Rivington's Reflections was published by Philip Freneau in The Freeman's Journal, at Philadelphia in December 1782. The poem lampooned John Rivington and his tory newspaper, the Royal Gazette.
It is not known, for certain, if these verses were set to music. Certain of the verses might have been, although the original tune to which they would have been set is unknown at this time. The assumption is generally made that poetry was not intended simply to be read, but rather to be sung ~ therefore it is assumed that these lines of poetry were also intended to be sung. The point should be made, though, that Philip Freneau was a writer and poetry was only a part of his output. These verses might have been intended solely as poetry. The verses transcribed below comprise the entire two-part poem.
The more I reflect, the more plain it appears, If I stay, I must stay at the risque of my ears,
I have so be-pepper'd the foes of our throne, Be-rebel'd, be-devil'd, and told them their own,
That if we give up to these rebels at last, 'Tis a chance if my ears will atone for the past.
'Tis always the best to provide for the worst — So evacuation I'll mention the first:
If Carleton should sail for our dear native shore (As Clinton, Cornwallis, and Howe did before)
And take off the soldiers that serve for our guard, (A step that the Tories would think rather hard)
Yet still I surmise, for aught I can see, No Congress or Senates would meddle with me.
For, what have I done, when we come to consider, But sold my commodities to the best bidder?
If I offer'd to lie for the sake of a post, Was I to be blam'd if the king offer'd most?
The King's Royal Printer! — Five hundred a year! — Between you and me, 'twas a handsome affair:
Who would not for that give matters a stretch And lie back and forward, and carry and fetch.
May have some pretensions to honour and fame: — But what are they both but the sound of a name,
Mere words to deceive us, as I have found long since, Live on them a week, and you'll find them but nonsense.
The late news from Charleston my mind has perplext, If that is abandon'd, —I know what goes next
This city of YORK is a place of great note, And that we should hold it I now give my vote;
But what are our votes against Shelburne's decrees? These people at helm steer us just where they please,
So often they've had us all hands on the brink, They'll steer us at last to the devil, I think.
And though in the danger themselves have a share, It will do us small good that they also go there.
It is true that the Tories, their children, and wives Have offer'd to stay, at the rifque of their lives,
And gain to themselves an immortal renown By ALL turning soldiers, and keeping the town:
Whoe'er was the Tory that struck out the plan, In my humble conceit, was a very good man:
But our words on this subject need be very few — Already I see that it never will do:
For, suppose a few ships should be left us by Britain With Tories to man them, and other things fitting,
In truth we should be in a very fine box, As well they might guard us with ships on the stocks,
And when I beheld them aboard and afloat, I am sure I should think of the bear in the boat.
On the faith of a Printer, things look very black — And what shall we do, alas! and alack!
Shall we quit our young princes and full blooded peers, And bow down to viscounts and French chevaliers?
Perhaps you may say, "As the very last shift "We'll go to New Scotland, and take the king's gift:"
Good folks, do your will but I vow and I swear, I'll be boil'd into soup before I'll live there:
Is it thus that our monarch his subjects degrades? — Let him go and be damn'd with his axes and spades:
Of all the vile countries that ever were known In the frigid, or torrid, or temperate zone,
(From accounts that I've had) there is not such another; It neither belongs to this world or the other:
A favour they think it to send us there gratis, To sing like the Jews at the river Euphrates,
And, after surmounting the rage of the billows, Hang ourselves up at last with our harps on the willows:
Ere I sail for that shore, may I take my last nap — Why, it gives me the palsy to look on its map!
And he that goes there (though I mean to be civil) May fairly be said to have gone to the Devil.
Shall I push for Old England, and whine at the throne? Alas! they have JEMMIES enough of their own!
Besides, such a name I have got from my trade, They would think I was lying, whatever I said;
Thus scheme as I will, or contrive as I may, Continual difficulties rise in the way:
In short, if they let me remain in this realm, What is it to Jemmy who stands at the helm?
