Classic and Contemporary Poetry
A BALLAD OF MANILA BAY, by CHARLES GEORGE DOUGLAS ROBERTS Poet's Biography
First Line: Your threats how vain, corregidor
Last Line: A hundred years ago!
Subject(s): Courage; Manila, Philippines; Spanish-american War (1898); Valor; Bravery
YOUR threats how vain, Corregidor;
Your rampired batteries, feared no more;
Your frowning guard at Manila gate, --
When our Captain went before!
Lights out. Into the unknown gloom
From the windy, glimmering, wide sea-room
Challenging fate in that dark strait
We dared the hidden doom.
But the death in the deep awoke not then;
Mine and torpedo they spoke not then;
From the heights that loomed on our passing line
The thunders broke not then.
Safe through the perilous dark we sped,
Quiet each ship as the quiet dead,
Till the guns of El Fraile roared -- too late,
And the steel prows forged ahead.
Mute each ship as the mute-mouth grave,
A ghost leviathan cleaving the wave;
But deep in its heart the great fires throb,
The travailing engines rave.
The ponderous pistons urge like fate,
The red-throat furnaces roar elate,
And the sweating stokers stagger and swoon
In a heat more fierce than hate.
So through the dark we stole our way
Past the grim warders and into the bay,
Past Kalibuyo, and past Salinas, --
And came at the break of day
Where strong Cavite stood to oppose, --
Where, from a sheen of silver and rose,
A thronging of masts, a soaring of towers,
The beautiful city arose.
How fine and fair! But the shining air
With a thousand shattered thunders there
Flapped and reeled. For the fighting foe --
We had caught him in his lair.
Surprised, unready, his proud ships lay
Idly at anchor in Bakor Bay: --
Unready, surprised, but proudly bold,
Which was ever the Spaniard's way.
Then soon on his pride the dread doom fell,
Red doom, -- for the ruin of shot and shell
Lit every vomiting, bursting hulk
With a crimson reek of hell.
But to the brave though beaten, hail!
All hail to them that dare and fail!
To the dauntless boat that charged our fleet
And sank in the iron hail!
Manila Bay! Manila Bay!
How proud the song on our lips to-day!
A brave old song of the true and strong,
And the will that has its way;
Of the blood that told in the days of Drake
When the fight was good for the fighting's sake!
For the blood that fathered Farragut
Is the blood that fathered Blake;
And the pride of the blood will not be undone
While war's in the world and a fight to be won.
For the master now, as the master of old,
Is "the man behind the gun."
The dominant blood that daunts the foe,
That laughs at odds, and leaps to the blow, --
It is Dewey's glory to-day, as Nelson's
A hundred years ago!
Other Poems of Interest...