Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
Ode Addressed to David Porter
 
Commander of the late United States frigate, Essex

AGAIN our Eagle’s anger’d eyes
Dart lightning through our clouded skies;
Again her vengeful thunder’s hurl’d
Astounding the admiring world.
 
Again the soul of honour braves        5
The mighty mistress of the waves;
Again, though in unequal war,
Columbia’s heroes from afar,
New glories from her power wring,
And “Io Pæans” still we sing;        10
For fame and laurels nobly won
By the true sons of Washington.
From Erie’s lake, to where the main
No more invades old ocean’s reign,
The north and south with equal cheer        15
The praises of our captains hear;
Them honour follows to the last,
Nor falls the laurel with a mast;
In life or death, that still is spread
Eternal, round the hero’s head.        20
 
War-doom’d the wide expanse to plough
Of ocean with a single prow,
Midst hosts of foes with lynx’s eye
And lion fang close hovering by.
You, Porter, dared the dangerous course,        25
Without a home without resource,
Save that which heroes always find
In nautic skill and power of mind;
Save, where your stars in conquest shone,
And stripes made wealth of foes your own.        30
 
You heard of Perry’s glorious fame,
Of Lawrence’s immortal name,
Of Hull, Decatur, Bainbridge, Jones,
Columbia’s honour’d naval sons,
Of all, indeed, who traced the clue,        35
By Washington reveal’d to view,
How through the labyrinth of war
Or peace, to guide Columbia’s car;
To happiness in times of rest,
To victory in the stern contest;        40
And emulous yourself to prove
Deserving of your country’s love,
You dared against a double foe
To deal the honour guided blow.
 
However ends the glorious strife,        45
In honour’d death or honour’d life,
No blot the page of fame can stain
When bravely all their posts maintain:
Exalted high the hero’s name,
Who fights for country more than fame;        50
But dastard they who take their flight
With but an equal foe in sight;
Who wear their trappings but for show,
And run before they’ve felt a blow;
Not, Porter, such thy generous tars;        55
Unharrass’d by intestine jars,
And all inviolably true,
They look’d and smiled, and felt from you,
Thence caught the inspiring flame that shone
Till more than valour claim’d was done.        60
 
The Essex lost, not yours the blame,
You still maintain a conqueror’s fame;
’Tis not in mortal to prevail
When double force our power assail.
Already weaken’d by the blast        65
And cumber’d with a fallen mast;
Contending ’gainst superior might,
’Twas victory to sustain the fight.
 
Soft Pity here may drop a tear
Upon the slaughter’d sailor’s bier;        70
And mourn the fate that urged the brave
To glut with honour’d corpse the grave;
And stern Morality may view
With pain a daring suffering crew,
With ship dismantled by the blast,        75
Defending freedom to the last,
Where not a hope or chance appear’d
That conquest’s standard could be rear’d.
 
How many calmly sit at home
And suffer reason wild to roam,        80
And cloak’d themselves, in cold debate,
Decide upon a hero’s fate!
With grave philosophy content,
They argue on each new event,
Without a sympathy or thought,        85
They know not how a battle’s fought;
To them are nothing winds and tides,
They dream but of their own firesides;
And talk without the least emotion,
Of struggling patriots on the ocean.        90
 
To them the rocks and foaming seas
Are naught, while they can sit at ease;
Nor feel they how the bosom glows
When patriot valour meets her foes;
Nor know how high the flame aspires,        95
That’s kindled by bright honour’s fires;
Nor think the virtue of the brave,
Can e’er disdain themselves to save,
While perseverance can enthrone
Their country’s glory or their own.        100
But, by the sons of Washington
The entangled thread is soon outspun,
And mystery’s knot untied, becomes
A guide to freedom and our homes.
 
Thine, Porter, was the cruel pain        105
To see thy comrades fall in vain;
Yet no, they’ve raised Columbia’s name
Still higher in the lists of fame;
And but that feeling’s tear must fall
On the regretted fate of all,        110
One thought might lighten all our care
And teach us never to despair;
Weigh the event, all dangers braved,
A vessel lost—a hero saved.
 
Loudly shall Valparaiso’s bay        115
To her proud mountains sound the lay,
The mountains echo back again
The ever-welcomed honour’d strain;
The playful sun that with its beams
Adorns her tributary streams,        120
Shall cause them shine with brighter glow,
As to the honour’d bay they flow;
The bay itself when tempests roar,
And light with fiery foam its shore,
Will still recall the eventful day,        125
That gilt our stars with solar ray.
 
“Yield not the ship,” our Lawrence cried,
And on the solemn order died.
“Blow up the ship,” was your decree,
From soul-inspired liberty;        130
Thoughts of the wounded in the wreck
Gave valour an immediate check,
And, mercy’s countermand obey’d,
The intended patriot deed was stay’d,
Now no alternative remain’d;        135
All honour was already gain’d;
The flag was struck, but not to foes;
In pity to thy comrades’ woes
Struck was the flag alone to save
From ocean’s bed the wounded brave,        140
 
Such are the honours nobly won
By the true sons of Washington.
 
 
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