HOW WE BURNED THE PHILADELPHIA

 

 

†††† By the beard of the Prophet the Bashaw swore

††††††† He would scourge us from the seas;

†††† Yankees should trouble his soul no more ‑‑

†††† By the Prophet's beard the Bashaw swore,

††††††† Then lighted his hookah, and took his ease,

†††† And troubled his soul no more.

 

†††† The moon was dim in the western sky,

††††††† And a mist fell soft on the sea,

†††† As we slipped away from the Syren brig

††††††† And headed for Tripoli.

 

†††† Behind us the hulk of the Syren lay,

††††††† Before the empty night;

†††† And when again we looked behind

††††††† The Syren was gone from our sight.

 

†††† Nothing behind us and nothing before,

††††††† Only the silence and rain,

†††† As the jaws of the seas took hold of our bows

†† †††††And cast us up again.

 

†††† Through the rain and the silence we stole along,

††††††† Cautious and stealthy and slow,

†††† For we knew the waters were full of those

††††††† Who might challenge the Mastico.

 

†††† But nothing we saw till we saw the ghost

††††††† Of the ship we had come to see,

†††† Her ghostly lights and her ghostly frame

††††††† Rolling uneasily.

 

†††† And as we looked, the mist drew up,

††††††† And the moon threw off her veil,

†††† And we saw the ship in the pale moonlight,

††††††† Ghostly and drear and pale.

 

†††† Then spoke Decatur low and said:

††††††† "To the bulwarks' shadow all!

†††† But the six who wear the Tripoli dress

††††††† Shall answer the sentinel's call."

 

†††† "What ship is that?" cried the sentinel.

††††††† "No ship," was the answer free;

†††† "But only a Malta ketch in distress

††††††† Wanting to moor in your lee.

 

†††† "We have lost our anchor, and wait for the day

††††††† To sail into Tripoli town,

†††† And the sea rolls fierce and high to‑night,

††††††† So cast a cable down."

††††† Then close to the frigate's side we came,

††††††† Made fast to her unforbid ‑‑

†††† Six of us bold in the heathen dress,

††††††† The rest of us lying hid.

 

†††† But one who saw us hiding there

††††††† "Americanos" cried.

†††† The straight we rose and made a rush

††††††† Pellmell up the frigate's side.

 

†††† Less than a hundred men were we,

††††††† And the heathen were twenty score;

†††† But a Yankee sailor in those old days

††††††† Liked odds of one to four.

 

†††† And first we cleaned the quarter‑deck,

††††††† And then from stern to stem

†††† We charged into our enemies

††††††† And quickly slaughtered them.

 

†††† All around was the dreadful sound

††††††† Of corpses striking the sea,

†††† And the awful shrieks of dying men

††††††† In their last agony.

 

†††† The heathen fought like devils all,

††††††† But one by one they fell,

†††† Swept from the deck by our cutlasses

††††††† To the water, and so to hell.

 

†††† Some we found in the black of the hold,

††††††† Some to the fo'c's'le fled,

†††† But all in vain; we sought them out

††††††† And left them lying dead;

 

†††† Till at last no soul but Christian souls

††††††† Upon that ship was found;

†††† The twenty score were dead, and we,

††††††† The hundred, safe and sound.

 

†††† And, stumbling over the tangled dead,

††††††† The deck a crimson tide,

†††† We fired the ship from keel to shrouds

††††††† And tumbled over the side.

 

†††† Then out to sea we sailed once more

††††††† With the world as light as day,

†††† And the flames revealed a hundred sail

††††† ††Of the heathen there in the bay.

 

†††† All suddenly the red light paled,

††††††† And the rain rang out on the sea;

†††† Then ‑‑ a dazzling flash, a deafening roar,

††††††† Between us and Tripoli!

††††† Then, nothing behind us, and nothing before

††††††† Only the silence and rain;

†††† And the jaws of the sea took hold of our bows

††††††† And cast us up again.

 

†††† By the beard of the Prophet the Bashaw swore

††††††† He would scourge us from the seas;

†††† Yankees should trouble his soul no more ‑‑

†††† By the Prophet's beard the Bashaw swore,

††††††† Then lighted his hookah and took his ease,

†††† And troubled his soul no more.

 

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ‑‑ Barrett Eastman

 

The Captainís Clerk
1989, TGM