James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

September 22

Nathan Hale

By Joe Cone

I CAN see him, pale and slender,

Playing by his father’s door;

I can see him off for college

With that manly smile he wore,

Where he quaffed the cup of knowledge

Filled with freedom, truth and right

Where he caught the burning spirit

Which aroused men with its might.

I behold him now a teacher

Of the young and tender mind,

Winning love of child and parent

By his deeds and manners kind;

A companion of the pupil,

Of the aged none the less,

Idolized by every woman

For his grace and comeliness.

Here he lived as guide and teacher,

While the Revolution flame

Was as yet but dark and smould’ring,

And himself unknown to fame.

Here he strolled along the river

When his daily toil was o’er,

Growing strong in mind and body

For the future’s fateful store.

I behold him off to battle,

Now a comely youth and strong,

Filled with love of home and country,

Filled with hate of Britain’s wrong;

Now a captain of “The Rangers,”

Fearless, dashing, “Congress Own;”

Teaching men by bold example,

Bringing gloom to Britain’s throne.

I behold him in the harbor

On that well remembered night

With the British sloop in captive,

And the hungry men’s delight

As they seized the rich provisions,

Sweeter to a marked degree,

Knowing that they were intended

For their common enemy.

I can see him later passing

Through the British lines of steel,

Ever keen, alert, courageous,

Filled with patriotic zeal.

Then betrayal, and the capture,

And the gloom which spread afar

When ’twas feared the daring “Ranger”

Was a prisoner of war.

I behold now Rutger’s orchard

On that morning red with crime,

When they led him forth undaunted

Hard on Howe’s appointed time.

O the God of war that morning

Must have dropped a silent tear

When were burned before his vision

Messages to kindred dear.

But I see his eyes turn skyward

With a look of triumph there,

While his lips for one brief moment

Moved as if in silent prayer.

Then those burning words immortal,

Bringing shame to England’s crown:

“I regret that for my country

I’ve but one life to lay down!”