Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
Fort Griswold, Sept. 6, 1781
By John Gardiner Calkins Brainard (1795–1828)
 
WHAT seek ye here, ye desperate band?
Why on this rough and rocky land,
  With sly and muffled oar,
Why in this red and bright array,
Stealing along the fisher’s bay,        5
  Pull ye your boats to shore?
 
Day broke upon that gentlest Sound
Sequester’d, that the sea has found
  In its adventurous roam;
A halcyon surface, pure and deep,        10
And placid as an infant’s sleep
  Cradled and rock’d at home.
 
What wakes the sleeper? Harm is near—
That strange, rough whisper in his ear,
  It is a murderer’s breath;        15
A thousand bayonets are bright
Beneath the blessed morning’s light,
  Moving to blood and death.
 
Land ye and march; but bid farewell
To this lone Sound; its coming swell        20
  May moan when none can save;
Many shall go, and few return;
That rock shall be your only urn,
  That sand your only grave.
 
Across the river’s placid tide,        25
With steady stroke, is seen to glide
  A little venturous boat:
’Twas like the cloud Elijah saw,
Small as his hand, yet soon to draw
  Its quiver’d lightnings out.        30
 
’Twas like that cloud, for in it went
A heart to spend and to be spent
  Till the last drop was shed;
’Twas like that cloud; it had a hand
That, o’er its loved, its native land,        35
  A shadow broad has spread.
 
Ledyard! thy morning thought was brave,
To fight, to conquer, and to save,
  Or fearlessly to die;
Well didst thou hold that feeling true,—        40
Didst well that purpose bold pursue,
  Till death closed down thine eye.
 
I dare not tell in these poor rhymes
That bloody tale of butchering times;
  ’Tis too well known to all;        45
I write not of the foeman’s path,
I write not of the battle’s wrath,
  But of the hero’s fall.
 
He sleeps where many brave men sleep;
Near Groton heights, and nibbling sheep        50
  Their grassy graves have found;
But some, they are a few, are laid
Beneath a little swarded glade
  On Fisher’s Island Sound.
 
The Sound is peaceful now, as when        55
It saw that arm’d array of men;
  And one old fisher there
Gave me this tale; ’twas he who told
The rough, the headlong, and the bold,
  How their rash fight should fare.        60
 
He too is dead; and most are dead
Who stood or fell, who fought or fled
  On that September day.
Old man! thy bones are gently laid
Close by yon shatter’d oak tree’s shade,        65
  Beside the fisher’s bay.
 
 
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