Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
Hymn: ‘When the dying flame of day’
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)
 
Of the Moravian nuns, at the consecration of Pulaski’s banner 1

    WHEN the dying flame of day
    Through the chancel shot its ray,
    Far the glimmering tapers shed
    Faint light on the cowled head,
    And the censer burning swung,        5
    Where before the altar hung
    That proud banner, which with prayer
    Had been consecrated there.
And the nuns’ sweet hymn was heard the while,
Sung low in the dim mysterious aisle.        10
 
    Take thy banner!—may it wave
    Proudly o’er the good and brave,
    When the battle’s distant wail
    Breaks the sabbath of our vale,—
    When the clarion’s music thrills        15
    To the hearts of these lone hills,—
    When the spear in conflict shakes,
    And the strong lance shivering breaks.
 
    Take thy banner!—and beneath
    The war-cloud’s encircling wreath,        20
    Guard it—till our homes are free—
    Guard it—God will prosper thee!
    In the dark and trying hour,
    In the breaking forth of power,
    In the rush of steeds and men,        25
    His right hand will shield thee then.
 
    Take thy banner! But when night
    Closes round the ghastly fight,
    If the vanquish’d warrior bow,
    Spare him!—by our holy vow,        30
    By our prayers and many tears,
    By the mercy that endears,
    Spare him—he our love hath shared—
    Spare him—as thou wouldst be spared!
 
    Take thy banner!—and if e’er        35
    Thou shouldst press the soldier’s bier,
    And the muffled drum should beat
    To the tread of mournful feet,
    Then this crimson flag shall be
    Martial cloak and shroud for thee!        40
 
And the warrior took that banner proud,
And it was his martial cloak and shroud.
 
Note 1. The standard of Count Pulaski, the noble Pole who fell in the attack upon Savannah, during the American Revolution, was of crimson silk, embroidered by the Moravian nuns of Bethlehem, in Pennsylvania. [back]
 
 
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