Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE BATTLE OF THE KEGS, by FRANCIS HOPKINSON



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THE BATTLE OF THE KEGS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Gallants, attend and hear a friend
Last Line: They'll make their boasts and brags, sir.
Variant Title(s): British Valor Displayed
Subject(s): American Revolution; Battleships; Great Britain - Civil War; Machinery & Machinists; Navy - United States; Patriotism; Soldiers; English Civil War; American Navy


GALLANTS attend, and hear a friend
Trill forth harmonious ditty;
Strange things I'll tell which late befel
In Philadelphia city.

'T was early day, as Poets say,
Just when the sun was rising,
A soldier stood on a log of wood,
And saw a sight surprising.

As in a maze he stood to gaze
(The truth can't be deny'd, Sir),
He spy'd a score of kegs, or more,
Come floating down the tide, Sir.

A sailor, too, in jerkin blue,
This strange appearance viewing,
First damn'd his eyes, in great surprise,
Then said "Some mischief's brewing:

"These kegs now hold, the rebels bold,
Packed up like pickl'd herring;
And they're come down t' attack the town
In this new way of ferry'ng."

The soldier flew, the sailor too,
And, scar'd almost to death, Sir,
Wore out their shoes to spread the news,
And ran 'til out of breath, Sir.

Now up and down, throughout the town
Most frantic scenes were acted;
And some ran here, and others there,
Like men almost distracted.

Some fire cry'd, which some deny'd,
But said the earth had quaked;
And girls and boys, with hideous noise,
Ran thro' the streets half naked.

Sir William he, snug as a flea,
Lay all this time a snoring;
Nor dream'd of harm as he lay warm
In bed with Mrs. Loring.

Now in a fright, he starts upright,
Awaked by such a clatter;
He rubs both eyes, and boldly cries,
"For God's sake, what's the matter?"

At his bedside he then espy'd,
Sir Erskine at command, Sir;
Upon one foot he had one boot,
And t' other in his hand, Sir.

"Arise, arise," Sir Erskine cries,
"The rebels -- more's the pity --
Without a boat, are all afloat,
And rang'd before the city.

"The motley crew, in vessels new,
With Satan for their guide, Sir,
Pack'd up in bags, and wooden kegs,
Come driving down the tide, Sir.

"Therefore prepare for bloody war;
These kegs must all be routed;
Or surely we dispis'd shall be,
And British valor doubted."

The royal band now ready stand,
All ranged in dread array, Sir,
On every slip, on every ship,
For to begin the fray, Sir.

The cannons roar from shore to shore;
The small-arms loud did rattle;
Since wars began I'm sure no man
E'er saw so strange a battle.

The rebel dales, the rebel vales,
With rebel trees surrounded,
The distant woods, the hills and floods,
With rebel echoes sounded.

The fish below swam to and fro,
Attack'd from every quarter;
Why, sure (thought they), the De'il's to pay
'Mong folks above the water.

The kegs, 't is said, though strongly made
Of rebel staves and hoops, Sir,
Could not oppose their pow'rful foes,
The conq'ering British troops, Sir.

From morn to night these men of might
Display'd amazing courage;
And when the sun was fairly down,
Retired to sup their porridge.

A hundred men, with each a pen,
Or more, upon my word, Sir,
It is most true, would be too few,
Their valor to record, Sir.

Such feats did they perform that day
Against these wicked kegs, Sir,
That years to come, if they get home,
They'll make their boasts and brags, Sir.





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