Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
To the American Flag
By Joseph Rodman Drake (1795–1820)
 
WHEN Freedom from her mountain height
  Unfurl’d 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 from the morning light!
Then, from her mansion in the sun,
She call’d 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 trumping loud,        15
  And see the lightning lances driven,
When strides the warrior 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 harbinger of victory!        25
 
Flag of the brave! thy folds shall fly,
The sign of hope and triumph high!
When speaks the signal trumpet’s tone,
And the long line comes gleaming on;
Ere yet the life-blood, warm and wet,        30
Has dimm’d the glistening bayonet—
Each soldier’s eye shall brightly turn,
To where thy meteor glories burn,
And as his springing steps advance,
Catch war and vengeance from the glance!        35
And when the cannon’s mouthings loud
Heave in wild wreaths the battle shroud,
And gory sabres rise and fall,
Like shoots of flame on midnight pall!
There shall thy victor glances glow,        40
  And cowering foes shall fall beneath
Each gallant arm that strikes below
  That lovely messenger of death!
 
Flag of the seas! on ocean’s 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;
The dying wanderer of the sea        50
Shall look at once to heaven and thee,
And smile to see thy splendours fly
In triumph o’er the closing eye.
 
Flag of the free heart’s only home,
  By angel hands to valour given!        55
Thy stars have lit the welkin dome,
  And all thy hues were born in heaven!
Forever 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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