December 22, 2011

Adams: December's face grows mild

By Gilbert Stuart, 1818
The Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in December 1620. After more than a century, people in Massachusetts wanted to commemorate the day, choosing December 22 in 1769. Originally called "Old Colony Day," it eventually was renamed as "Forefathers Day" and was typically celebrated in song. In 1803,  a young United States Senator was chosen to write the song for that year. His name was John Quincy Adams, future President of the United States. His song was called "Hymn for the 22d of December":

When o'er the billow-heaving deep,
  The fathers of our race,
The precepts of their God to keep,
  Sought here their resting-place,

That gracious God their path prepared,
  Preserved from every harm,
And still for their protection bared
  His everlasting arm.

His breath, inspiring every gale,
  Impels them o'er the main;
His guardian angels spread the sail,
  And tempests howl in vain.

For them old ocean's rocks are smoothed;
  December's face grows mild;
To vernal airs her blasts are soothed,
  And all their rage beguiled.

When Famine rolls her haggard eyes,
  His ever-bounteous hand
Abundance from the sea supplies,
  And treasures from the sand.

Nor yet his tender mercies cease;
  His over-ruling plan
Inclines to gentleness and peace
  The heart of savage man.

And can our stony bosoms be
  To all these wonders blind?
Nor swell with thankfulness to thee,
  O Parent of mankind?

All-gracious God, inflame our zeal;
  Dispense one blessing more;
Grant us thy boundless love to feel,
  Thy goodness to adore.

Interestingly enough, Adams was not the only President who was also a recognized poet; James Garfield wrote several poems while in college, for example. Certainly, other writers were also politicians as well. There is even at least one White House servant who was an author.

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