Timothy Dwight: Contribution to American Poetry

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      TIMOTHY DWIGHT (1752-1817).—Before he became president of Yale, Dwight determined to immortalize himself by an epic poem. He accordingly wrote the Conquest of Canaan in 9671 lines, beginning:—

  "The Chief, whose arms to Israel's chosen band    Gave the fair empire of the promis'd land,
  Ordain'd by Heaven to hold the sacred sway,
  Demands my voice, and animates the lay."

 

Timothy Dwight
Timothy Dwight

      This poem is written in the rocking horse couplets of Pope, and it is well-nigh unreadable to-day. It is doubtful if twenty-five people in our times have ever read it through. Even where the author essays fine writing, as in the lines:—

  "On spicy shores, where beauteous morning reigns,
  Or Evening lingers o'er her favorite plains,"

      There is nothing to awaken a single definite image, nothing but glittering generalities. Dwight's best known poetry is found in his song, Columbia, composed while he was a chaplain in the Revolutionary War:—

  "Columbia, Columbia, to glory arise,
  The queen of the world, and the child of the skies."

      POETRY—THE HARTFORD WITS The Americans were slow to learn that political independence could be far more quickly gained than literary independence. A group of poets, sometimes known as the Hartford Wits, determined to take the kingdom of poetry by violence. The chief of these were three Yale graduates, Timothy Dwight, Joel Barlow, and John Trumbull.

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