Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Name of Old Glory
By James Whitcomb Riley (1849–1916)
OLD GLORY! say, who,
By the ships and the crew,
And the long, blended ranks of the gray and the blue,—
Who gave you, Old Glory, the name that you bear
With such pride everywhere        5
As you cast yourself free to the rapturous air
And leap out full-length, as we’re wanting you to?—
Who gave you that name, with the ring of the same,
And the honor and fame so becoming to you?—
Your stripes stroked in ripples of white and of red,        10
With your stars at their glittering best overhead—
By day or by night
Their delightfulest light
Laughing down from their little square heaven of blue!—
Who gave you the name of Old Glory?—say, who—        15
    Who gave you the name of Old Glory?
The old banner lifted, and faltering then
In vague lisps and whispers fell silent again.
Old Glory—speak out!—we are asking about
How you happened to “favor” a name, so to say,        20
That sounds so familiar and careless and gay
As we cheer it and shout in our wild breezy way—
We—the crowd, every man of us, calling you that—
We—Tom, Dick, and Harry—each swinging his hat
And hurrahing “Old Glory!” like you were our kin,        25
    When—Lord!—we all know we’re as common as sin!
And yet it just seems like you humor us all
And waft us your thanks, as we hail you and fall
Into line, with you over us, waving us on
Where our glorified, sanctified betters have gone.—        30
And this is the reason we’re wanting to know—
(And we’re wanting it so!
Where our own fathers went we are willing to go.)—
Who gave you the name of Old Glory—Oho!—
    Who gave you the name of Old Glory?        35
The old flag unfurled with a billowy thrill
For an instant, then wistfully sighed and was still.
Old Glory: the story we’re wanting to hear
Is what the plain facts of your christening were,—
For your name—just to hear it,        40
Repeat it, and cheer it, ’s a tang to the spirit
As salt as a tear;—
And seeing you fly, and the boys marching by,
There’s a shout in the throat and a blur in the eye
And an aching to live for you always—or die,        45
If, dying, we still keep you waving on high.
And so, by our love
For you, floating above,
And the scars of all wars and the sorrows thereof,
Who gave you the name of Old Glory, and why        50
    Are we thrilled at the name of Old Glory?
Then the old banner leaped, like a sail in the blast,
And fluttered an audible answer at last.
And it spake, with a shake of the voice, and it said:—
By the driven snow-white and the living blood-red        55
Of my bars, and their heaven of stars overhead—
By the symbol conjoined of them all, skyward cast,
As I float from the steeple, or flap at the mast,
Or droop o’er the sod where the long grasses nod,—
My name is as old as the glory of God.        60
… So I came by the name of Old Glory.

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