Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, FORT GRISWOLD, SEPT. 6, 1781, by JOHN GARDINER CALKINS BRAINARD



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FORT GRISWOLD, SEPT. 6, 1781, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: What seek ye here - ye desperate band?
Last Line: Beside the fisher's bay.
Subject(s): American Revolution


WHAT seek ye here -- ye desperate band?
Why on this rough and rocky land,
With sly and muffled oar,--
Why in this red and bright array
Stealing along the fisher's bay
Pull ye your boats to shore?
Day broke upon that gentlest Sound
Sequestered, that the sea has found
In its adventurous roam,
A halcyon surface --pure and deep,
And placid as an Infant's sleep
Cradled and rocked at home.
What wakes the sleeper? Harm is near --
That strange rough whisper in his ear,
It is a murderer's breath;
A thousand bayonets are bright
Beneath the blessed morning's light,
Moving to blood and death.
Land ye and march --but bid farewell
To this lone Sound, its coming swell
May moan when none can save;
Many shall go, and few return,
That rock shall be your only urn,
That sand your only grave.
Across the river's placid tide,
With steady stroke is seen to glide
A little vent'rous boat:
'T was like the cloud Elijah saw,
Small as his hand, yet soon to draw
Its quivered lightnings out.
'T was like that cloud, for in it went
A heart to spend and to be spent
Till the last drop was shed;
'T was like that cloud, it had a hand
That o'er its loved, its native land
A shadow broad has spread.
Ledyard! thy morning thought was brave,
To fight, to conquer, and to save,
Or fearlessly to die;
Well didst thou hold that feeling true,--
Didst well that purpose bold pursue
Till death closed down thine eye.
I dare not tell in these poor rhymes
That bloody tale of butchering times--
'T is too well known to all;
I write not of the foeman's path,
I write not of the battle's wrath,
But of the Hero's fall.
He sleeps where many brave men sleep--
Near Groton heights -- and nibbling sheep
Their grassy graves have found;
But some, they are a few, are laid
Beneath a little swarded glade
On Fisher's Island sound.
The Sound is peaceful now, as when
It saw that armed array of men;
And one old fisher there
Gave me this tale-- 't was he who told
The rough, the headlong, and the bold,
How their rash fight should fare.
He too is dead; and most are dead
Who stood or fell, who fought or fled
On that September day.
Old man! thy bones are gently laid
Close by yon shattered oak tree's shade,
Beside the fisher's bay.






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