Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
Elegy: ‘Through these drear walls, where fiends horrific reign’
 
On the death of Lieutenant James Decatur, who fell August 3d, 1804, in an action with the Tripolitan gun-boats

THROUGH these drear walls, where fiends horrific reign,
Chill the faint heart, and rend the frantic brain—
Where, void of friends, of pleasure, food, or rest,
The vulture slavery preys upon the breast—
From yon thick squadron, whence we hope to hear        5
The voice of freedom charm the captive’s ear,
Sounds the sad tale—Decatur’s name deplore,
For that young hopeful hero breathes no more!
He left, to free us from barbarian chains,
His country’s blooming groves and peaceful plains:        10
Forever sacred be those arms he wore,
The cause that moved him, and the bark that bore.
’Twas Heaven’s own cause—’twas Freedom’s injured name,
The love of country, and the voice of fame
Call’d forth his active martial skill, to go        15
Scour the wide deep, and scourge the tyrant foe:
Dauntless he fights, where dying groans resound,
And thundering carnage roars tremendous round,
Till Heaven beheld him with propitious eyes,
And snatch’d his kindred spirit to the skies.        20
 
  When from the Turks his mangled form they bore,
With glory cover’d—bathed in streaming gore,
Bewailing friends his ghastly wounds survey’d,
Which bade defiance to all human aid.
When life stood trembling, lingering in its flight,        25
And heaven’s bless’d visions dawn’d upon his sight,
The radiant shades of heroes hovering round,
Midst harps of angels, with reviving sound,
Soothed the last pangs of his undaunted breast,
And wing’d him, convoy’d, to eternal rest.        30
 
  Could Worth have rescued, or could Virtue save
Her heaven-born votaries from the destined grave—
Could sacred Friendship’s hallow’d prayers bestow
The gift of immortality below—
Could thousands’ sighs and tears, that ceaseless roll,        35
Call from the shores of bliss the angelic soul—
(Though the bold wish be impious deemed, and vain)
Death ne’er had reach’d him—or, he’d live again.
 
  But fate’s decrees, irrevocably just,
Doom’d his frail body to the mingling dust;        40
In yon cold deep it finds unwaked repose,
Far from the embrace of friends, or reach of foes,
Till the last trumpet’s loud eternal roar
Call forth its millions from the sea and shore:
Nor, till the final blast and awful day,        45
Shall that brave soul reanimate its clay.
 
 
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