Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Poetry of Thomas Jefferson

One could easily argue that Thomas Jefferson would fit into the category of a renaissance man along with men such as Leonardo da Vinci and his counterpart Benjamin Franklin. Philosopher, politician, architect, botanist, writer are all areas in which Jefferson studied and worked. Poet never seemed to be one of those arenas in which Jefferson dabbled into however Jonathan Gross, now a professor at DePaul University and was a fellow at the International Center for Jefferson Studies, came across some old scrapbooks. Originally believed to have been created by Jefferson’s granddaughters through careful study it has now been revealed that they were actually put together by the 3rd President of the United States himself. These scrapbooks are filled with poems on various topics from love and family to war and patriotism. It seems he would cut them out of papers, books and magazines or write them down in a scrapbook and give them away as gifts to his family. This revelation gives us an opportunity to look into these poems and writings which Jefferson cherished and get a glimpse into his personality, philosophy, and desires of his heart. I will continue to write about these poems which I come across in the book which I believe opens our eyes to who Thomas Jefferson was and what we may be able to learn from him.

          The Farmer’s Creed by Sir John Sinclair
 Let this be held the Farmer’s Creed ---
Of Stock seek out the choicest breed,
In peace and plenty let them feed.
Your land sow with the best of seed,
Let it not dung nor dressing need,
Enclose and drain it with all speed ---
And you will soon be rich indeed.

To learn only a little about Jefferson one discovers quickly his great passion for the agricultural sector of this country. Jefferson said he thought “our government will remain virtuous for many centuries; as long as they are chiefly agricultural.” He firmly believed that the backbone of America was and should always remain farming. This idea went far beyond just its economic value and importance for the country. Farming benefited all aspects of an individual’s life. “From breakfast, or noon at the latest, to dinner, I am mostly on horseback, Attending to My Farm or other concerns, which I find healthful to my body, mind, and affairs.” For Jefferson farming was everything. It is no wonder that this poem is found under the heading “very useful lessons.”  

Gross, Thomas Jefferson’s Scrapbook, 246.

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