Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
On the Loss of L’Epervier
 
 An earthquake may be made to spare
The man that’s strangled with a hair.
COWPER.    

O THOU enlivener of the human mind
  Where sadness, else, and gloomy sorrow sweep,
With raven wings through darkness unconfined,
  And cheerfulness’ smiles in bondage keep,
Still linger round the cavern of Despair,        5
And cast, O Hope! one gleam of sunshine there!
 
The father’s prayers, the orphan’s sobbing cries,
  In their peculiar energy express’d,
A sister’s tears, the widow’d mother’s sighs,
  To thee, O Hope! are at this hour address’d:        10
No balm of comfort to their hearts is near,
If thou, benignant Power, refuse to hear.
 
Hour follows hour, and day to day succeeds,
  Weeks make up months and months amount to years;
But expectation expectation breeds        15
  And calls on thee to dissipate our fears;—
Yet fears and apprehensions rise in crowds
And strive to shadow o’er thy beams with clouds.
 
Darker and darker still the prospect grows,
  Till scarce one ray the gathering gloom pervades;        20
Worn-out Suspense no casual doubt bestows,
  And Fancy’s lingering twilight’s glimmering fades.
Now sick at heart, from hope deferr’d too long,
The voice of Joy cheers not the mourning throng.
 
Far o’er the wide Atlantic, every eye,        25
  That aches with watching—though it cannot sleep,
Looks through the misty regions of the sky,
  And glances o’er the billows of the deep:
In vain the visual shaft pursues its mark—
Shubrick appears not, nor his gallant bark.        30
 
In wild suspense, each agitated soul
  Resembles ocean’s limitless abyss,
Where waves on waves in desperate surges roll,
  Headlong from precipice to precipice,
Then, breaking on the topmost ridges, bound        35
In furious whirlpools to the vast profound!
 
Lost in uncertainty, no clew, no guide
  Directs our driving thoughts, nor checks their speed:
O’er the void wilderness they wander wide
  From every self-imposed restriction freed,        40
Tired out, at last, Imagination halts,
And, with dismay, from further search revolts!
 
Yet Reason strives to keep our spirits up,
  With many a bold or plausible surmise;
Contends that, in Affliction’s bitterest cup,        45
  One drop at least of consolation lies;
And bids us still, with confidence, depend
On Him who always was the sufferer’s friend.
 
“Shall we suppose,” she asks, “that those who past
  So many years in hard captivity,        50
Should, by Decatur, be released at last,
  Merely to sink in yon devouring sea?
And that their friends, upon a distant shore,
Should never feel their warm embraces more?
 
“And shall that venturous crew be thus inurned,        55
  Afar from home, beneath unfriendly waves,
Whose gallant hearts, with indignation burn’d
  To free their countrymen from being slaves—
And who, with so much skill, repell’d the blow,
Which, but for them, had laid our country low?”        60
 
—Shubrick! to thee and thy intrepid crew,
  Whose patriotic labours have been shown,
The willing muse awards the homage due,
  And consecrates your monumental stone,
On which the pen of history shall repeat        65
The tale of many a daring naval feat.
 
Where all are brave ’twere hardly fair to choose,
  And fix the applausive look on only one;
And yet, without an eagle’s eye, the muse
  Could not at once behold what all have done:        70
The range is too extensive, and the blaze
Of your exploits o’erpowers the incautious gaze.
 
The bias, too, which partial friendship owns,
  Will justify the choice of Yarnall’s name;
Affection for such preference well atones        75
  And saves the poet, in the friend, from blame:
Nor will fraternal fondness, felt so long,
Withhold from him the eulogizing song.
 
If, when a nation that has suffered wrongs
  Which diplomatic skill cannot redress,        80
Calls out her troops of volunteers, in throngs,
  An insolent invasion to repress,
And, at her call, her sons in phalanx join,
Breast flanking breast, to wall the lengthen’d line;
 
Or, if on Erie’s flood, at Perry’s side,        85
  Where duty station’d him, young Yarnall stood,
And, with composure, every method tried,
  To fill the ranks as often as he could,
Till his brave fallen comrades, round him thrown,
Left him at last to work his guns alone;—        90
 
If, when those ranks were thinn’d, the commodore
  Leap’d from the Lawrence, whilst she yet could swim,
And recognising Yarnall, in his gore,
  Conferr’d the desperate management to him,
Who with his eight companions kept the deck        95
And sprang to triumph from the sinking wreck;—
 
If deeds like these entitle one to fame,
  Such as the world possesses power to give,
His honours are secure; for Yarnall’s name
  Must, on the records of his country, live;—        100
And Perry and Decatur will attest
Who seconded their boldest efforts best.
 
Thus is his praise establish’d here on earth,
  By those who have his public service shared:
His higher praise, built on his moral worth,        105
  Need not the testimony of the bard—
That bard who knew his heart, and who might swell
The eulogy of one he loved so well.
 
For, since the moral duties best are shown
  In brother, son, companion, neighbour, friend,        110
These virtues may, on his sepulchral stone,
  Be, by the sculptor’s chisel, made to blend:
For these were his, as those survivors know
Whose tears for him in sweet remembrance flow.
 
But ah! it matters not what might be said        115
  O’er the cold ashes of the friends we mourn:
Our best instruction is, to know, the dead
  Have surely pass’d the irremeable bourne:—
A simple truth which, to the mind, conveys
More profit than all monumental praise.        120
 
 
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