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The Constitution Is Still Sound


The USS Constitution goes out for an unassisted sail today, in honor of its victory two hundred years ago over HMS Guerriere. It was the first piece of good news in the War of 1812, which started off with a blizzard of bad news.

The proposal to scrap the ship prompted the following poem, unbeatable of its kind.

Old Ironsides

By Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

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 thread-bare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,—
   The lightning and the gale!


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