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! Oh, 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!
Children will enjoy reading the story about the ship and the War of 1812 in Old Ironsides. Visit American History to find out more about historic events, people, and their writings which helped shape the country.
Return to the Oliver Wendell Holmes library , or . . . Read the next poem; The Music-Grinders