Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
Exercising Ship—1803
NOW for the rock our warlike frigate bore,
Nor storms were felt to beat, nor heard to roar—
“Clear ship for action!” sounds the boatswain’s call;
“Clear ship for action!” his three mimics bawl.
Swift round the decks see war’s dread weapons hurl’d,        5
And floating ruins strew the watery world.
“All hands to quarters!” fore and aft resounds,
Thrills from the fife, and from the drum-head bounds:
From crowded hatchways scores on scores arise,
Spring up the shrouds, and vault into the skies.        10
Firm at his quarters each bold gunner stands,
The death-fraught lightning flashing from his hands.
Touch’d at the word, tremendous cannons roar,
The waves rush, trembling, to the viewless shore.
From crackling muskets whizzing balls are sent,        15
And, darting, pierce the liquid element.
The fearful nations of the deep below
Fly the dire signals of impending wo;
Air’s wild inhabitants in clouds convene,
And wing, impetuous, from the frightful scene.        20
Men seek the spoils of the eventful fight:
Lo! not an enemy nor sail in sight—
What then? must poets ne’er record a deed,
Nor sing a battle but when thousands bleed?
Can naught but blood and carnage yield delight?        25
Or mangled carcasses regale the sight?
Which shows more godlike, men to save—or kill?
Their sweat by exercise, or blood to spill?
Which sounds more grateful to the man humane,
To hear of hundreds’ health, or hundreds slain?        30
No blood here flows, no hero’s dying groans,
No squadrons vanquished, and no broken bones;
But each more eager to the grog-tub ran,
Than when the foeless contest first began.
  Still on our course, the Western Isles we past,        35
And famed Gibraltar heaves in sight at last:
Close in we stood, at our commander’s word,
The harbour entered, and the frigate moor’d.
View’d from the ship, what prospects here arise!
The rock’s bold summit, towering to the skies,        40
Roll’d in eternal clouds, through time has stood,
Nods, threats, and frowns terrific on the flood!
To guard the fortress, and the port command,
Round its wall’d base repulsive batteries stand:
Rows above rows, huge cannon wide extend,        45
And groves of muskets glittering terrors blend.
But flowery gardens soon relieve the sight,
And, side by side, lie horror and delight.

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.