scattered village lies;
Where, o’er the road the pointed eagle waves,
And Ralph’s good grog the shivering sinner saves.
Here shall thy faithful friend, with choicest store
Of wine and roast-beef, welcome thee once more,
And Friendship’s social joys shall crown the whole,
“The feast of reason, and the flow of soul.”

Full Colophon Information

Genre: Poetry
Subjects: Early National Society and Life, Virginia
Period: 1750-1800
Location: British America
Format: verse

The text of this document of originally published in 1788.

The text of the present edition was prepared from and proofed against First Last, "Farewell to Virginia," in American Poetry. Edited by Percy H. Boynton (New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1918). All preliminaries and notes have been omitted except those for which the author is responsible. All editorial notes have been omitted except those that indicate significant textual variations. Line and paragraph numbers contained in the source text have been retained. In cases where the source text displays no numbers, numbers are automatically generated. In the header, personal names have been regularized according to the Library of Congress authority files as "Last Name, First Name" for the REG attribute and "First Name Last Name" for the element value. Names have not been regularized in the body of the text.