Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, FIRST FRUITS IN 1812 [AUGUST 19, 1812], by WALLACE RICE



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FIRST FRUITS IN 1812 [AUGUST 19, 1812], by             Poet's Biography
First Line: What is that a-billowing there
Last Line: Found a prize, a bully battle, and a breeze!
Alternate Author Name(s): Groot, Cecil De
Subject(s): Constitution (ship); Guerriere (ship); Hull, Isaac (1773-1843); Navy - United States; Sea Battles; War Of 1812; American Navy; Naval Warfare


WHAT is that a-billowing there
Like a thunderhead in 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 the 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.

'T is 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 gayly 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 sha'n't begin our task?
Captain Hull sends back each time the answer No;
Till to 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.

'T is but half an hour, bare,
When that pretty Guerriere
Not a stick calls hers aloft or hers alow,
Save the mizzen's shattered mast,
Where her "meteor 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 is that a-billowing there
Like a thunderhead in air?
Why should such a sight be whitening the seas?
That's Old Ir'nsides, trim and taut,
And she's found the things she sought --
Found a prize, a bully battle, and a breeze!





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