Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
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James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
 
September 22
Nathan Hale
By Joe Cone
 
I CAN see him, pale and slender,
  Playing by his father’s door;
I can see him off for college
  With that manly smile he wore,
Where he quaffed the cup of knowledge        5
  Filled with freedom, truth and right
Where he caught the burning spirit
  Which aroused men with its might.
I behold him now a teacher
  Of the young and tender mind,        10
Winning love of child and parent
  By his deeds and manners kind;
A companion of the pupil,
  Of the aged none the less,
Idolized by every woman        15
  For his grace and comeliness.
 
Here he lived as guide and teacher,
  While the Revolution flame
Was as yet but dark and smould’ring,
  And himself unknown to fame.        20
Here he strolled along the river
  When his daily toil was o’er,
Growing strong in mind and body
  For the future’s fateful store.
I behold him off to battle,        25
  Now a comely youth and strong,
Filled with love of home and country,
  Filled with hate of Britain’s wrong;
Now a captain of “The Rangers,”
  Fearless, dashing, “Congress Own;”        30
Teaching men by bold example,
  Bringing gloom to Britain’s throne.
 
I behold him in the harbor
  On that well remembered night
With the British sloop in captive,        35
  And the hungry men’s delight
As they seized the rich provisions,
  Sweeter to a marked degree,
Knowing that they were intended
  For their common enemy.        40
I can see him later passing
  Through the British lines of steel,
Ever keen, alert, courageous,
  Filled with patriotic zeal.
Then betrayal, and the capture,        45
  And the gloom which spread afar
When ’twas feared the daring “Ranger”
  Was a prisoner of war.
 
I behold now Rutger’s orchard
  On that morning red with crime,        50
When they led him forth undaunted
  Hard on Howe’s appointed time.
O the God of war that morning
  Must have dropped a silent tear
When were burned before his vision        55
  Messages to kindred dear.
But I see his eyes turn skyward
  With a look of triumph there,
While his lips for one brief moment
  Moved as if in silent prayer.        60
Then those burning words immortal,
  Bringing shame to England’s crown:
“I regret that for my country
  I’ve but one life to lay down!”
 
 
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