Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
Lexington
By Prosper Montgomery Wetmore (1798–1876)
 
’TWAS calm at eve as childhood’s sleep—
  The seraph-rest that knows no care—
Still, as the slumbering summer deep
  When the blue heaven lies dream-like there,
Blending with thoughts of that azure steep,        5
  The bright, the beautiful, and fair;
Like hopes that win from heaven their hue,
As fair, as fleeting, and as few,
Those tranquil Eden-moments flew:
The morn beheld the battle strife—        10
The blow for blow—the life for life—
  The deed of daring done;
The Rubicon of doubt was past,
  An empire lost, a birthright won—
When Freedom’s banner braved the blast,        15
Flashing its splendours far and fast
  From crimson’d Lexington!
 
There was a fearful gathering seen
  On that eventful day,
And men were there who ne’er had been        20
  The movers in a fray;
The peaceful and the silent came
  With darkling brows and flashing eyes;
And breasts, that knew not glory’s flame,
  Burn’d for the patriot sacrifice!        25
No pomp of march, no proud array,
  There spake no trumpet sound,
But they pressed, when the morn broke dim and gray,
  Dauntless, that conflict ground;
Sadly, as if some tie were broken—        30
  Firmly, with eye and lip severe—
Dark glances pass’d and words were spoken,
  As men will look and speak in fear;
Yet coursed no coward blood
Where that lone phalanx stood        35
  Rock-like, but spirit-wrought;
A strange, unwonted feeling crept
Through every breast; all memories slept,
While passion there a vigil kept
  O’er one consuming thought—        40
To live a fetter’d slave,
Or fill a freeman’s grave!
 
Though many an arm hung weaponless,
  The clenched fingers spake full well
The stem resolve, the fearlessness,        45
  That danger could not quell:
Yet some, with hasty hand,
The rust-encumber’d brand
  Had snatched from its peaceful sleep,
And held it now with a grasp that told        50
A freeman’s life should be dearly sold—
  ’Twas courage stern and deep!
 
Proudly, as conquerors come
  From a field their arms have won,
With bugle blast and beat of drum,        55
  The Briton host came on!
Their banners unfurl’d and gayly streaming;
Their burnish’d arms in the sunlight gleaming;
  Fearless of peril, with valour high,
And in reckless glee, they were idly dreaming        60
  Of a bloodless triumph nigh:
The heavy tread of the war-horse prancing;
The lightning-gleam of the bayonets glancing,
  Broke on the ear, and flash’d on the eye,
As the column’d foe, in their strength advancing,        65
  Peal’d their war-notes to the echoing sky!
 
’Twas a gallant band that marshall’d there,
With the dragon-flag upborne in air;
For England gather’d then her pride,
  The bravest of a warrior land        70
Names to heroic deeds allied,
  The strong of heart and hand.
They came in their panoplied might,
  In the pride of their chivalrous name;
For music to them were the sounds of the fight—        75
  On the red carnage-field was their altar of fame:
They came, as the ocean-wave comes in its wrath,
  When the storm-spirit frowns on the deep;
They came as the mountain-wind comes on its path,
  When the tempest hath roused it from sleep:        80
They were met, as the rock meets the wave,
  And dashes its fury to air;
They were met, as the foe should be met by the brave,
With hearts for the conflict, but not for despair!
 
  What power hath stay’d that wild career!        85
Not mercy’s voice, nor a thrill of fear;
’Tis the dread recoil of the dooming wave,
Ere it sweeps the bark to its yawning grave;
’Tis the fearful hour of the brooding storm,
  Ere the lightning-bolt hath sped;        90
The shock hath come! and the life-blood warm
  Congeals on the breasts of the dead!
The strife, the taunt, the death-cry loud,
Are pealing through the sulphurous cloud,
  As, hand to hand, each foe engages;        95
While hearts that ne’er to monarch bow’d,
And belted knights, to the combat crowd—
  A fearless throng the contest wages;
And eye to eye, the meek, the proud,
Meet darkly ’neath the battle shroud,        100
  ’Tis the feast of death where the conflict rages!
 
Wo! for the land thou tramplest o’er,
  Death-dealing fiend of war!
Thy battle hoofs are dyed in gore,
  Red havoc drives thy car;        105
Wo! for the dark and desolate,
  Down crush’d beneath thy tread;
Thy frown hath been as a withering fate
  To the mourning and the dead!
Wo! for the pleasant cottage-home,        110
  The love-throng at the door;
Vainly they think his step will come—
  Their cherish’d comes no more!
Wo! for the broken-hearted,
  The lone one by the hearth;        115
Wo! for the bliss departed,
  The Pleiad gone from earth!
 
’Twas a day of changeful fate
  For the foe of the banner’d line;
And the host that came at morn in state,        120
  Were a broken throng ere the sun’s decline;
And many a warrior’s heart was cold,
  And many a soaring spirit crush’d,
Where the crimson tide of battle roll’d,
  And the avenging legions rush’d.        125
 
Wreaths for the living conqueror,
  And glory’s meed for the perish’d!
No sculptor’s art may their forms restore,
  But the hero-names are cherish’d;
When voiced on the wind rose the patriot-call,        130
They gave no thought to the gory pall,
But press’d to the fight as a festival!
They bared them to the sabre-stroke,
Nor quail’d an eye when the fury broke;
  They fought like men who dared to die,        135
  For freedom! was their battle-cry,
And loud it rang through the conflict smoke!
 
Up with a nation’s banners! They fly
  With an eagle-flight,
To the far blue sky;        140
  ’Tis a glorious sight,
  As they float abroad in the azure light,
And their fame shall never die!
 
When nations search their brightest page
For deeds that gild the olden age,        145
  Shining the meteor lights of story;
England with swelling pride shall hear
Of Cressy’s field, and old Poictiers,
  And deathless Agincourt;
Fair Gallia point with a kindling eye        150
To the days of her belted chivalry,
  And her gallant Troubadour;
Old Scotia, too, with joy shall turn
Where beams the fight of Bannockburn,
  And Stirling’s field of glory!        155
Land of the free! though young in fame,
Earth may not boast a nobler name:
Platæa’s splendour is not thine,
  Leuctra, nor Marathon;
Yet look where lives in glory’s line,        160
  The day of Lexington!
 
 
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