Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
The American Flag
By Joseph Rodman Drake (1795–1820)
 
WHEN 1 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 of the morning light;
Then from his 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 stride the warriors of the storm,
And rolls the thunder-drum of heaven!
Child of the sun! to thee ’t is 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 harbingers of victory.        25
 
Flag of the brave! Thy folds shall fly,
The sign of hope and triumph high!
When speaks the signal trumpet 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-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 sink 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,
Sleeps 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 splendors fly,
In triumph o’er his closing eye.
 
Flag of the free heart’s only home!
By angel hands to valor given,—        55
Thy stars have lit the welkin dome,
And all thy hues were born in heaven!
For ever float that standard sheet!
Where breathes the foe that stands before us
With Freedom’s soil beneath our feet,        60
And Freedom’s banner streaming o’er us!
 
Note 1. Drake, of New York, known as an associate of Halleck in writing the Croakers. He died in September 1820. He left behind him a poem in manuscript, entitled the Culprit Fay, which has been spoken of in favorable terms. The spirited National Ode, which follows, shows him to have been a poet of promising talent. [back]
 
 
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