Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
Old Ironsides
By Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–1894)
          The following grand and soul-stirring lyric, from the pen of a New England poet, was written on hearing that it was in contemplation by the Navy Department to break up the old frigate Constitution, and to sell her timbers. The author is Oliver W. Holmes, of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

AY, tear her tatter’d ensign down!
  Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
  That banner in the sky.
Beneath it rung the battle-shout,        5
  And burst the cannon’s roar;
The meteor of the ocean air
  Shall sweep the clouds no more!
Her deck—once red with heroes’ blood,
  Where knelt the vanquish’d foe,        10
When winds were hurrying o’er the flood,
  And waves were white below—
No more shall feel the victor’s tread,
  Or know the conquer’d knee;
The harpies of the shore shall pluck        15
  The eagle of the sea!
O! better that her shatter’d hulk
  Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
  And there should be her grave;        20
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
  Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
  The lightning and the gale!

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