Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
To the Memory of the Gallant Captain James Lawrence—1813
 
AH! who would loiter on life’s utmost verge,
  A weary wight; a melancholy blank;
Still gaze with dubious horror on the surge,
  And shrink and tremble on the joyless bank!
 
See yonder sad and solitary thing!        5
  Of vermil youth and beauty what remains?
Lost is the memory—lost the elastic spring;
  The flush of life, the frolic of the veins!
 
Though gorgeous spring his vision strives to greet,
  And flings her rainbow lustres round his head,        10
Bathes all his senses in Arabian sweet,
  He looks and wonders where these charms have fled.
 
Such was not Lawrence.—His heroic frame
  With nobler fate indulgent Heaven had bless’d;
In the meridian of his life and fame,        15
  He rush’d in splendour to the land of rest.
 
Heroic glory! though thy light illumes
  With beams so lovely, ’tis a hasty glare:
Thy flame burns bright and sparkling, but consumes
  The life it renders so divinely fair.        20
 
The soft and gentle courtesies of life,
  All whisper’d, Lawrence, to prolong thy day;
The tender friend, the fond and loving wife,
  Allured thee from the fields of war away.
 
Why should the hero bear the cruel brunt,        25
  Expose a life to love and friendship dear?
Why should he combat danger’s scowling front,
  To reap the barren glory of a tear!
 
Sternly inflexible he still remains;
  He scorns the olive round his brows to twine;        30
With noble pride he bursts such gentle chains,
  And cries, “My country! I am wholly thine!”
 
Before him, full, his country’s genius stands,
  Her downcast eyes betokening deep concern;
And mournfully she proffers to his hands,        35
  The star of glory and the silent urn.
 
And while on each the astonish’d hero gazed,
  Anxious to grasp the proffered prize, so fair;
Lo! on the urn the star of glory blazed,
  And all its wandering radiance gather’d there.        40
 
“I come! I come!” he cried with ravish’d breath:
  “Welcome to me the slumber dark and deep;
Let but such glory twinkle round my death,
  I still shall triumph in the hour of sleep.”
 
Yes, noble soul! thy glory is secure:        45
  For now, surviving thy unhappy date,
It burns and sparkles with a blaze more pure,
  Removed beyond the hostile reach of fate.
 
Thy worth full well thy gallant foemen knew;
  Hush’d was the shout of joy, to honour just;        50
They paused, and as a debt to valour due,
  They shed the tear of pity on thy dust.
 
When fortune favour’d bravery so well,
  And Lawrence laid the pride of Britain low,
The orphan, whose unhappy father fell, 1        55
  Now found another parent in the foe.
 
But say, what lips can tell, with unconcern,
  These cruel tidings to the widow’d fair;
Who waits with anxious heart his glad return,
  And joys to greet him with a cherub heir.        60
 
Illustrious mourner! hug the dear deceit;
  This fond delusion—it will soothe thy breast.
O may the pitying shade of Lawrence greet
  Thy midnight slumbers with a dream so blest.
 
Unhappy babe! thy mangled parent lies        65
  Far, far from thee, amidst a hostile race;
Inexorable fate has seal’d his eyes,
  Ah! never to behold that smiling face.
 
Yet, O my country! hasten to be just:
  And since the hero’s splendid course has run,        70
Repay the debt thou owest to his dust,
  In kind protection to his infant son.
 
Even Victory, when gallant Lawrence fell,
  Mourn’d for the hapless fate of one so brave;
And when her lips pronounced the sad farewell,        75
  Reluctant, dropp’d a star upon the grave. 2
 
Then learn, ye comrades of the illustrious dead,
  Heroic faith and honour to revere;
For Lawrence slumbers in his lowly bed,
  Embalm’d by Albion’s and Columbia’s tear.        80
 
Note 1. A son of one of the hands who was slain on board of the Peacock, was taken by Captain Lawrence into his own family. [back]
Note 2. Captain Lawrence was buried in the flag of the Chesapeake, which he defended so bravely. [back]
 
 
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