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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Old Ironsides
By Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–1894)
 
AY, tear her 1 tattered ensign down!
  Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
  That banner in the sky;
Beneath it rung the battle shout,        5
  And burst the cannon’s roar;—
The meteor of the ocean air
  Shall sweep the clouds no more.
 
Her deck once red with heroes’ blood,
  Where knelt the vanquished foe,        10
When winds were hurrying o’er the flood
  And waves were white below,
No more shall feel the victor’s tread,
  Or know the conquered knee;—
The harpies of the shore shall pluck        15
  The eagle of the sea!
 
Oh, better that her shattered hulk
  Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
  And there should be her grave:        20
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
  Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
  The lightning and the gale!
 
Note 1. This was the popular name by which the frigate Constitution was known. The poem was first printed in the Boston Daily Advertiser, at the time when it was proposed to break up the old ship as unfit for service. [back]
 
 
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