Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
Mournful Tragedy of James Bird
 
Tune—“The Tempest”

SONS of freedom, listen to me!
  And, ye daughters, too, give ear!
You a sad and mournful story
  As ever was told shall hear.
Hull, you know, his troops surrender’d,        5
  And defenceless left the west;
Then our forces quick assembled,
  The invaders to resist.
 
’Mong the troops that march’d to Erie
  Were the Kingston volunteers,        10
Captain Thomas then commanded,
  To protect our west frontiers.
Tender were the scenes of parting,
  Mothers wrung their hands and cried,
Maidens wept their swains in secret,        15
  Fathers strove their tears to hide.
 
But there’s one among the number,
  Tall and graceful is his mien,
Firm his step, his look undaunted,
  Scarce a nobler youth was seen;        20
One sweet kiss he snatch’d from Mary,
  Craved his mother’s prayers once more,
Press’d his father’s hand, and left them,
  For Lake Erie’s distant shore.
 
Mary tried to say, “Farewell, James,”        25
  Waved her hand, but nothing spake,
“Good-bye, Bird, may Heaven protect you,”
  From the rest at parting broke.
Soon they came where noble Perry
  Had assembled all his fleet,        30
There the gallant Bird enlisted,
  Hoping soon the foe to meet.
 
Where is Bird? the battle rages,—
  Is he in the strife or no?
Now the cannons roar tremendous,        35
  Dare he meet the hostile foe?
Ay—behold him, see with Perry
  In the self-same ship to fight,
Though his messmates fall around him,
  Nothing can his soul affright.        40
 
But, behold, a ball has struck him,
  See the crimson current flow,
“Leave the deck,” exclaim’d brave Perry,
  “No,” cried Bird, “I will not go;
Here, on deck, I took my station,        45
  Ne’er will Bird his colours fly,
I’ll stand by you, gallant captain,
  Till we conquer or we die.”
 
Still he fought, though faint and bleeding,
  Till our stars and stripes arose,        50
Victory having crown’d our efforts,
  All triumphant o’er our foes.
And did Bird receive a pension?
  Was he to his friends restored!
No—nor never to his bosom,        55
  Clasp’d the maid his heart adored.
 
But there came most dreadful tidings,
  From Lake Erie’s distant shore,
Better if poor Bird had perish’d
  Midst the battle’s awful roar;        60
“Dearest parents,” said the letter,
  “This will bring sad news to you,
But do not mourn your first beloved,
  Though this brings his last adieu!
 
I must suffer for deserting        65
  From the brig Niagara;
Read this letter, brothers, sisters,
  ’Tis the last you’ll have from me.”
Sad and gloomy was the morning
  Bird was order’d out to die;        70
Where’s the breast not dead to pity,
  But for him would heave a sigh?
 
Lo! he fought so brave on Erie,
  Freely bled, and nobly dared;
Let his courage plead for mercy,        75
  Let his precious life be spared.
See him march, and hear his fetters,
  Harsh they clank upon the ear,
But his step is firm and manly,
  For his heart ne’er harbour’d fear.        80
 
See! he kneels upon his coffin!
  Sure his death can do no good,
Spare him; hark! O God, they’ve shot him,
  O! his bosom streams with blood!
Farewell, Bird, farewell forever,        85
  Friends and home he’ll see no more,
But his mangled corpse lies buried
  On Lake Erie’s distant shore.
 
 
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