Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, DEWEY AT MANILA [MAY 1, 1898], by ROBERT UNDERWOOD JOHNSON



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DEWEY AT MANILA [MAY 1, 1898], by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Twas the very verge of may
Last Line: Must be wise as well as brave.
Subject(s): Dewey, George (1837-1917); Manila, Philippines; Patriotism; Spanish-american War (1898)


'T WAS the very verge of May
When the bold Olympia led
Into Bocagrande Bay
Dewey's squadron, dark and dread, --
Creeping past Corregidor,
Guardian of Manila's shore.

Do they sleep who wait the fray?
Is the moon so dazzling bright
That our cruisers' battle-gray
Melts into the misty light? ...
Ah! the red flash and the roar!
Wakes at last Corregidor!

All too late their screaming shell
Tears the silence with its track;
This is but the gate of hell,
We've no leisure to turn back.
Answer, Concord! -- then once more
Slumber on, Corregidor!

And as, like a slowing tide,
Onward still the vessels creep,
Dewey, watching, falcon-eyed,
Orders, -- "Let the gunners sleep;
For we meet a foe at four
Fiercer than Corregidor."

Well they slept, for well they knew
What the morrow taught us all, --
He was wise (as well as true)
Thus upon the foe to fall.
Long shall Spain the day deplore
Dewey ran Corregidor.

May is dancing into light
As the Spanish Admiral
From a dream of phantom fight
Wakens at his sentry's call.
Shall he leave Cavite's lee,
Hunt the Yankee fleet at sea?

O Montojo, to thy deck,
That to-day shall float its last!
Quick! To quarters! Yonder speck
Grows a hull of portent vast.
Hither, toward Cavite's lee
Comes the Yankee hunting thee!

Not for fear of hidden mine
Halts our doughty Commodore.
He, of old heroic line,
Follows Farragut once more,
Hazards all on victory,
Here within Cavite's lee.

If he loses, all is gone;
He will win because he must.
And the shafts of yonder dawn
Are not quicker than his thrust.
Soon, Montojo, he shall be
With thee in Cavite's lee.

Now, Manila, to the fray!
Show the hated Yankee host
This is not a holiday, --
Spanish blood is more than boast.
Fleet and mine and battery,
Crush him in Cavite's lee!

Lo, hell's geysers at our fore
Pierce the plotted path -- in vain,
Nerving every man the more
With the memory of the Maine!
Now at last our guns are free
Here within Cavite's lee.

"Gridley," says the Commodore,
"You may fire when ready." Then
Long and loud, like lions' roar
When a rival dares the den,
Breaks the awful cannonry
Full across Cavite's lee.

Who shall tell the daring tale
Of our Thunderbolt's attack,
Finding, when the chart should fail,
By the lead his dubious track,
Five ships following faithfully
Five times o'er Cavite's lee;

Of our gunners' deadly aim;
Of the gallant foe and brave
Who, unconquered, faced with flame,
Seek the mercy of the wave, --
Choosing honor in the sea
Underneath Cavite's lee?

Let the meed the victors gain
Be the measure of their task.
Less of flinching, stouter strain,
Fiercer combat -- who could ask?
And "surrender," -- 't was a word
That Cavite ne'er had heard.

Noon, -- the woful work is done!
Not a Spanish ship remains;
But, of their eleven, none
Ever was so truly Spain's!
Which is prouder, they or we,
Thinking of Cavite's lee?

ENVOY

But remember, when we've ceased
Giving praise and reckoning odds,
Man shares courage with the beast,
Wisdom cometh from the gods.
Who would win, on land or wave,
Must be wise as well as brave.





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