O thou whose care sustained my infant years,
     And taught my prattling lip each note of love;
Whose soothing voice breathed comfort to my fears,
     And round my brow hope’s brightest garland wove;

To thee my lay is due, the simple song,
     Which Nature gave me at life’s opening day;
To thee these rude, these untaught strains belong,
     Whose heart indulgent will not spurn my lay.

O say, amid this wilderness of life,
     What bosom would have throbbed like thine for me?
Who would have smiled responsive?—who in grief,
     Would e’er have felt, and, feeling, grieved like thee?

Who would have guarded, with a falcon-eye,
     Each trembling footstep or each sport of fear?
Who would have marked my bosom bounding high,
     And clasped me to her heart, with love’s bright tear?

Who would have hung around my sleepless couch,
     And fanned, with anxious hand, my burning brow?
Who would have fondly pressed my fevered lip,
     In all the agony of love and wo?

None but a mother—none but one like thee,
     Whose bloom has faded in the midnight watch;
Whose eye, for me, has lost its witchery,
     Whose form has felt disease’s mildew touch.

Yes, thou hast lighted me to health and life,
     By the bright lustre of thy youthful bloom—
Yes, thou hast wept so oft o’er every grief,
     That wo hath traced thy brow with marks of gloom.

O then, to thee, this rude and simple song,
     Which breathes of thankfulness and love for thee,
To thee, my mother, shall this lay belong,
     Whose life is spent in toil and care for me.

This poem is in the public domain. 

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,
Make me a child again just for tonight!
Mother, come back from the echoless shore,
Take me again to your heart as of yore;
Kiss from my forehead the furrows of care,
Smooth the few silver threads out of my hair;
Over my slumbers your loving watch keep;—      
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

Backward, flow backward, O tide of the years!
I am so weary of toil and of tears,—      
Toil without recompense, tears all in vain,—   
Take them, and give me my childhood again!
I have grown weary of dust and decay,—   
Weary of flinging my soul-wealth away;
Weary of sowing for others to reap;—   
Rock me to sleep, mother — rock me to sleep!

Tired of the hollow, the base, the untrue,
Mother, O mother, my heart calls for you!
Many a summer the grass has grown green,
Blossomed and faded, our faces between:
Yet, with strong yearning and passionate pain,
Long I tonight for your presence again.
Come from the silence so long and so deep;—   
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

Over my heart, in the days that are flown,
No love like mother-love ever has shone;
No other worship abides and endures,—      
Faithful, unselfish, and patient like yours:
None like a mother can charm away pain
From the sick soul and the world-weary brain.
Slumber’s soft calms o’er my heavy lids creep;—      
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

Come, let your brown hair, just lighted with gold,
Fall on your shoulders again as of old;
Let it drop over my forehead tonight,
Shading my faint eyes away from the light;
For with its sunny-edged shadows once more
Haply will throng the sweet visions of yore;
Lovingly, softly, its bright billows sweep;—   
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

Mother, dear mother, the years have been long
Since I last listened your lullaby song:
Sing, then, and unto my soul it shall seem
Womanhood’s years have been only a dream.
Clasped to your heart in a loving embrace,
With your light lashes just sweeping my face,
Never hereafter to wake or to weep;—      
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep! 

This poem is in the public domain.

Canto I.—The Capture

Amid these ills no tyrant dared refuse
My right to pen the dictates of the muse,
To paint the terrors of the infernal place,
And fiends from Europe, insolent as base.