I'll petition the rebels (if York is forsaken) For a place in their Zion which ne'er shall be shaken;
I am sure they'll be clever: it seems their whole study: They hung not young ASGILL for old captain HUDDY,
And it must be a truth that admits no denying, If they spare us for MURDER they'll spare us for LYING.
Folks may think as they please, but to me it would seem, That our great men at home have done nothing but dream:
Such trimming and twisting and shifting about, And some getting in, and others turn'd out;
And yet, with their bragging and looking so big, All they did was to dance a theatrical jig.
Seven years now, and more, we have try'd every plan, And are just as near conquering as when we began,
Great things were expected from Clinton and Howe, But what have they done, or where are they now?
Sir Guy was sent over to kick up a dust, Who already prepares to return in disgust —
The object delusive we wish to attain Has been in our reach, and may be so again —
But so oddly does heaven its bounties dispense, And has granted our king such a small share of sense
That, let Fortune favour or smile as she will, We are doom'd to drive on, like a horse in a mill,
And though we may seem to advance on our rout, 'Tis but to return to where we sat out.
From hence I infer (by way of improvement) That nothing is got by this circular movement;
And I plainly perceive, from this fatal delay, We are going to ruin the round-about way!
Some nations, like ships, give up to the gale, And are hurry'd ashore with a full flowing sail;
So Sweden submitted to absolute power, And freemen were chang'd to be slaves in an hour;
Thus THEODORE soon from his grandeur came down, Forsaking his subjects and Corsican crown;*
But we —'tis our fate, without ally or friend, To go to perdition, close haul'd to the wind.
The case is too plain, that if I stay here I have something to hope and somewhat to fear:
In regard to my carcase, I should n't mind that — I can say "I have liv'd," and have grown very fat;
Have been in my day remarkably shifty, And soon, very soon, will be verging on fifty.
'Tis time for the state of the dead to prepare, 'Tis time to consider how things will go there;
Some few are admitted to Jupiter's hall, But the dungeons* of Pluto are open to all —
The day is approaching as fast as it can When Jemmy shall be a mere moderate man,
Shall sleep under ground both summer and winter, The husk of a man, and the shell of a printer,
And care not a farthing for George or his line, What empires start up, or what kingdoms decline.
Our parson last Sunday brought tears from my eyes, When he told us of heaven, I thought of my lies —
To his flock he describ'd it, and laid it before 'em, (As if he had been in its Sanctum Sanctorum)
Recounted its beauties that never shall fade, And quoted John Bunyan to prove what he said;
Debarr'd from the gate who the Truth should deny, Or "whosoe'er loveth or maketh a lie."
Thro' the course of my life it has still been my lot In spite of myself, to say "things that are not,"
And therefore suspect that upon my decease Not a poet will leave me to slumber in peace,
But at least once a week be-scribble the stone Where Jemmy, poor Jemmy, lies sleeping alone!
Howe'er in the long run these matters may be, If the scripture is true, it has bad news for me.
And yet, when I come to examine the text, And the learn'd annotations that POOLE has annex'd,
Throughout the black list of the people that sin I cannot once find that I'm mention'd therein;
Whoremongers, idolaters, all are left out, And wizzards, and dogs (which is proper, no doubt)
But he who says I'm there, mistakes or forgets — It mentions no PRINTERS of ROYAL GAZETTES!
In truth, I have need of a mansion of rest, And here to remain might suit me the best —
PHILADELPHIA in some things would answer as well, (Some Tories are there, and my papers might sell)
But then I should live amongst wrangling and strife, And be forc'd to say credo the rest of my life:
For their sudden conversion I'm much at a loss — I am told that they bow to the wood of the cross,
And worship the reliques transported from Rome, St. Peter's toe-nails and St. Anthony's comb. —
If thus the true faith they no longer defend I scarcely can think where the madness will end,
If the greatest among them submit to the Pope, What reason have I for indulgence to hope?
If the Congress themselves to the CHAPEL did pass, Ye may swear that poor JEMMY would have to sing mass.