Poems That Every Child Should Know/Old Ironsides
"Old Ironsides," by Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-94), is learned readily. Children are untouched by the commercial spirit which is the reproach of this age. "Ingratitude is the vice of republics," and this poem puts to shame the love of money and the spirit of ingratitude that could let a national servant become a wreck.
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 heroes' 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!
O, better that her shattered hulk
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!
Oliver Wendell Holmes.