Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
June 14
The American Flag
By Joseph Rodman Drake (1795–1820)
          Adoption of the American flag, June 14, 1777.

WHEN Freedom from her mountain height
  Unfurled her standard to the air,
She tore the azure robe of night,
  And set the stars of glory there;
She mingled with its gorgeous dyes        5
The milky baldric of the skies,
And striped its pure, celestial white
With streakings of the morning light;
Then from his mansion in the sun
She called her eagle bearer down,        10
And gave into his mighty hand
The symbol of her chosen land.
Majestic monarch of the cloud!
  Who rear’st aloft thy regal form,
To hear the tempest-trumpings loud,        15
And see the lightning lances driven,
  When strive the warriors of the storm,
And rolls the thunder-drum of heaven—
Child of the sun! to thee ’tis given
  To guard the banner of the free,        20
To hover in the sulphur smoke,
To ward away the battle-stroke,
And bid its blendings shine afar,
Like rainbows on the cloud of war,
    The harbingers of victory!        25
Flag of the brave! thy folds shall fly,
  The sign of hope and triumph high,
When speaks the signal trumpet tone,
  And the long line comes gleaming on;
Ere yet the life-blood, warm and wet,        30
  Has dimmed the glistening bayonet,
Each soldier eye shall brightly turn
  To where thy sky-born glories burn,
And, as his springing steps advance,
Catch war and vengeance from the glance;        35
And when the cannon-mouthings loud
  Heave in wild wreathes the battle-shroud,
And gory sabres rise and fall,
Like shoots of flame on midnight’s pall;
  Then shall thy meteor-glances glow,        40
And cowering foes shall sink beneath
  Each gallant arm that strikes below
That lovely messenger of death.
Flag of the seas! on ocean wave
  Thy stars shall glitter o’er the brave;        45
When death, careering on the gale,
  Sweeps darkly round the bellied sail,
And frighted waves rush wildly back
  Before the broadside’s reeling rack,
Each dying wanderer of the sea        50
  Shall look at once to heaven and thee,
And smile to see thy splendors fly
In triumph o’er his closing eye.
Flag of the free heart’s hope and home,
  By angel hands to valor given;        55
The stars have lit the welkin dome,
  And all thy hues were born in heaven.
For ever float that standard sheet!
  Where breathes the foe but falls before us,
With Freedom’s soil beneath our feet,        60
  And Freedom’s banner streaming o’er us?

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