by: Joseph Rodman Drake (1795-1820)


      HEN Freedom, from her mountain height,
      Unfurled 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
      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 called her eagle bearer down,
      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-trumpings loud,
      And see the lightning-lances driven
      When strive 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,
      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!
      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,
      Has dimmed the glistening bayonet,
      Each soldier eye shall brightly turn
      Where the sky-born glories burn,
      And, as his springing steps advance,
      Catch war and vengeance from the glance;
      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's pall;
      Then shall thy meteor-glances glow,
      And cowering foes shall shrink beneath
      Each gallant arm that strikes below
      That lovely messenger of death.
      Flag of the seas! on ocean wave
      Thy stars shall glitter o'er the brave;
      When death, careering on the gale,
      Sweeps darkly round the bellied sail,
      And frighted waves rush wildly back
      Before the broadside's reeling rack,
      Each dying wanderer of the sea
      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 hope and home,
      By angel hands to valor given;
      Thy stars have lit the welkin dome,
      And all thy hues were born in heaven.
      Forever float that standard sheet!
      Where breathes the foe but falls before us,
      With Freedom's soil beneath our feet,
      And Freedom's banner streaming o'er us?

"The American Flag" is reprinted from The Little Book of American Poets: 1787-1900. Ed. Jessie B. Rittenhouse. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1915.




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