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Libera Nos, Domine.—Deliver us, O Lord,
not only from British dependence, but also
From a junto that labour with absolute power,
Whose schemes disappointed have made them look sour,
From the lords of the council, who fight against freedom,
Who still follow on where delusion shall lead them.
From the group at St. James’s, who slight our petitions,
And fools that are waiting for further submissions—
From a nation whose manners are rough and severe,
From scoundrels and rascals,—do keep us all clear.
From pirates sent out by command of the king
To murder and plunder, but never to swing.
From Wallace and Greaves, and Vipers and Roses,
Whom, if heaven pleases, we’ll give bloody noses.
From the valiant Dunmore, with his crew of banditti,
Who plunder Virginians at Williamsburg city,
From hot-headed Montague, mighty to swear,
The little fat man with his pretty white hair.
From bishops in Britain, who butchers are grown,
From slaves that would die for a smile from the throne,
From assemblies that vote against Congress proceedings,
(Who now see the fruit of their stupid misleadings.)
From Tryon the mighty, who flies from our city,
And swelled with importance disdains the committee:
(But since he is pleased to proclaim us his foes,
What the devil care we where the devil he goes.)
From the caitiff, lord North, who would bind us in chains,
From a royal king Log, with his tooth-full of brains,
Who dreams, and is certain (when taking a nap)
He has conquered our lands, as they lay on his map.
From a kingdom that bullies, and hectors, and swears,
We send up to heaven our wishes and prayers
That we, disunited, may freemen be still,
And Britain go on—to be damned if she will.
–Philip Morin Freneau, A Political Litany (1775) in: Poems of Freneau (H.H. Clark ed. 1929)
Philip Freneau, a Huguenot who spent much of his life in Matawan, New Jersey, attended Princeton, where he formed a fast friendship with James Madison. He was captured by the British during the Revolutionary War and interned in a prison hulk—an experience which he narrowly escaped with his life and which he chronicled compellingly. After the revolution, he served with Thomas Jefferson in the State Department and founded The National Gazette, a newspaper closely attached to the Democratic Party (then known as the Republican Party). Because of his sharp criticism of Alexander Hamilton and other Federalist leaders, Freneau was repeatedly threatened with prosecution by the Federalists, who sought to silence him. A Political Litany provides a good example of the sharp tone of his political writings, which advanced the revolutionary cause, and later the views of Jeffersonian democracy.
Listen to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s clarinet trio in E flat major, KV 498 (1786), the “Kegelstatt,” in a performance by Michel Portal
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”