Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, REUBEN JAMES, by JAMES JEFFREY ROCHE



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REUBEN JAMES, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Three ships of war had preble when he left the naples shore
Last Line: For god never ranks his sailors by the register of earth!
Subject(s): Decatur, Stephen (1779-1820); James, Reuben; Navy - United States; Pirates; Sailing & Sailors; Tripoli; American Navy; Piracy; Buccaneers; Seamen; Sails


THREE ships of war had Preble when he left the Naples shore,
And the knightly king of Naples lent him seven galleys more,
And never since the Argo floated in the middle sea
Such noble men and valiant have sailed in company
As the men who went with Preble to the siege of Tripoli.
Stewart, Bainbridge, Hull, Decatur -- how their names ring
out like gold! --
Lawrence, Porter, Trippe, Macdonough, and a score as true and bold;
Every star that lights their banner tells the glory that they won;
But one common sailor's glory is the splendor of the sun.

Reuben James was first to follow when Decatur laid aboard
Of the lofty Turkish galley and in battle broke his sword.
Then the pirate captain smote him, till his blood was running fast,
And they grappled and they struggled, and they fell beside the mast.
Close behind him Reuben battled with a dozen, undismayed,
Till a bullet broke his sword-arm, and he dropped the useless blade.
Then a swinging Turkish sabre clove his left and brought him low,
Like a gallant bark, dismasted, at the mercy of the foe.
Little mercy knows the corsair: high his blade was raised to slay,
When a richer prize allured him where Decatur struggling lay.
"Help!" the Turkish leader shouted, and his trusty comrade sprung,
And his scimetar like lightning o'er the Yankee captain swung.

Reuben James, disabled, armless, saw the sabre flashed on high,
Saw Decatur shrink before it, heard the pirate's taunting cry,
Saw, in half the time I tell it, how a sailor brave and true
Still might show a bloody pirate what a dying man can do.
Quick he struggled, stumbling, sliding in the blood around his feet,
As the Turk a moment waited to make vengeance doubly sweet.
Swift the sabre fell, but swifter bent the sailor's head below,
And upon his 'fenceless forehead Reuben James received the blow!

So was saved our brave Decatur; so the common sailor died;
So the love that moves the lowly lifts the great to fame and pride.
Yet we grudge him not his honors, for whom love like this had birth --
For God never ranks His sailors by the Register of earth!





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