Page images

(The whole fleet was hard at it now,
All pounding away!) and Porter
Still thundering with shell and mortar,

'Twas 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). 'Twas 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!

'Twas night abreast 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 In the acting than the telling. There was no singing-out nor yelling, Nor any fussing and fretting,

No stampede, in short; But there we were, my lad,

All afire on our port quarter,
Hammocks ablaze in the netting,

Flames spouting in at every port,
Our Fourth Cutter burning at the davit,
No chance to lower away and save it.

In a twinkling the flames had risen
Halfway to maintop and mizzen,

Darting up the shrouds like snakes.
Ah, how we clanked at the brakes!
And the deep steam-pumps throbbed under,

Sending a ceaseless flow.
Our topmen, a dauntless crowd,
Swarmed in rigging and shroud-

There ('twas a wonder!)

The burning ratlines and strands
They quenched with their bare hard hands;

But the great guns below
Never silenced their thunder!

At last, by backing and sounding,
When we were clear of grounding,

And under headway once more,
The whole rebel fleet came rounding

The point. If we had it hot before,
'Twas now, from shore to shore,

One long, loud thundering roar-
Such crashing, splintering, and pounding,

And smashing as you never heard before! But that we fought foul wrong to wreck,

And to save the Land we loved so well, You might have deemed our long gun deck

Two hundred feet of hell !
For all above was battle,
Broadside, and blaze, and rattle,

Smoke and thunder alone;
But, down in the sick-bay,
Where our wounded and dying lay,

There was scarce a sob or a moan.

And at last, when the dim day broke,
And the sullen sun awoke,

Drearily blinking
O'er the haze and the cannon-smoke,
That ever such morning dulls,
There were thirteen traitor hulls

On fire and sinking!



When the blue-black waves are tipped with white, and

the balmy trade-winds blow, When the palm-crowned coast in the offing lies, with

sands like the driven snow, When the mighty hulls of the battleships the nation's

strength and prideAnd the ghostlike little torpedo-boats are lying side by


When all is still save the screaming gulls, as they

circle high o'erhead, When naught is heard on the steel-bound decks, save

the watches' measured tread, When far to windward a tiny cloud floats up from

the grim old fort, Then the piercing scream of a shrapnel-shot and the

ten-ton gun's report;

Then armored decks are alive with life, and the calls

to quarters below, Then the gun crews stand beside their guns, and the

stokers sweat below, Then the jingling bells in the engine-room clamor and

call for speed, And the thousand tons of hardened steel shake like a

wind-tossed reed.

[blocks in formation]

Now the guns of the fort are belching flame, and the

shot and shell fall fast, Now three are down by the forward gun, and six in

the fighting mast, Now the ships rush on in majesty, while the gunners

hold their breath, And pray to their God to spare them still from the

harbor's hidden death.

Now a string of fluttering signal flags from the bridge

of the flagship fly, Now the gatlings, rapids, and twelve-inch guns with

a crashing peal reply, Now the smoke hangs low o'er the shot-torn wave,

dark death lurks in the air, And never a word by the guns is said while they spit

and boom and flare.

The fleet steams up in battle array, and the broadsides

crash and roar, While the rumble and rip from the enemy's guns reply

from the smoke-hung shore; The once white decks run red with blood, while the

surgeons work below, And fort and fleet, with shot and shell, pay back each

blow with blow.

At last a flag of truce is raised and gleams through the

drifting smoke, And the havoc and wreck of a gun is seen, where a

ten-inch shrapnel broke;

« EelmineJätka »