Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
Ode: ‘What means this gay assemblage here’
By Robert Milledge Charlton (1807–1854)
          Delivered on board the ship Constitution, in the port of Savannah, to the “Union and State Rights Association of the County of Chatham,” on the 11th of October, 1834

WHAT means this gay assemblage here,—
  These joyous shouts, this cheering sound?
  Why do the happy feelings bound,
Unshackled by the grasp of care?
Why come the “imbecile and gray,”        5
To mingle in these scenes to-day?
Is it the birth-day of our land?
Is it the hour when freedom’s hand
Tore down the standard of despair,
And rear’d her own bright banner here?        10
No! that hath pass’d: but here, to-day,
We come a sacred debt to pay;
We come with cheerful hearts to greet
The patriot souls that here we meet;
  To speak of dangers haply past;        15
To raise our heartfelt thanks again,
That still o’er Georgia’s hill and plain
  Yet floateth proudly to the blast
Our country’s flag, as bright and fair,
As when dear Freedom placed it here.        20
We come with holy zeal, to swear
That no rude hand shall ever tear
A single star that shineth there;
But we the treasure will defend,
Whilst strength shall last, till life shall end.        25
What better altar could we rear
Than that which greets our vision here?
What more befitting spot to pay
Our thanks, than where we meet to-day?
The Constitution of the land        30
Is still the rock on which we stand;
But yet, with unchanged faith, may we
Rest on (with conscience pure and free)
The Constitution of the sea.
We float not with uncertain tide,        35
Nor yet on angry billows ride:
No stormy winds are here to force
Our vessel on her devious course;
But safely moor’d in our dear home,
Though winds may howl and billows foam,        40
Still shall the anchor of our faith
Protect us from the direst wrath.
Our pilot,—he whose steady hand
Hath saved our vessel from the strand,
From all consolidation’s rocks,        45
And angry nullifying shocks,—
Our flag,—the emblem of our land;
Our crew,—the Union’s chosen band;
With these we will all power defy;
With these we’ll conquer, or we’ll die.        50
Our hearts are glad, but yet doth care
Commingle with our gladness here:
We would that we could stand again,
O’er hill and mountain, moor and plain,
Without this curse of bitter strife,        55
To vex the current of our life;
We would that all this toil would cease,
This wasting war be changed to peace;
Then might affection’s holy band
Clasp round the chosen of our land.        60
“The battle is over, over, over,
The battle is over—the victory’s won!
There are tears for the fallen, fallen, fallen,
But glory to those who their duty have done!”
And now, ere yet we say farewell,        65
Once more our ardent vows we’ll tell:
We swear, that, till our life shall end,
  Whilst one remains of all our band,
With utmost vigour we’ll defend
  Our flag, our Union, and our land!        70
May He, to whom all spirits bow,
Record and bless the holy vow.

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