Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
To the Eagle
By James Gates Percival (1795–1856)
 
BIRD of the broad and sweeping wing!
  Thy home is high in heaven,
Where wide the storms their banners fling,
  And the tempest clouds are driven.
Thy throne is on the mountain top;        5
  Thy fields—the boundless air;
And hoary peaks, that proudly prop
  The skies—thy dwellings are.
 
Thou sittest like a thing of light,
  Amid the noontide blaze:        10
The midway sun is clear and bright—
  It cannot dim thy gaze.
Thy pinions, to the rushing blast
  O’er the bursting billow spread,
Where the vessel plunges, hurry past,        15
  Like an angel of the dead.
 
Thou art perch’d aloft on the beetling crag,
  And the waves are white below,
And on, with a haste that cannot lag,
  They rush in an endless flow.        20
Again thou hast plumed thy wing for flight
  To lands beyond the sea,
And away, like a spirit wreath’d in light,
  Thou hurriest wild and free.
 
Thou hurriest o’er the myriad waves,        25
  And thou leavest them all behind;
Thou sweepest that place of unknown graves,
  Fleet as the tempest wind.
When the night storm gathers dim and dark,
  With a shrill and boding scream,        30
Thou rushest by the foundering bark,
  Quick as a passing dream.
 
Lord of the boundless realm of air!
  In thy imperial name,
The hearts of the bold and ardent dare        35
  The dangerous path of fame.
Beneath the shade of thy golden wings,
  The Roman legions bore,
From the river of Egypt’s cloudy springs,
  Their pride, to the polar shore.        40
 
For thee they fought, for thee they fell,
  And their oath was on thee laid:
To thee the clarions raised their swell,
  And the dying warrior pray’d.
Thou wert, through an age of death and fears,        45
  The image of pride and power,
Till the gather’d rage of a thousand years
  Burst forth in one awful hour.
 
And then, a deluge of wrath it came,
  And the nations shook with dread;        50
And it swept the earth till its fields were flame,
  And piled with the mingled dead.
Kings were roll’d in the wasteful flood
  With the low and crouching slave;
And together lay, in a shroud of blood,        55
  The coward and the brave.
 
And where was then thy fearless flight?
  “O’er the dark mysterious sea,
To the lands that caught the setting light,
  The cradle of Liberty.        60
There, on the silent and lonely shore,
  For ages I watch’d alone,
And the world, in its darkness, ask’d no more
  Where the glorious bird had flown.
 
“But then came a bold and hardy few,        65
  And they breasted the unknown wave;
I caught afar the wandering crew;
  And I knew they were high and brave.
I wheel’d around the welcome bark,
  As it sought the desolate shore;        70
And up to heaven, like a joyous lark,
  My quivering pinions bore.
 
“And now that bold and hardy few
  Are a nation wide and strong,
And danger and doubt I have led them through,        75
  And they worship me in song;
And over their bright and glancing arms
  On field and lake and sea,
With an eye that fires and a spell that charms,
  I guide them to victory.”        80
 
 
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