Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
The Battle of Plattsburgh
“The sword of the Lord and of Gideon.”—JUDGES.

O DARK is the tempest of peril and fear,
  O’ershadowing the torrent, resistless descending
From the wilds of the north, in its ruthless career,
  The harvest and herd from the ravaged fields rending.
But the Sabbath-day dawns—in its hallow’d light,        5
  Behold the bright arms on yon eminence gleaming,
Where the death-threatening battery frowns from the height,
  And broadly the banner to the light winds is streaming.
They come from their ships, on the dark ocean wave,
  With the conquering sword, at the victor’s decree,        10
From the angel-like task of unfettering the slave,
  To the fiend-like commission of crushing the free.
With the bright smile of triumph they bend to the bay
  Their looks—where their pendants exultingly stream,
And hail the proud hour, ere the close of the day,        15
  When the cross o’er the stars shall victoriously beam. 1
With the proud smile of scorn, to the land then they turn,
  Where the star-spangled banner their foemen display,
And certain of success, impatiently burn
  To sweep the weak barriers full quickly away.        20
Yes! smile ye in triumph! the warrior who stands
  On that deck, where he swears or to conquer or die,
In the heart of each comrade a hero commands,
  With their swords in their grasp, while their trust is on high.
Or recks he thy boasting, who scorning despair,        25
  Gives the signal of fight, where his veterans repose:
“There’s life for your valour, but death for your fear,
  We triumph as victors, or sink with our foes!” 2
The conflict is past on the lake and the plain,
  And where does the banner of Britain now wave?        30
’Tis beneath the proud stars, where the heaps of the slain
  To the victors a path for its downfall scarce gave.
And gone is the host of the conquering sword?
  They fled at that sight, with a pang of dismay,
With the spirit of panic all scattered abroad,        35
  All melted like snow from the face of the day.
’Tis the victory of God! then presume not to wreathe
  Round the brow of a mortal the badge of his praise;
But lowly in heart all thy gratitude breathe,
  For His arm of defence, in our perilous ways.        40
But honour the warriors who wielded His sword,
  As Gideon of old, who the spoiler o’erthrew,
When he gave, with the force of his heart-stirring word,
  The force of a host to the arm of a few.
Note 1. “The British army was so posted on the heights, that it could not but behold the interesting struggle for dominion on the lakes. At the same hour the fleets engaged, the enemy opened his batteries on our forts.”—MACOMB’S Order, Sept. 14, 1814. [back]
Note 2. Alluding to the general order of Macomb, that every one who broke from their stations should be immediately put to death. [back]

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