Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
March 19
The Race of the “Oregon”
By John James Meehan
          At the outbreak of the Spanish war the Oregon was at San Francisco, and on being ordered to the east coast she left San Francisco on March 19th and reached Key West on May 26, 1898. An examination of her machinery after this unprecedented race of 14,700 miles showed that not a rivet was out of place—a triumph for naval construction.

LIGHTS out! And a prow turned toward the South,
And a canvas hiding each cannon’s mouth,
And a ship like a silent ghost released
Is seeking her sister ships in the East.
A rush of water, a foaming trail,        5
An ocean hound in a coat of mail,
A deck long-lined with the lines of fate,
She roars good-bye at the Golden Gate.
On! On! Alone without gong or bell,
But a burning fire, like the fire of hell,        10
Till the lookout starts as his glasses show
The white cathedral of Callao.
A moment’s halt ’neath the slender spire;
Food, food for the men, and food for the fire.
Then out in the sea to rest no more        15
Till her keel is grounded on Chile’s shore.
South! South! God guard through the unknown wave,
Where chart nor compass may help or save,
Where the hissing wraiths of the sea abide
And few may pass through the stormy tide.        20
North! North! For a harbor far away,
For another breath in the burning day;
For a moment’s shelter from speed and pain,
And a prow to the tropic sea again.
Home! Home! With the mother fleet to sleep        25
Till the call shall rise o’er the awful deep;
And the bell shall clang for the battle there,
And the voice of guns is the voice of prayer!
*        *        *        *        *
One more to the songs of the bold and free,
When your children gather about your knee;        30
When the Goths and Vandals come down in might
As they came to the walls of Rome one night;
When the lordly William of Deloraine
Shall ride by the Scottish lake again;
When the Hessian spectres shall flit in air        35
As Washington crosses the Delaware;
When the eyes of babes shall be closed in dread
As the story of Paul Revere is read;
When your boys shall ask what the guns are for,
Then tell them the tale of the Spanish War,        40
And the breathless millions that looked upon
The matchless race of the Oregon.

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