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.
 
November 6
The Old Admiral
By Edmund Clarence Stedman (1833–1908)
 
          Admiral Stewart, an American admiral, distinguished in the cruises against French privateers and in the War of 1812. He was the grandfather of Charles S. Parnell. He died on Nov. 6, 1869.

GONE at last,
  That brave old hero of the Past!
His spirit has a second birth,
  An unknown, grander life;—
All of him that was earth        5
  Lies mute and cold,
  Like a wrinkled sheath and old
Thrown off forever from the shimmering blade
That has good entrance made
  Upon some distant, glorious strife.        10
 
From another generation,
  A simpler age, to ours Old Ironsides came;
The morn and noontide of the nation
  Alike he knew, nor yet outlived his fame,—
  O, not outlived his fame!        15
The dauntless men whose service guards our shore
  Lengthen still their glory-roll
  With his name to lead the scroll,
As a flagship at her fore
  Carries the Union, with its azure and the stars,        20
Symbol of times that are no more
  And the old heroic wars.
 
He was the one
Whom Death had spared alone
  Of all the captains of that lusty age,        25
Who sought the foeman where he lay.
On sea or sheltering bay,
  Nor till the prize was theirs repressed their rage.
They are gone,—all gone:
  They rest with glory and the undying Powers;        30
  Only their name and fame and what they saved are ours!
 
It was fifty years ago,
  Upon the Gallic Sea,
  He bore the banner of the free,
And fought the fight whereof our children know.        35
  The deathful, desperate fight!—
  Under the fair moon’s light
The frigate squared, and yawed to left and right.
  Every broadside swept to death a score!
Roundly played her guns and well, till their fiery ensigns fell,        40
  Neither foe replying more.
 
All in silence, when the night-breeze cleared the air,
  Old Ironsides rested there,
Locked in between the twain, and drenched with blood.
  Then homeward, like an eagle with her prey!        45
  O, it was a gallant fray,
  That fight in Biscay Bay!
Fearless the Captain stood, in his youthful hardihood;
  He was the boldest or them all,
  Our brave old Admiral!        50
 
And still our heroes bleed,
Taught by that golden deed.
  Whether of iron or of oak
The ships we marshal at our country’s need,
  Still speak their cannon now as then they spoke;        55
Still floats our unstruck banner from the mast
  As in the stormy Past.
 
Lay him in the ground:
  Let him rest where the ancient river rolls;
Let him sleep beneath the shadow and the sound        60
  Of the bell whose proclamation, as it tolls,
Is of Freedom and the gift our father’s gave,
  Lay him gently down:
  The clamor of the town
Will not break the slumbers deep, the beautiful ripe sleep        65
  Of this lion of the wave,
  Will not trouble the old Admiral in his grave.
 
Earth to earth his dust is laid.
Methinks his stately shade
  On the shadow of a great ship leaves the shore;        70
Over cloudless western seas
Seeks the far Hesperides,
  The islands of the blest,
Where no turbulent billows roar,—
  Where is rest.        75
His ghost upon the shadowy quarter stands
Nearing the deathless lands.
  There all his martial mates, renewed and strong,
  Await his coming long.
  I see the happy Heroes rise        80
  With gratulation in their eyes:
“Welcome, old comrade,” Lawrence cries;
“Ah, Stewart, tell us of the wars!
Who win the glory and the scars?
  How floats the skyey flag,—how many stars?        85
Still speak they of Decatur’s name,
Of Bainbridge’s and Perry’s fame?
Of me, who earliest came?
  Make ready, all:
  Room for the Admiral!        90
Come, Stewart, tell us of the wars!”
 
 
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