Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
Hero of the North—or Battle of Lake Erie
By Benjamin Whitman, Jr. (1797–1840)
 
O, KNOW ye the land where the cliff and the mountain
  O’ershadows the water’s dark tremulous glow;
Which flows from the north from its cold icy fountain,
  And passes through Erie to ocean below.
 
That torrent is rough as it bursts from the north,        5
  But calmly extending across the broad lakes;
From their silent expanse, serene it goes forth,
  Till it foams where the loud roaring cataract breaks.
 
There the roar of the fall with the wild Indian yell,
  For ages together have mingled its sound;        10
And often the yell of the savage would drown
  The roar of the fall as it thundering fell.
 
      The flood still is pouring,
      The fall still is roaring,
        And echoes each neighbouring shore;        15
      But the war-hoop no longer
      Sounds louder and stronger,
        While drowning the cataract’s roar.
 
’Tis not by their yells and their screams I am fired—
  At the tales of the savage I droop and grow weary;        20
I now sing of honour and glory acquired,
  Where our thunders were heard on the waters of Erie.
 
The dark rolling waters of Erie had flow’d
  For ages on ages in silence along;
And its bleak mountain-shore had ne’er yet echo’d        25
  The cannon’s loud roar, or the mariner’s song.
 
But the cross of Saint George o’er her bosom now floats,
  And Columbia’s brave Eagle is streaming afar;
And the thunders that sleep in their ships and their boats
  Will shortly be roused in the tempest of war.        30
 
    Where yonder beams of morning play,
    Through eastern portals come the day;
    And through the darksome silent air,
    It spreads afar its brilliant glare.
    With fluid gold it tinges now        35
    The welkin’s space, and mountain’s brow;
    Far in the east these clouds behold,
    Which seem in heavenly frame enroll’d;
    There blessed angels love to lie,
    And look abroad through earth and sky;        40
    As from the vigils of the night,
    They leave the earth for realms of light:
    And gazing round, below, above,
    They read unutterable love.
    On that calm and glorious morn,        45
    The lake reflected back the dawn,
    To waken’d warriors, roused in time
    To meet approaching war and crime.
    No longer now does silence reign,
    But seamen’s shouts and cheerful strain,        50
    And hoisted sails, and moving oar,
    Proclaim our warriors “sleep no more.”
    Proud o’er the lake (a gallant throng!)
    Old Albion’s squadron sweeps along,
    Like frame that moves upon the wave;        55
    While pennons floating o’er the brave,
    Are seen afar through mist and cloud;
    And now is seen each mast and shroud;
    And as the morning breezes blow,
    Nearer and nearer comes the foe.        60
    Those thunders sleep, which soon will wake
    Their first rude notes upon the lake;
    Upon whose bosom ne’er before
    Relentless Death his victims bore.
 
Solemn and slow the adverse squadrons move,        65
While the bright orb of day rolls on above.
O! ’tis a glorious sight to see them sweep,
Like clouds in air upon that gentle deep;
Their sails all set, their pennons streaming high;
While there the cross—while here the eagles fly,        70
With all things smiling in the autumn sky,
And clouds of amber gently sailing by;
While just below, the lake is heaving bright,
And swells of tumid vapour catch the light.
 
      As from some black and silent cloud        75
    That moves upon the face of day,
    The flashing lightnings sudden play,
      And muttering thunders roar’d aloud;
    While darting on the mountain’s side,
    They spread destruction far and wide—        80
    So, on that calm and gentle wave,
    Where all was silent as the grave,
            The reign of peace is o’er;
    And, to the cannon’s dreadful roar,
    Echoes the mountains, rocks, and shore,        85
    As first the British thunders pour
    Destruction round, behind, before;
    And the dark lake receives the gore
    Of man who falls to rise no more.
      Silent and slow our vessels glide,        90
    While ruin pours on every side;
    But now our port-holes gaping wide,
          Our fires begin to glow;
    And forth the awful thunders broke,
    And ruin went with every stroke,        95
          And death with every blow.
 
      But see our strong and gallant bark,
    Where stands the hero of the lake,
      She slowly moves, the only mark
    On which the opposing torrents break.        100
    Each “brace, and bowline,” shot away,
      She moves a perfect wreck:
    She meets the wind like waving trees,
    She’s tossed like clouds upon the breeze,
        And ruin crowds her deck.        105
    O, yonder see the hero sail,
    While balls as thick as autumn’s hail,
    Around the little vessel pour;
    Secure she sails mid fire and smoke,
    As did of yore that gallant boat,        110
        Which fearless Cæsar bore.
    In triumph now another deck
    Receives the warrior from the wreck,
        In safety and in glory;
    And now more strong the breezes blow,        115
    And drives him nearer to the foe,
        And wafts him on to victory.
    Now fierce amid the foe they dash,
    Their masts and spars while falling crash,
        Their ships are driven a’thraft;        120
    From larboard and from starboard side,
    Our dreadful port-holes gaping wide,
    Send tenfold thunders o’er the tide,
        And rakes them fore and aft.
 
    Down, down your flags, or not a foe        125
    Shall live to tell this tale of woe.
    Down, down your flags, or not a boat
    Above this blood-red stream shall float!”
    And down they come—the strife is o’er—
    Borne on the gale is heard no more        130
    The groan, the shriek, or cannon’s roar;
    And die the thunders on the distant shore.
 
    I know ’tis true you love to read
      Of noble knights of former day;
    I know you sigh o’er martial deed,        135
      And grieve those times have pass’d away.
 
    ’Tis true those knights no more will fight,
      The days of chivalry are o’er;—
    And those who fought for Bruce’s right,
      Are Scotia’s valiant sons no more.        140
 
    But did high heart and spirit free
      Perish with Bruce and Wallace brave?
    And with the flower of chivalry,
      Did worth and courage find their grave?
 
O, come to the land of a Greene and a Perry,        145
O, look to the warriors of Eutaw and Erie;
And see where encircled in glory’s bright ray,
Heroes have fought in our land and our day.
Old Rome and old Greece, in the temple of fame,
A long list of heroes with triumph can claim;        150
And round on the tablets, in letters of gold,
Each nation may see its own heroes enroll’d:
And round as you gaze both with wonder and pride
On the names of those warriors who’ve conquer’d and died
On yonder bright tablet, Columbia, behold        155
The names of your Greene and your Perry enroll’d.
 
 
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