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Joseph Rodman Drake

The American Flag

When 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 'tis 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 glist'ning bayonet),

Each soldier's eye shall brightly turn

To where thy 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!

There shall thy meteor glances glow,

And cowering foes shall shrink beneath,

Each gallant arm that strikes below,

The 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,

The 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!