Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
Victory on Lake Champlain
By Benjamin Whitman, Jr. (1797–1840)
 
O, WILD is the land where the yell and the cry
  Bid the traveller flee, for the savage is near:
Where the Great Spirit moves in the clouds of the sky,
  Array’d in the robes of his terror and fear.
 
O, wild is the land, where the forests and lakes,        5
  And all things around are majestic and grand;
Where Nature her palace triumphantly makes
  On the hills everlasting that rise from the land.
 
There the wild men, while swiftly their game they pursue,
  Stop in their course, with enchantment are bound,        10
And bless the Great Spirit, as gazing they view
  The waters and earth, and heavens around.
 
’Tis the land of the west! where but lately were seen
  The wild tribes of Indians that wander’d afar;
And where, too, was heard the wild yell and the scream,        15
  That roused in the savage the spirit of war.
 
I sing now of war, of conquest, and blood,
  Of warriors whose laurels now bloom o’er their grave;
Of deeds done where once was the Indians’ abode,
  I sing of Macdonough the brave.        20
 
    The lowering clouds grew dark on high,
    And spread their curtains round the sky,
        And caught the flood of light
    Which pour’d from stars, which now above,
    The clouds that dark and silent move        25
        Break not the gloom of night.
 
    No thunders roll in this still scene,
    Along the heavens no meteors gleam
        To light the darksome hour;
    The forest, lake, and wave is hush’d,        30
    And now the wind which by them rush’d
        Suspends its mighty power.
 
    Upon yon lake the billow’s glow
    Sparkles around no rushing prow,
        But all is smooth and calm;        35
    And warriors too, who soon may die,
    Now slumbering on their hammocks lie,
        Nor dream approaching harm.
 
    The orb of day at morrow’s dawn
    Will light the holy Sunday’s morn,        40
        The Sabbath of the Lord.
    The labour of the week is done,
    And all will at the rising sun
        Sing anthems to their God.
 
    But now, o’er rock, vale, delve, and steep,        45
    All nature silent seems to sleep
        Enveloped close in gloom;
    And, save yon breeze that drives away
    The clouds before the face of day,
    Nature appears in dark array,        50
        A universal tomb.
 
    Morn now the orient gates have riven,
    And far and wide the purple heaven
        Foretells a bloody day.
    Each cloud appears a bloody screen,        55
    Reflecting on each lower scene,
    Save where the mountains intervene
        The glorious morning ray.
 
    From yonder ship, the signal gun
    Arouses, with the rising sun,        60
        The seamen from their slumber;
    Some shall with wreaths adorn their head,
    Some shall be counted with the dead,
        And proudly swell their number!
 
    The cannon echoes far and wide        65
    Along the shore and mountain’s side,
        And wakes the tuneful lark:
    The wild birds raise their matin notes,
    And through the barges, ships, and boats,
        The slumbering seamen start.        70
 
What muttering sound is that which strikes the ear?
What sails seem floating through yon misty air?
And with the breeze are now advancing fast—
With flags far waving from each lofty mast?
“See them,” Macdonough cries, “there streaming high,        75
By heavens, the cross, the British pennants fly—
They fly above your foe, who now prepare
To taint this holy morn with deeds of war!
Display our eagle, place our guns for fight,
And they are our’s, or else we die ere night.”        80
Now o’er the lake the royal vessels sweep,
And swiftly move along the misty deep;
They come more near, and now abreast they lay,
“The wind of heaven too, gently dies away.”
Our men on valour place their strong reliance,        85
And forthwith raised a shout of loud defiance.
 
    Then as the sun’s resplendent car
    Throws back the twilight clouds afar—
    And o’er the gloomy realms of air
    Scatters abroad his silent glare—        90
    So from each gallant vessel’s side,
    Our dreadful port-holes gaping wide,
        Through fire and smoke
        The thunders broke,
        And muttering spoke        95
        By every stroke
        Destruction to the foe!
    Mid blood and fire each vessel rides,
    And down their smoke enveloped sides
    A torrent-red of life-blood glides        100
        Into the lake below.
 
    Their shrouds, masts, yards, while falling, crack,
    And every vessel seems a wreck,
    As death and ruin crowd each deck
        With trophies of their deeds.        105
    Ours! work and fight as nothing fearing,
    They now another flag are rearing,
    And yonder vessel disappearing
        Their fire and valour feeds.
 
    One ship is sunk! one flag is down,        110
    And adverse thunders rarely sound,
    Opposing seamen bleed around,
        And fall among their guns.
    Each ship a moving hearse goes on,
    Crowded with men whose souls are gone,        115
    Who now above the billows borne,
        No more are Albion’s sons.
 
    The strife has ceased—Champlain no more
    Is troubled with the cannon’s roar,
    No thunders break from yonder shore—        120
        The victor is Macdonough:
    The clouds disperse, the sky serene
    Has not a cloud to intervene,
    And silence reigns through every scene,
        The forest and the billow.        125
 
As the Spartan of old, when he travell’d afar,
O’er the scenes where his forefathers bled in the war,
At Thermopylæ’s straits, where Leonidas’ band
Could the millions of Persia with glory withstand;
On the scene as he gazed, and was roused by the sight,        130
And long’d to encounter some foe in the fight—
So the American youth, when he wanders along
The scene of those deeds that you’ve heard in my song,
Will gaze at Champlain, and go over in thought
The deeds of that day when his countrymen fought;        135
Will cry, as the wave on the lake he may follow,
“There fought the brave and the gallant Macdonough!”
 
 
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