Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
The Tars of Columbia—1816
YE generous sons of Freedom’s happy climes,
  Think, while you safely till your fruitful fields,
Of him, the avenger of Oppression’s crimes,
  Who ploughs a soil which blood and danger yields,
Remember still the gallant tar, who roams        5
  Through rocks and gulfs, the ocean’s gloomy vast,
To quell your foes, and guard your peaceful homes,
  Who bides the battle’s shock and tempest’s blast.
Think, while you loll upon your beds of down,
  And mingle with Affection’s cheering train,        10
How he’s exposed to Winter’s chilling frown,
  Without a kindred soul to soothe his pain.
When seated by your joy-diffusing fire,
  Some dreary, dark, tempestuous, howling night,
Let Fancy’s strong, adventurous wing aspire,        15
  And poise o’er ocean on aerial height:
Thence view the rolling world of waves below—
  Survey the barks that bear our daring tars,
As round them Neptune’s howling whirlwinds blow,
  And rend their sails, and crash their yielding spars;        20
Lo! where the lashing surges, foaming high,
  Convulse the groaning vessel’s sturdy frame,
With lightning torches snatch’d from the vex’d sky,
  Destruction’s angel whelms her all in flame.
Fierce thunders burst—the starless welkin glares—        25
  No aid is near—the lamp of hope expires—
Terrific Death his haggard visage bares,
  And ocean monsters fly the raging fires.
Behold the gallant crew, Columbia’s sons!
  Who’ve boldly torn the British banner down,        30
And faced the mouths of her exploding guns;
  E’en now they scorn to sully their renown!
Though naught but one dark waste of billows wide
  Meet their unweeping eyes—and, ere an hour
Has flown one hundredth part away, the tide        35
  Must quench their breath; their spirits do not cower!
They feel, with joy, they’ve served their country well,
  And lift an honest orison to heaven;
Their homes upon their dying accents dwell,
  And as they sink, they hope their sins forgiven.        40
Behold that head with glory circled bright!
  As it descends, the waves around it glow;
’Tis Blakeley’s! he that halo gain’d in fight,
  When Britain’s standard fell beneath his blow.
Though watery mountains roll upon his breast,        45
  And scaly millions gambol in his grave;
Yet shall his spirit shine among the bless’d,
  And fame embalm his memory on the wave.
But see! where yonder floating fragments blaze,
  A lonely, lingering sailor still survives!        50
From his frail plank he casts a hopeless gaze,
  Yet still for life with the rough sea he strives.
Far on the tumbling deep the hero’s toss’d,
  Ere long the tempest flags, and dawn appears;
The sun rolls up the sky, “All, all are lost!”        55
  He cries, “my comrades brave!”—thence gush his tears.
The wearied billows sink in slumbers mild,
  And on their sparkling bosoms dolphins play;
With lusty arms he stems the watery wild,
  And thinks on friends and country far away.        60
A thousand tender feelings swell his heart—
  His wife’s, and babe’s, and kindred’s dear embrace,
Shoots through his bosom like a burning dart,
  At thought, that they no more shall see his face.
His eye around the wide expanse he strains,        65
  In hopes some passing vessel to descry;
Ploughing the waste of ever waving plains,
  That at far distance meet the bending sky;
And not a whitening surge is seen to rise
  In the waste distance, and towards him roll,        70
But seems a friendly sail to his dim eyes,
  Bringing sweet hope to cheer his sinking soul.
Alas, poor sailor! ’tis no help for thee!
  It comes the foaming herald of the storm.
’Tis not the whitening canvass that you see,        75
  But the white winding-sheet to wrap thy form.
In pomp majestic, on his billowy throne,
  Far in the west, day’s radiant sovereign glows;
His cheering sway the finny nations own,
  As o’er the deep his golden splendour flows.        80
Their frolics wild the hapless sailor views,
  As round him, through the brine, they flounce and frisk:
Then, on the western glories seems to muse,
  Until the sun withdraws his flaming disk.
Now, hear the plaint his heart in sadness pours—        85
  “While pleasure sparkles through the swarming main,
Illumes yon heaven, and robes my native shores;
  I’m thrown adrift, the sport of direst pain!
“O! that, when in the battle fray I stood,
  And strain’d each sinew in the glorious cause;        90
Some cannon peal had drain’d my veins of blood,
  And crown’d my mortal exit with applause!
But, here I’m doom’d to perish in the deep,
  By ocean monster, hunger, storm, or cold;
Without one messmate o’er my corse to weep,        95
  And pay the honours due a sailor bold.”
The pall of Night the liquid world enshrouds,
  And silence mingles with the gathering gloom;
Again the heavens are wrapp’d in rolling clouds,
  And sea-mews shriek o’er many a watery tomb.        100
Ah! think what now the lonely sailor feels!
  Chill are his brine-steep’d limbs, and numb’d, and tired—
The swelling mass of waves already reels—
  The sky with flash, succeeding flash, is fired.
The winds are raging fierce—the surges roll—        105
  The shark and huge leviathan now roam—
Tremendous thunders shake the distant pole,
  And ocean’s heaving breast is whelm’d in foam.
A flickering light gleams o’er the tumbling flood—
  Perhaps a meteor’s.—Lives our seaman still?        110
Or drinks the insatiate shark his valiant blood?
  This know, whate’er his fate, ’tis God’s just will.
Ere long, if not deterr’d by critic’s ire,
  Wild Fancy may his destiny disclose;
And call upon his country to admire        115
  A sailor’s gallantry, and feel his woes.

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