THE CONSTITUTION'S LAST FIGHT

 

 

††††† A Yankee ship and a Yankee crew ‑‑

†††††††† Constitution, where ye bound for?

††††† Wherever, my lad, there's fight to be had

†††††††† Acrost the Western ocean.

 

††††† Our Captain was married in Boston town

†††††††† And sailed next day to sea;

††††† For all must go when the State says so;

†††††††† Blow high, blow low, sailed we.

 

††††† "Now, what shall I bring for a bridal gift

†††††††† When my home‑bound pennant flies?

††††† The rarest that be on land or sea

†††††††† It shall be my lady's prize."

 

††††† "There's never a prize on sea or land

†††††††† Could bring such joy to me

††††† As my true love sound and homeward bound

†††††††† With a king's ship under his lee."

 

††††† The Western ocean is wide and deep,

†††††††† And wild its tempests blow,

††††† But bravely rides "Old Ironsides,"

†††††††† A‑cruising to and fro.

 

††††† We cruised to the east and we cruised to north,

†††††††† And southing far went we,

††††† And at last of Cape de Verd we raised

†††††††† Two frigates sailing free.

 

††††† Oh, God made man, and man made ships,

†††††††† But God makes very few

††††† Like him who sailed our ship that day,

†††††††† And fought her, one to two.

 

††††† He gained the weather‑gage of both,

†††††††† He held them both a‑lee;

††††† And gun for gun, till set of sun,

†††††††† He spoke them fair and free;

 

††††† Till the night‑fog fell on spar and sail,

†††††††† And ship, and sea, and shore,

††††† And our only aim was the bursting flame

†††††††† And the hidden cannon's roar.

 

††††† Then a long rift in the mist showed up

†††††††† The stout Cyane, close‑hauled

††††† To swing in our wake and our quarter rake,

†††††††† And a boasting Briton bawled:

 

††††† "Starboard and larboard, we've got him fast

††††††††† Where his heels won't take him through;

††††† Let him luff or wear, he'll find us there, ‑‑

†††††††† Ho, Yankee, which will you do?"

 

††††† We did not luff and we did not wear,

†††††††† But braced our topsails back,

††††† Till the sternway drew us fair and true

†††††††† Broadsides athwart her track.

 

††††† Athwart her track and across her bows

†††††††† We raked her fore and aft,

††††† And out of the fight and into the night

†††††††† Drifted the beaten craft.

 

††††† The slow Levant came up too late;

†††††††† No need had we to stir;

††††† Her decks we swept with fire, and kept

†††††††† The flies from troubling her.

 

††††† We raked her again, and her flag came down ‑‑,

†††††††† The haughtiest flag that floats ‑‑

††††† And the lime‑juice dogs lay there like logs,

†††††††† With never a bark in their throats.

 

††††† With never a bark and never a bite,

†††††††† But only an oath to break,

††††† As we squared away for Praya Bay

†††††††† With our prizes in our wake.

 

††††† Parole they gave and parole they broke,

†††††††† What matters the cowardly cheat,

††††† If the captain's bride was satisfied

†††††††† With the one prize laid at her feet?

 

††††† A Yankee ship and a Yankee crew ‑‑

†††††††† Constitution, where ye bound for?

††††† Wherever the British prizes be,

††††† Though it's one to two, or one to three, ‑‑

††††† "Old Ironsides" means victory,

†††††††† Across the Western ocean.

 

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ‑‑ Anonymous

 

Note:Captain Charles Stewart, who commanded CONSTITUTION in the battle described, had married Delia Tudor on 25 November 1813, about fifteen months prior to the 20 February 1815 event.

 

 

The Captainís Clerk
1989, TGM