Old Ironsides

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Old Ironsides  (1830) 
by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Written on September 16, 1830, as a tribute to the frigate USS Constitution. Thanks in part to the poem, it was saved from being decommissioned, and is now the oldest commissioned warship in the world still afloat.

Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
    Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
    That banner in the sky;
Beneath it rung the battle shout,
    And burst the cannon's roar;
The meteor of the ocean air
    Shall sweep the clouds no more.

Her deck, once red with period blood,
    Where knelt the vanquished foe,
When winds were hurrying o'er the flood,
    And waves were white below,
No more shall feel the victor's tread,
    Or know the conquered knee;
The harpies of the shore shall pluck
    The eagle of the sea!

Oh, better that her shattered bulk
    Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
    And there should be her grave;
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
    Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
    The lightning and the gale!

This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.