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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

New England: New London, Conn.

Plowden Halsey

By Caroline Frances Orne (1818–1905)


LIVE the name of Plowden Halsey!

Honor to his hero soul!

Tell the old and noble story,

Wreathe his name with fresher glory,

As the ages roll.

Off the harbor of New London

Lay a British man-of-war;

By her force our troops annoying,

And our commerce still destroying,

Driving it afar.

Who will, in the dread torpedo

Sinking down her hull beneath,

Screw the magazine tremendous,

Whose explosive force stupendous

Scatters all in death?

“I will go,” said Plowden Halsey,

With the red flush on his cheek;

And his slender form grew stately:

All around him wondered greatly,

As they heard him speak.

“I will go,” said Plowden Halsey,

“Some heart must the peril brave.

Never say that fear appalls me.

Let me go; my country calls me,

Honored, if I save.

“Let me go; and, safe returning,

Life has higher power to bless.

Let me go; and, even if failing,

Take this comfort mid bewailing,—

Noble failure is success.”


Oh, the night was wild and stormy!

Shrouding mists came closely down;

Thick the murky air was glooming,

And the sullen waves were booming;

Dark the tempest’s frown.

Out into the formless darkness

Strong hands bent the springing oar;

Died away the friendly voices,

Hushed were all the murmured noises;

Died the lights on shore.

Underneath the tall mast’s shadow

Rowing close, the youth they left;

From the peril still unshrinking,

In the fatal engine sinking,

Under-waves he cleft.

Poured the rain in rushing torrents,

Down the darkness driven aslope;

Comrades, mid the wild commotion,

Watched the deed of stern devotion

Fearful, yet with hope.

Ha! the ship has caught the danger!

Lights are hurrying from below!

Peals the alarm-gun! Men are leaping

Into the boats! With swift oars sweeping

Out, to seize the foe.

Closer round they draw the circle,—

Have they won the fearful prize?

Louder than the pealing thunder,

Bursting all the waves asunder,

Flaming on the skies,

Comes the terrible explosion!

Vast and hollow is the square

Where the many boats were sailing,

And the awful light is paling,

And no boats are there!

Reels the ship in foaming waters,

Lashing furious to the shore;

And the storm-rage grows intenser,

And the darkness gathers denser,

Denser than before.

Where is noble Plowden Halsey?

Vainly do his comrades row

All the night. O night appalling!

Irresponsive to their calling,

Plowden sleeps below.