Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE SURPRISE AT TICONDEROGA [MAY 10, 1775], by                    
First Line: Twas may upon the mountains, and on the airy wing
Last Line: Shine the names of ethan allen and his bold volunteers!
Subject(s): Allen, Ethan (1738-1789); American Revolution; Courage; Soldiers; Ticonderoga, Battle Of (1775); Valor; Bravery

'T WAS May upon the mountains, and on the airy wing
Of every floating zephyr came pleasant sounds of spring, --
Of robins in the orchards, brooks running clear and warm,
Or chanticleer's shrill challenge from busy farm to farm.

But, ranged in serried order, attent on sterner noise,
Stood stalwart Ethan Allen and his "Green Mountain Boys," --
Two hundred patriots listening, as with the ears of one,
To the echo of the muskets that blazed at Lexington!

"My comrades," -- thus the leader spake to his gallant band, --
"The key of all the Canadas is in King George's hand,
Yet, while his careless warders our slender armies mock,
Good Yankee swords -- God willing -- may pick his rusty lock!"

At every pass a sentinel was set to guard the way,
Lest the secret of their purpose some idle lip betray,
As on the rocky highway they marched with steady feet
To the rhythm of the brave hearts that in their bosoms beat.

The curtain of the darkness closed 'round them like a tent,
When, travel-worn and weary, yet not with courage spent,
They halted on the border of slumbering Champlain,
And saw the watch lights glimmer across the glassy plain.

O proud Ticonderoga, enthroned amid the hills!
O bastions of old Carillon, the "Fort of Chiming Rills!"
Well might your quiet garrison have trembled where they lay,
And, dreaming, grasped their sabres against the dawn of day!

In silence and in shadow the boats were pushed from shore,
Strong hands laid down the musket to ply the muffled oar;
The startled ripples whitened and whispered in their wake,
Then sank again, reposing, upon the peaceful lake.

Fourscore and three they landed, just as the morning gray
Gave warning on the hilltops to rest not or delay;
Behind, their comrades waited, the fortress frowned before,
And the voice of Ethan Allen was in their ears once more:

"Soldiers, so long united -- dread scourge of lawless power!
Our country, torn and bleeding, calls to this desperate hour.
One choice alone is left us, who hear that high behest --
To quit our claims to valor, or put them to the test!

"I lead the storming column up yonder fateful hill,
Yet not a man shall follow save at his ready will!
There leads no pathway backward -- 't is death or victory!
Poise each his trusty firelock, ye that will come with me!"

From man to man a tremor ran at their captain's word
(Like the "going" in the mulberry-trees that once King
David heard), --
While his eagle glances sweeping adown the triple line,
Saw, in the glowing twilight, each even barrel shine!

"Right face, my men, and forward!" Lowspoken, swift-obeyed!
They mount the slope unfaltering -- they gain the esplanade!
A single drowsy sentry beside the wicket-gate,
Snapping his aimless fusil, shouts the alarm -- too late!

They swarm before the barracks -- the quaking guards take flight,
And such a shout resultant resounds along the height,
As rang from shore and headland scarce twenty years ago,
When brave Montcalm's defenders charged on a British foe!

Leaps from his bed in terror the ill-starred Delaplace,
To meet across his threshold a wall he may not pass!
The bayonets' lightning flashes athwart his dazzled eyes,
And, in tones of sudden thunder, "Surrender!" Allen cries.

"Then in whose name the summons?" the ashen lips reply.
The mountaineer's stern visage turns proudly to the sky, --
"In the name of great Jehovah!" he speaks with lifted sword,
"And the Continental Congress, who wait upon his word!"

Light clouds, like crimson banners, trailed bright across the east,
As the great sun rose in splendor above a conflict ceased,
Gilding the bloodless triumph for equal rights and laws,
As with the smile of heaven upon a holy cause.

Still, wave on wave of verdure, the emerald hills arise,
Where once were heroes mustered from men of common guise,
And still, on Freedom's roster, through all her glorious years,
Shine the names of Ethan Allen and his bold volunteers!

Discover our Poem Explanations and Poet Analyses!

Other Poems of Interest...

Home: PoetryExplorer.net