Beaux Arts in Baltimore

Henry Clay daguerreotype portrait

Henry Clay as he appeared in 1844


Written for the Choir of the National Clay Club of Phlia., and sung by them with unbounded applause at Baltimore.

Air — Take heed! whisper low!

Arouse, arouse from hill and valley
Comes sweeping on a gallant band;
Behold the glorious freemen’s rally,
Awakes the spirit of the land.

Sweep on, sweep on o’er hill and dale.
Sweep on, sweep on,
Aloud, aloud on every gale,
Aloud, aloud,
Our voices hail this happy, happy day,
While echo speaks the name of HENRY CLAY.

From north and South our ranks are forming,
And proudly march the East and West;
And while each heart with zeal is warming,
By every lip one name is blessed.

Sweep on, &c.

Upon the air are banners streaming;
The Bugles’ note their strains prolong;
With joy and hope each eye is beaming,
Spontaneous wakes each voice in song.

Sweep on, &c.

The emblems of our country’s glory
In silent watch beside us stand;
Oh, may our Fathers’ spotless story.
Our counsels guide, and save our land.

Sweep on, &c.

Then, brethren, from this magic hour,
The hope of long and bitter years,
Exert your freedom’s right and power,
And wipe away Columbia’s tears.

Sweep on, &c.


The tune is  “Behold How Brightly Breaks the Morning,” by Daniel François Esprit Auber.  This is not the first time this tune was used as a political song; observe this version against Martin Van Buren in the election of 1840.

The original  song is the second act curtain-raiser from Masaniello, or La Muette de Portici, 1829, the first French grand opera.   The opera begins with a beautiful young lady escaping from the prison where she had been confined by her false and faithless lover.  Somewhere in the middle the Spanish attack. Vesuvius erupts in the last act.

I’m seized by the gloomy thought that the performance, to unbounded applause, at the Baltimore convention by the Choir of the National Clay Club of Philadelphia may have been the last time this particular song was presented in public.

Columbia is the (female) personification of the United States. (“Columbia” is also a character in our novel Land of Mist and Snow which is, at once, a rousing sea-tale, a fantasy alternate history, and an allegory of America.)

To my gaping astonishment the lyrics to the translation of this song that include the words “Take heed, whisper low,” are not widely  available on the Google-indexed web (although a different translation is), so I take this opportunity to print them:

Behold, how brightly breaks the morning
Tho’ bleak our lot our hearts are warm;
To toil inured, all danger scorning,
We hail the breeze, or brave the storm.
Put off, put off, our course we know;

Look out, and spread your nets with care;
Take heed, whisper low,
The prey we seek we’ll soon, we’ll soon ensnare;
The prey we seek we’ll soon, we’ll soon ensnare.

Away, no cloud is lowering o’er us,
Freely now we’ll stem the wave;
First hoist all sail, while full before us,
Hope’s beacon shines to cheer the brave.
Put off, put off, our course we know;

Take heed, whisper low,
Look out, and spread your nets with care;
Take heed, whisper low,
The prey we seek we’ll soon, we’ll soon ensnare;
The prey we seek we’ll soon, we’ll soon ensnare.

The Choir of the National Clay Club of Philadelphia was fond of the classics.  Later we will find them singing the praises of Clay to a tune by Mozart.

My interest in campaign songs dates to my youth, when we would borrow LPs from the White Plains (NY) public library, specifically the Folkways Election Songs of the United States  and Life‘s Sing Along with Millard Filmore.

(Millard Fillmore was the last Whig president of the United States, having taken on the role on the death of Zachary Taylor.  (Every Whig who was elected president died in office. Perhaps losing the election saved Clay’s life.))


Tomorrow:  Harry the True and the Jersey Blue!

This entry was posted in Huzzah!, politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Beaux Arts in Baltimore

  1. Pingback: 1844 Whig Songbook Index | Madhouse Manor

  2. Pingback: Now Here’s to Thee of the Frozen North | Madhouse Manor

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