Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VIII. National Spirit
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VIII. National Spirit.  1904.
 
I. Patriotism
“Old Ironsides”
Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–1894)
 
   [On the proposed breaking up of the United States frigate “Constitution”]

AY, tear her tattered ensign down!
  Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
  That banner in the sky;
Beneath it rung the battle-shout,        5
  And burst the cannon’s roar:
The meteor of the ocean air
  Shall sweep the clouds no more!
 
Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood,
  Where knelt the vanquished foe,        10
When winds were hurrying o’er the flood
  And waves were white below,
No more shall feel the victor’s tread,
  Or know the conquered knee:
The harpies of the shore shall pluck        15
  The eagle of the sea!
 
O better that her shattered hulk
  Should sink beneath the wave!
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
  And there should be her grave:        20
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
  Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
  The lightning and the gale!
 
 
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