†††††† What is that a‑billowing there

†††††† Like a thunderhead in the air?

††† Why should such a sight be whitening the seas?

†††††† That's a Yankee man‑o'‑war,

†††††† And three things she's seeking for ‑‑

††† For a prize, and for a battle, and a breeze.


†††††† When the war blew o'er the sea

†††††† Out went Hull and out went we

††† In the Constitution, looking for a foe;

†††††† But five British ships came down ‑‑

†††††† and we got to Boston‑town

††† By a mighty narrow margin, you must know!


†††††† Captain Hull can't fight their fleet,

†††††† But he fairly aches to meet

††† Quite the prettiest British ship of all there were;

†††††† So he stands again to sea

†††††† In the hope that on his lee

††† He'll catch Dacres and his pretty Guerriere.


†††††† 'Tis an August afternoon

†††††† Not a day too late or soon,

††† When we raise a ship whose lettered mainsail reads:

†††††† All who meet me have a care,

†††††† I am England's Guerriere;

††† So Hull gaily clears for action as he speeds.


†††††† Cheery bells had chanted five

†††††† On the happiest day alive

††† When we Yankees dance to quarters at his call;

†††††† While the British bang away

†††††† With their broadsides' screech and bray;

††† But the constitution never fires a ball.


†††††† We send up three times to ask

†††††† If we shan't begin our task?

††† Captain Hull send back each the answer No;

†††††† Till half a pistol‑shot

†††††† The two frigates he had brought,

††† Then he whispers, Lay Along! ‑‑ and we let go.


†††††† Twice our broadside lights and lifts,

†††††† And the Briton, crippled, drifts

††† With her mizzen dangling hopeless at her poop:

†††††† Laughs a Yankee, She's a brig!

†††††† Says our Captain, That's too big;

††† Try another, so we'll have her for a sloop!


††† †††We hurrah, and fire again,

†††††† Lay aboard of her like men;

†††† And, like men, they beat us off, and try in turn;

†††††† But we drive bold Dacres back

†††††† With our muskets' snap and crack ‑‑

††† All the while our crashing broadsides boom and burn.


†††††† 'Tis but half an hour, bare,

†††††† When that pretty Guerriere

††† Not a stock calls her aloft or here below,

†††††† Save a mizzen's shattered mast,

†††††† Where her "master's flag's" nailed fast

††† Till, a fallen star, we quench its ruddy glow.


†††††† Dacres, injured, o'er our side

†††††† Slowly bears his sword of pride,

††† Holds it out, as Hull stands there in his renown:

†††††† No, no! says th' American,

†††††† Never, from so brave a man ‑‑

††† But I see you're wounded, let me help you down.


†††††† All that night we work in vain

†††††† Keeping her upon the main;

††† But we've hulled her far too often, and at last

†††††† In a blaze of fire there

†††††† Dies the pretty Guerriere;

††† While away we cheerly sail upon the blast.


†††††† Oh, the breeze that blows so free!

†††††† Oh, the prize beneath the sea!

††† Oh, the battle! ‑‑ was there ever better won?

†††††† Still the happy Yankee cheers

†††††† Are a‑ringing in our ears

††† From old Boston, glorying in what we've done.


†††††† What isthat a‑billowing there

†††††† Like a thunderhead in the air?

††† Why should such a sight be whitening the seas?

†††††† That's "Old Ironsides," trim and taut,

†††††† And she's found the things she sought ‑‑

††† Found a prize, a bully battle, and a breeze!


††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††‑‑ Wallace Rice


The Captainís Clerk
1989, TGM