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How the guns, as with cheer and shout
Our tackle-men hurled them out,
Brought up on the water-ways!
First, as we fired at their flash,
"T was lightning and black eclipse, With a bellowing roll and crash; But soon, upon either bow,
What with forts, and fire-rafts, and ships,
(The whole fleet was hard at it now,
All pounding away!) and Porter
Still thundering with shell and mortar,
'T was the mighty sound and form
Of an equatorial storm!
(Such you see in the Far South,
After long heat and drouth,
As day draws nigh to even:
Arching from North to South,
Blinding the tropic sun,
The great black bow comes on,
Till the thunder-veil is riven,
When all is crash and levin,
And the cannonade of heaven
Rolls down the Amazon!)
But, as we worked along higher,
Just where the river enlarges,
Down came a pyramid of fire-
It was one of your long coal barges (We had often had the like before). 'T was coming down on us to larboard, Well in with the eastern shore, And our pilot, to let it pass round, (You may guess we never stopped to sound)
Giving us a rank sheer to starboard,
Ran the Flag hard and fast aground!
'T was nigh abreast of the Upper Fort,
And straightway a rascal Ram
(She was shaped like the devil's dam)
Puffed away for us with a snort,
And shoved it with spiteful strength
Right alongside of us, to port.
(It was all of our ship's length, A huge crackling Cradle of the Pit, Pitch-pine knots to the brim, Belching flame red and grim) What a roar came up from it!
Well, for a little it looked bad;
But these things are, somehow, shorter
Like the fierce northern hurricane
That sweeps his great plateau,
Flushed with the triumph yet to gain,
Came down the serried foe.
Who heard the thunder of the fray
Break o'er the field beneath,
Knew well the watchword of that day
Was "Victory or Death."
Long had the doubtful conflict raged
O'er all that stricken plain,
For never fiercer fight had waged
The vengeful blood of Spain;
And still the storm of battle blew,
Still swelled the gory tide;
Not long, our stout old chieftain knew,
Such odds his strength could bide.
Twas in that hour his stern command
Called to a martyr's grave
The flower of his beloved land,
The nation's flag to save.
By rivers of their fathers' gore
His first-born laurels grew,
And well he deemed the sons would pour
Their lives for glory too.
Full many a norther's breath has swept
O'er Angostura's plain,
And long the pitying sky has wept
Above its mouldered slain.
The raven's scream, or eagle's flight,
Or shepherd's pensive lay,
Thus 'neath their parent turf they rest,
Far from the gory field,
Borne to a Spartan mother's breast
On many a bloody shield;
The sunshine of their native sky
Smiles sadly on them here,
And kindred eyes and hearts watch by
The heroes' sepulchre.
Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead!
Dear as the blood ye gave;
No impious footstep here shall tread
The herbage of your grave;
Nor shall your glory be forgot
While Fame her record keeps,
Or Honor points the hallowed spot.
Where Valor proudly sleeps.
Yon marble minstrel's voiceless stone
In deathless song shall tell,
When many a vanished age hath flown,
The story how ye fell;
Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter's blight,
Nor Time's remorseless doom,
Shall dim one ray of glory's light
That gilds your deathless tomb.