Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE RUSH OF THE OREGON, by ARTHUR GUITERMAN



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THE RUSH OF THE OREGON, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: They held her south to magellan's mouth
Last Line: For the chance of a bitter fight!
Subject(s): Oregon (ship); Santiago, Cuba; Spanish-american War (1898)


THEY held her South to Magellan's mouth,
Then East they steered her, forth
Through the farther gate of the crafty strait,
And then they held her North.

Six thousand miles to the Indian Isles!
And the Oregon rushed home,
Her wake a swirl of jade and pearl,
Her bow a bend of foam.

And when at Rio the cable sang,
"There is war! -- grim war with Spain!"
The swart crews grinned and stroked their guns
And thought on the mangled Maine.

In the glimmered gloom of the engine-room
There was joy to each grimy soul,
And fainting men sprang up again
And piled the blazing coal.

Good need was there to go with care;
But every sailor prayed
Or gun for gun, or six to one
To meet them, unafraid.

Her goal at last! With joyous blast
She hailed the welcoming roar
Of hungry sea-wolves curved along
The strong-hilled Cuban shore.

Long nights went by. Her beamed eye,
Unwavering, searched the bay
Where trapped and penned for a certain end
The Spanish squadron lay.

Out of the harbor a curl of smoke --
A watchful gun rang clear.
Out of the channel the squadron broke
Like a bevy of frightened deer.

Then there was shouting for "steam, more steam!"
And fires glowed white and red;
And guns were manned, and ranges planned,
And the great ships leaped ahead.

Then there was roaring of chorusing guns,
Shatter of shell, and spray;
And who but the rushing Oregon
Was fiercest in chase and fray!

For her mighty wake was a seething snake;
Her bow was a billow of foam;
Like the mailed fists of an angry wight
Her shot drove crashing home!

Pride of the Spanish navy, ho!
Flee like a hounded beast!
For the Ship of the Northwest strikes a blow
For the Ship of the far Northeast!

In quivering joy she surged ahead,
Aflame with flashing bars,
Till down sunk the Spaniard's gold and red
And up ran the Clustered Stars.

"Glory to share"? Aye, and to spare;
But the chiefest is hers by right
Of a rush of fourteen thousand miles
For the chance of a bitter fight!





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