Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
Stanzas: ‘Beneath these banks, along this shore’
By Philip Freneau (1752–1832)
 
          Published at the procession to the Tomb of the Patriots, in the vicinity of the former stations of the prison-ships at New York.

BENEATH these banks, along this shore,
And underneath the waters, more
  Forgotten corpses rest—
More bones, by cruelty consign’d
To death, than shall be told mankind        5
  To chill the feeling breast:
 
More bones of those, who, dying here,
In floating dungeons, anchor’d near,
  A prey to fierce disease,
Than Fame, in her recording page,        10
Will tell some late inquiring age,
  When telling things like these.
 
Ah, me! what ills, what sighs, what groans,
What spectre forms, what moving moans,
  What woes on woes were found!        15
When here oppress’d, insulted, cross’d,
The vigour of the soul was lost
  In miseries thickening round.
 
The youths of firm, undaunted mind,
To climate nor to coast confined,        20
  All misery taught to bear—
I saw them as the sail they spread,
I saw them by misfortune led
  To capture and to care.
 
Though night and storms were round them cast,        25
They climb’d the well-supported mast,
  And reef’d the fluttering sail:
Though thunders roar’d and lightnings glared,
They toil nor death nor danger fear’d—
  They braved the loudest gale.        30
 
Great Cause! that brought them all their wo!
Thou, Freedom, bade their spirits glow!
  But, forced at last to yield,
Died in despair each sickening crew:
They vanish’d from the world: but you,        35
  Columbia, kept the field.
 
They sunk, unpitied, in their bloom—
They scarcely found a shallow tomb
  To hide the naked bones:
For, feeble was the nervous hand        40
That once could toil, or once command
  The force of Neptune’s sons.
 
In aid of that immortal cause
Which spurn’d at England’s tyrant laws,
  These pass’d the troubled main:        45
They dared the seas she call’d her own,
To meet the ruffians of a throne,
  And honour’s purpose gain.
 
All generous—while that power was proved,
To war the brave adventurers moved,        50
  And catch’d the seaman’s art—
Met, on their own domain, the crew
Of foreign slaves, that never knew
  The independent heart.
 
Thou, Independence, vast design!        55
The efforts of the brave were thine,
  When, doubtful all, and dark,
It was a chaos to explore—
It seemed all sea without a shore,
  Nor on that sea an ark.        60
 
For you, the young, the firm, the brave
Too often met an early grave,
  Unnoticed and unknown:
On naked shores were seen to lie,
In scorching heats were doom’d to die        65
  With agonizing groan.
 
By strength, or chance, if some survived
Disease, which hosts of life deprived,
  That life they should devote
To venture all in Freedom’s cause,        70
To combat tyrants and their laws,
  So felt near this sad spot.
 
Yes! and the spirit which began,
(We swear by all that’s great in man,)
  That spirit shall go on,        75
To brighten and illume the mind,
Till tyrants vanish from mankind,
  And tyranny is done.
 
 
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