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[169] British pride Humbled, which, in spite of its conventional form and style and lack of imagination, contains passages of admirable rhetoric.

Closely related to the narratives and eulogies are the many and lengthy poems belonging to the philosophic and didactic “glory of America” type, of which Freneau seems to have been the originator. The most prolific poet of this school was Colonel David Humphreys (1753-1818), who graduated from Yale in 1771, served as aide-de-camp to Washington, and became a frequent guest at Mount Vernon. He was associated with the Hartford Wits after 1786; served as minister to Portugal in 1791, and as minister to Spain from 1797 to 1802. A versatile man like others of the Hartford group, he was not only soldier, diplomat, and poet, but also an experimenter in sheep-raising and wool-manufacture. His six patriotic poems vary in length from four hundred to one thousand lines of heroic couplets. “Every poet who aspires to celebrity strives to approach the perfection of Pope and the sweetness of his versification,” says Humphreys. All his patriotic poems are the work of an experienced versifier with full command of his subject and with little poetic inspiration. The Poem on the happiness of America celebrates liberty and democracy, American scenery, resources, achievements, and prospects, with a boundless belief in the possibilities of America and her divine mission.

No other member of the Hartford group, indeed no other man of letters of his time, lived a life so active and varied as Joel Barlow (1754-1812). After his graduation from Yale, he served as chaplain in the army, and in 1781 married and settled in Hartford as lawyer and editor. His philosophic poem The vision of Columbus, published in 1787, was read and admired in France and England. Barlow later went to France as agent of the notorious Scioto Land Company, apparently in ignorance of its fraudulent character. In Paris he became a strong partisan of democracy, and for several years divided his time between France and England, writing political pamphlets and books, and making a fortune through commerce and speculation. While resident in Savoy in 1792, he wrote what is certainly his most original and enduring poem and also one of the best pieces of humorous verse in our early literature.

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