Saturday, July 22, 2017

"Breaths there the man...."

In the early 1970s I added to my library Breathes There the Man: Heroic Ballads and Poems of the English Speaking Peoples, edited by Frank S. Meyer, an ex-leftist and an early editor at National Review. The book title is self-explanatory. The first four chapters collect examples from the United States. Poems and ballads from England, Scotland, Ireland and "Other Lands" fill out the remaing chapters. It is a great book for browsing. Today from the Civil War collection:
The Battle-Cry of Freedom
Yes, we'll rally 'round the flag, boys, we'll rally once again,
Shouting the battle-cry of freedom;
We will rally from the hillside, we'll gather from the plain,
Shouting the battle-cry of freedom.
Chorus:
The Union forever, hurrah, boys, hurrah!
Down with the traitor, up with the star,
While we rally 'round the flag, boys, rally once again,
Shouting the battle-cry of freedom.
We are springing to the call of our brothers gone before,
Shouting the battle-cry of freedom,
And we'll fill the vacant ranks with a million freemen more,
Shouting the battle-cry of freedom.
We will welcome to our numbers the loyal, true, and brave,
Shouting the battle-cry of freedom,
And altho' they may be poor, not a man shall be a slave,
Shouting the battle-cry of freedom.
So we're springing to the call from the East and from the West,
Shouting the battle-cry of freedom,
And we'll hurl the rebel crew from the land we love the best,
Shouting the battle-cry of freedom.
And the poem that saved the U.S.S. Constitution, by Oliver Wendell Holmes. The ship, now in Boston harbor, was headed for the wreckers when this was written:

Old Ironsides
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,
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 threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms.
The lightning and the gale!