Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
September 11
The Taking of Sebastopol
By Thomas William Parsons (1819–1892)
          By an American aboard the Boston ship Sultana.
  The siege of Sebastopol was the chief event of the Crimean War. It was begun in October, 1854, and continued for over a year, the city being entered by the Allies on September 10, 1855.

I SAILED by Tenedos, in sight of Troy,
  My Homer in my hand, but in my heart
Little remembrance of the past, or joy
  In the sad present or the poet’s art.
A ship went by that bore my country’s name,        5
  “The Great Republic,” and a moment’s thrill
Flashed through my breast, but vanished as it came,
  For in that bark an Iliad was of ill.
A thousand wounded soldiers in her deeps
  Lay groaning, bleeding; scarce a man but bore        10
His deathmark on him. Happy he that sleeps
  There where he fell, beside the Pontic shore.
And farther onward as we stretched our sail
  Along the sacred Hellespont, a gleam
Came in the night, and mingled with a wail        15
  That seemed the voice of the complaining stream.
Black messengers of death were on the wing,
  Like clouds containing tempests, darkly driven
By autumn winds—alas! the news they bring
  The doom that took the gentle chief to heaven.        20
Farewell, brave heart! if not the brightest sword,
  Set of true temper, thou wert of the best:
Considerate chieftain, unpresuming Lord,
  Fitzroy! good angels bear thee to thy rest!
We mourned with England, if the vulgar swarm        25
  Read of her sorrow with unfriendly smile;
We mourn for them too, for our hearts are warm
  Yet with a drop from the ancestral isle.
Tell me thy name, American! What race,
  What blood, what accent ruled thee at thy birth?        30
That when the news comes of a new disgrace
  Mak’st England’s grief the staple of thy mirth.
But we are past Seraglio Point—behold!
All the old places—lo! the Horn of Gold!        35
  The Sultan’s pride—the glory of the Greeks.
There as we anchored in Byzantium’s wave
  Beneath the walls of Constantine, a cry
Startled our ears; but ’twas a cry that gave
  Joy to my soul and gladness to mine eye.        40
A new gleam breaketh on the dusky night!
  Gilding Sophia’s, like Saint Peter’s dome;
Good news! they have it! God hath sped the right;
  A hundred minarets flash it on the foam!
Mount Ida caught the flash and sent it on        45
  To the isle of Lemnos, like that courier-light
Which bright with news of Troy’s destruction shone,
  And thence it sped to Athos’ holy height;
So on to Argos, on to Syracuse,
  And, by Hesperia, to the bounteous land        50
That owes to Gallic hearts its generous juice,
  Crimsoning the white face of the sacred strand;
Till to this young half-world, where Hesperus
  Hangs a new signal in the nation’s eyes,
The lightning sped! and brought the thrill to us—        55
  A thrill of joy! they have it! the Allies!
For we must joy with England or abjure
  The faith in freedom that our fathers had.
Dost thou rejoice not? Wouldst thyself endure
  The sway whose downfall does not make thee glad?        60
Tell me thy name, that I may set it down,
  And say this man—he had a double soul:
Proud of old England and her past renown,
  He felt no triumph at Sebastopol!

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