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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Cumberland

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

[From Poetical Works. 1887.]

AT anchor in Hampton Roads we lay,

On board of the Cumberland, sloop-of-war;

And at times from the fortress across the bay

The alarum of drums swept past,

Or a bugle blast

From the camp on the shore.

Then far away to the south uprose

A little feather of snow-white smoke,

And we knew that the iron ship of our foes

Was steadily steering its course

To try the force

Of our ribs of oak.

Down upon us heavily runs,

Silent and sullen, the floating fort;

Then comes a puff of smoke from her guns,

And leaps the terrible death,

With fiery breath,

From each open port.

We are not idle, but send her straight

Defiance back in a full broadside!

As hail rebounds from a roof of slate,

Rebounds our heavier hail

From each iron scale

Of the monster’s hide.

“Strike your flag!” the rebel cries,

In his arrogant old plantation strain.

“Never!” our gallant Morris replies;

“It is better to sink than to yield!”

And the whole air pealed

With the cheers of our men.

Then, like a kraken huge and black,

She crushed our ribs in her iron grasp!

Down went the Cumberland all a wrack,

With a sudden shudder of death,

And the cannon’s breath

For her dying gasp.

Next morn, as the sun rose over the bay,

Still floated our flag at the mainmast head.

Lord, how beautiful was Thy day!

Every waft of the air

Was a whisper of prayer,

Or a dirge for the dead.

Ho! brave hearts that went down in the seas!

Ye are at peace in the troubled stream;

Ho! brave land! with hearts like these,

Thy flag, that is rent in twain,

Shall be one again,

And without a seam!