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,
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,
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
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;
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
Set every thread-bare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,--
The lightning and the gale!
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894)
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr was a prominent Harvard physician (and father of the distinguished jurist of the same name). Holmes wrote "Old Ironsides" at age 21 in a successful effort to prevent destruction of the celebrated warship, Constitution, which may still be viewed today.
The U.S.S. Constitution after a Four-Year Restoration
Literature and History lesson for today