OLD IRONSIDES

 

         Her hammocks tucked into her netting,

         Her battle flags hung from her gaff,

         Her great dolphin‑striker upflinging

         The spindrift like clouds of white chaff,

         A swig all around from the grog tub,

         A cutlass at each sailor's hand,

         Marines in the tops with their muskets,

         Her decks cleared and ghostly with sand,

         A breeze blowing out of the northwest,

         The day and the sea calmly fair,

         The swift U. S. ship Constitution

         Bore down on John Bull's Guerriere.

 

         As Hull in his snowy white breeches

         Went sauntering forward and aft,

         The men at the forty‑four long guns,

         All stripped to their waists, winked and laughed;

         "My hearties," Hull cried, "do your duty!"

         They shattered the skies with  their yell;

         "Look to your guns!" Hull entreated,

         "We're blowing that King's ship to hell!"

         Then fiercely they leaned to  their primings,

         And grimly they aimed, tensely still,

         Until Captain Hull shouted, "Fire!

         Remember you're shooting to kill!"

 

         The carronades rumbled like thunder,

         The Guerriere gave lead for lead,

         But, as the dense pall of smoke lifted,

         Her scuppers with blood running red,

         She listed and started to settle,

         Her rigging crashed over her side,

         And carried her dead and her dying

         Into the embrace of the tide;

         She reeled, while the stout Constitution,

         Unscathed, raked her decks with hot scorn,

         And when Dacres hauled down his colors,

         Another world power was born.

 

                             ‑‑ Edgar Daniel Kramer

                                1943

 

The Captainís Clerk
1989, TGM