Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
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James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
 
August 1
Casabianca
By Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793–1835)
 
          The name of a young Corsican who, with his father, a commodore in the French fleet, perished in the burning of the flagship L’Orient in the battle of Aboukir Bay, fought between the English under Lord Nelson and the French under Admiral Brueys on August 1, 1798.

THE BOY stood on the burning deck
  Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
  Shone round him o’er the dead.
 
Yet beautiful and bright he stood,        5
  As born to rule the storm;
A creature of heroic blood,
  A proud, though child-like form.
 
The flames rolled on—he would not go
  Without his father’s word;        10
That father, faint in death below,
  His voice no longer heard.
 
He called aloud—“Say, father, say,
  If yet my task is done?”
He knew not that the chieftain lay        15
  Unconscious of his son.
 
“Speak, father!” once again he cried,
  “If I may yet be gone!”
And but the booming shots replied,
  And fast the flames rolled on.        20
 
Upon his brow he felt their breath,
  And in his waving hair,
And looked from that lone post of death
  In still, yet brave despair.
 
And shouted but once more aloud,        25
  “My father! must I stay?”
While o’er him fast, through sail and shroud,
  The wreathing fires made way.
 
They wrapped the ship in splendor wild,
  They caught the flag on high,        30
And streamed above the gallant child,
  Like banners in the sky.
 
There came a burst of thunder sound—
  The boy—O! where was he?
Ask of the winds that far around        35
  With fragments strewed the sea!—
 
With mast, and helm, and pennon fair,
  That well had borne their part—
But the noblest thing which perished there
  Was that young, faithful heart!        40
 
 
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