Can the highest order of poetic excellence be attained in this country?
I think so. Tho' our country is yet young in years, she has made rapid progress in the arts & sciences. She has already given birth to poets, far from contemptible & it is by no means improbable, that she is the destined mother of greater geniuses, than have ever yet adorned the literature of any country. I am, myself, greatly disposed to doubt whether Shakespeare ever will be surpassed in the drama, or Virgil & Homer in Epic composition; but if it is the fiat of fate, that these, now "bright particular stars" shall be eclipsed by the surpassing splendor of others yet to appear, it is possible, yea very probable, that these transcendant luminaries will rise in the west instead of the east.
But there are those, and I say it with shame, even of our own countrymen, who have but little faith in this prediction. They exclaim incredulously, "Can any good come out of Nazareth"?  Can the petty states of North America ever attain to eminence in any art? Can they ever accomplish any thing, either great or good. I, on the contrary am one of those, who believe that our country can, & will do herself honour, either in the arts, science or any thing else, to which she may turn her attention. Poetic genius cannot be confined to the eastern world.  It has been found to exist in all countries; which is "confirmation strong" that it is entirely independant of place. Virgil's genius would have been the same, whether the spot of his birth had been Mantua or Carthage. The bright flame of Shakespeare's would have risen superior to all obstacles & its rays have penetrated the darkest corners ofAmerica.
Since, then, it is possible, that all countries may possess poetic genius, the degree of excellence in poetry, attained by any nation, must depend on the circumstances, which are likely to occur, to call forth its powers, & the advantages of education, scenery, etc which she may have, calculated to strengthen & refine poetic genius. America, thanks to a bounteous Providence, is, or soon will be, rich in all these advantages. Education will soon be diffused throughout the whole length & breadth of the land & its facilities will be so great that the very poorest may obtain it. Thus genius cannot long remain undiscovered. No poet will here be "Born to blush unseen & waste his sweetness on the desert air".  His talents will be appreciated, & aided by all the advantages of education & by all the incentives to exertion which his country can offer him. Here too, where all nature is beauty to the eye, or music to the ear, his mind will catch the inspiration, which the sublime & beautiful in nature affords. In this respect no country can boast herself superior to our own. Where can you find sublimer objects, than the wide extended prairies, or the aged & mighty forests, of the west?—than some of our lofty & rugged mountains, with torrents ploughing up their sides & rushing to the vales, or the stupendous cataracts of Trenton & Niagara? Where can you find more of the picturesque & beautiful, than in Americ[a?] The whole face of the country is most pleasingly diversified with hill & valley, placid lake & roaring river. A thousand beautiful villas & country residences dot its surface, & towns & smiling villages, scattered here & there, add yet
Since, then, our country possesses every thing that will stimulate & refine poetic genius, it follows as a nescessary consequence that poetry will here reach a high degree of excellence. For it is reasonable to suppose, that her poets will avail themselves of these advantages, which are so many & so great that a poet, of even ordinary genius, cannot fail to attain some celebrity in his art.
Poetry must, & will flourish in this country. If we judge by the past, we have every reason to expect, in it, the highest attainments. Little more than half a century has rolled over it, as a distinct nation & under her fostering influence, many have invoked the muse with no small degree of favour. Among these may be numbered a Sigourney, a Barlow, a Bryant, a Halleck & last, though not least, a Willis —men, who though they are far from being in the first, are yet still farther from being in the last rank of poets—men who will stand as land-marks, to show the proud genius of their country, while yet in infancy. When such men as these have sprung up, in so short a time, is it not reasonable to suppose that poetry will, ere long, attain an eminence in this country superior to that of the proud nations of Europe? Besides we are descended from those nations of Europe who have attained the highest excellence in poesy & cannot the sons do as much, yea more, than their fathers have done?
May 21st 1841
1. John 1:46: And Nathanael said unto him, "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Philip saith unto him, "Come and see."
3. Thomas Gray, "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" (1751): "Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,/And waste its sweetness on the desert air."
4. Lydia Huntley Sigourney (September 1, 1791–June 10, 1865), Joel Barlow (March 24, 1754–December 24, 1812), William Cullen Bryant (November 3, 1794–June 12, 1878), Fitz-Greene Halleck (July 8, 1790–November 19, 1867), and Nathaniel Parker Willis (January 20, 1806–January 20, 1867) were American poets of the antebellum period, though Willis subsequently became better known as the friend and publisher of Edgar Allen Poe and the employer of Harriet Jacobs, author of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861).