“Old Ironsides” ~ the Eagle of the Sea

U.S. Navy image

The USS Constitution was one of the original six frigates of the United States Navy, commissioned by the Naval Act of 1794. “Old Ironsides” was the nickname given to this 18th century frigate during the War of 1812 after its naval battle with the HMS Guerriere. In 1830 it seemed that the Navy might decommission – then physically scrap  the USS Constitution.  It was brought to national attention by the poem “Old Ironsides” –  written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. as a tribute to the eighteenth-century frigate. So thanks in part to the poem, she was saved from being decommissioned and is now the oldest commissioned ship in the world still afloat. The USS Constitution – has been designated “America’s Ship of State” – the only ship so called anywhere in the world. Built in Boston, Constitution is berthed at Pier 1 of the former Charlestown Navy Yard – Constitution is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Today, according to a story in the Boston Globe the USS Constitution played host to and honors the Boston Marathon bombing first responders “the US Navy  honored close to 400 law enforcement and medical personnel for their response during the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings and the subsequent manhunt for the two suspects. The first responders gathered this morning aboard the USS Constitution for a cruise of Boston Harbor and to remember the bombing victims.” http://www.boston.com/metrodesk/2013/06/04/navy-honors-boston-marathon-bombing-first-responders-with-cruise-old-ironsides/etsHpfbOHaCQyVrLzstZgO/story.html

“Old Ironsides”   by Oliver Wendell Holmes                    (1809-1894)

Y, 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!
Oh, 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 of the gale!

One Response to “Old Ironsides” ~ the Eagle of the Sea

  1. Steve says:

    The voice in my head that I hear declaiming that poem is Richard Burton’s.
    Great stuff.