Congress celebrated the 200th anniversary of its first session Thursday with a joint House-Senate meeting and a look back at two centuries of achievement and high hopes.

The antique gavel of the Senate and the historic mace of the House were carried into the floor of the House and the designs of bicentennial postage stamps and coins were unveiled.Howard Nemerov, the poet laureate of the United States, read a poem about Congress at the beginning of its third century: "Here the million varying wills get melted down, get hammered out until the movie's reduced to stills that tell us what the law's about," he read.

"So it's a republic, as Franklin said, if you can keep it; and we did this far . . ."

Senate Majority Leader George Miitchell, D-Maine, recalling the 11,200 men and women who have served in Congress since the first session in 1789, told the assembly: "We stretch out our hands across two centuries and we say to them, if we have not matched your record of accomplishment, we hope at least we have been worthy of your trust."