July 11, 2013

Birth of John Quincy Adams: a great poet

John Quincy Adams was born in Massachusetts on July 11, 1767. The son of the second President of the United States, he is best remembered for his political roles — as congressman, diplomat, and as President of the United States himself — he also dabbled in poetry. In his teens and 20s, while studying law, Adams wrote verses in his idle moments. Later, he admitted, "Could I have chosen my own genius and condition, I would have made myself a great poet."

His writings included both religious and secular themes and, though at least one critic commented that he only received attention because of his name, some of his poems were held in high regard. In fact, a young Adams was even commissioned to write poetry for public occassions. Though his writing was published in periodicals and anthologies, an edition of his verse was not published until shortly his death in 1848. Critics, both those who disliked Adams's poetry and those who praised it, admitted that his writings were not treated fairly because of his family name.

His poem "The Hour-Glass":

Alas! how swift the moments fly!
   How flash the years along!
Scarce here, yet gone already by,
   The burden of a song.
See childhood, youth, and manhood pass,
   And age, with furrowed brow;
Time was—Time shall be—drain the glass—
   But where in Time is now?

Time is the measure but of change;
   No present hour is found;
The past, the future, fill the range
   Of Time's unceasing round.
Where, then, is now? In realms above,
   With God's atoning Lamb,
In regions of eternal love,
   Where sits enthroned I AM.

Then, pilgrim, let thy joys and tears
   On Time no longer lean;
But henceforth all thy hopes and fears
   From earth's affections wean:
To God let votive accents rise;
   With truth, with virtue, live;
So all the bliss that Time denies
   Eternity shall give.


  1. Just wanted to mention that last month I happened upon the best bio of JQA that I have ever read--it's by Harlow Giles Unger--as a writer, I was taken by how smoothly the narrative runs. It reads almost like a novel.

    How difficult it is to be the child of a famous person!

  2. I live in QUINCY Massachusetts, have visited his birthplace, haunts and crypts, read many things about and by him, and did not know that he was a poet.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.