  Assist me, Clio! while in verse I tell
The dire misfortunes that a ship befell,
Which outward bound, to St. Eustatia's shore,
Death and disaster through the billows bore.
  From Philadelphia's crowded port she came;
For there the builder plann'd her lofty frame,
With wond'rous skill, and excellence of art
He form'd, dispos'd, and order'd every part,
With joy beheld the stately fabric rise
To a stout bulwark of stupendous size,
'Till launch'd at last, capacious of the freight,
He left her to the Pilots, and her fate.
  First from her depths the tapering masts ascend,
On whose firm bulk the transverse yards depend,
By shrouds and stays secur'd from side to side
Trees grew on trees, suspended o'er the tide,
Firm to the yards extended, broad and vast
They hung the sails susceptive of the blast,
Far o'er the prow the lengthy bowsprit lay,
Supporting on the extreme the taught Gib-stay,
Twice ten six pounders at their port holes plac'd
And rang'd in rows, stood hostile in the waist:
Thus all prepar'd, impatient for the seas,
She left her station with an adverse breeze,
This her first outset from her native shore,
To seas a stranger, and untry'd before.
  From the bright radiance that his glories spread
Ere from the east gay Phœbus lifts his head,
From the sweet morn, a kindred name she won,
Aurora call'd, the offspring of the sun,
Whose form projecting, the broad prow displays,
Far glittering o'er the wave, a mimic blaze.
  The gay ship now, in all her pomp and pride,
With sails expanded, flew along the tide;
'Twas thy deep stream, O Delaware, that bore
This pile intended for a southern shore,
Bound to those isles where endless summer reigns,
Fair fruits, gay blossoms, and enamell'd plains;
Where sloping lawns the roving swain invite,
And the cool morn succeeds the breezy night,
Where each glad day a heaven unclouded brings
And sky-topt mountains teem with golden springs.
  From Cape Henlopen, urg'd by favouring gales,
When morn emerg'd, we sea-ward spread our sails,
Then east-south-east explor'd the briny way,
Close to the wind, departing from the bay;
No longer seen the hoarse resounding strand,
With hearts elate we hurried from the land,
Escap'd the dangers of that shelvy ground,
To sailors fatal, and for wrecks renown'd.—
  The gale increases as we stem the main,
Now scarce the hills their sky-blue mist retain,
At last they sink beneath the rolling wave
That seems their summits, as they sink, to lave;
Abaft the beam the freshening breezes play,
No mists advancing to deform the day,
No tempests rising o'er the splendid scene,
A sea unruffled, and a heaven serene.
  Now Sol's bright lamp, the heav'n born source of light,
Had pass'd the line of his meridian height,
And westward hung—retreating from the view
Shores disappear'd, and every hill withdrew,
When, still suspicious of some neighbouring foe,
Aloft the Master bade a Seaman go,
To mark if, from the mast's aspiring height
Through all the round a vessel came in sight.
  Too soon the Seaman's glance, extending wide,
Far distant in the east a ship espy'd,
Her lofty masts stood bending to the gale,
Close to the wind was brac'd each shivering sail;
Next from the deck we saw the approaching foe,
Her spangled bottom seem'd in flames to glow
When to the winds she bow'd in dreadful haste
And her lee-guns lay delug'd in the waste:
From her top-gallant flow'd an English Jack;
With all her might she strove to gain our track,
Nor strove in vain—with pride and power elate,
Wing'd on by hell, she drove us to our fate;
No stop no stay her bloody crew intends,
(So flies a comet with its host of fiends)
Nor oaths, nor prayers arrest her swift career,
Death in her front, and ruin in her rear.
  Struck at the sight, the Master gave command
To change our course, and steer toward the land—
Swift to the task the ready sailors run,
And while the word was utter'd, half was done:
As from the south the fiercer breezes rise
Swift from her foe alarm'd Aurora flies,
With every sail extended to the wind
She fled the unequal foe that chac'd behind;
Along her decks dispos'd in close array
Each at its port, the grim artillery lay,
Soon on the foe with brazen throat to roar;
But, small their size, and narrow was their bore;
Yet faithful they their destin'd station keep
To guard the barque that wafts them o'er the deep,
Who now must bend to steer a homeward course
And trust her swiftness rather than her force,
Unfit to combat with a powerful foe;
Her decks too open, and her waist too low.
  While o'er the wave with foaming prow she flies,
Once more emerging, distant landscapes rise;
High in the air the starry streamer plays,
And every sail its various tribute pays:
To gain the land we bore the weighty blast;
And now the wish'd for cape appear'd at last;
But the vext foe, impatient of delay,
Prepar'd for ruin, press'd upon her prey;
Near, and more near, in aweful grandeur came
The frigate Iris, not unknown to fame;
Iris her name, but Hancock once she bore,
Fram'd and completed on New Albion's shore,
By Manly lost, the swiftest of the train
That fly with wings of canvas o'er the main.
  Now, while for combat some with zeal prepare,
Thus to the heavens the Boatswain sent his prayer:
"List, all ye powers that rule the skies and seas!
"Shower down perdition on such thieves as these,
"Fate, strike their hearts with terror and dismay,
"And sprinkle on their powder salt-sea spray!
"May bursting cannon, while his aim he tries,
"Destroy the Gunner, and be-damn his eyes—
"The chief who awes the quarter-deck, may he,
"Tripp'd from his stand, be tumbled in the sea.
"May they who rule the round-top's giddy height
"Be canted headlong to perpetual night;
"May fiends torment them on a leeward coast,
"And help forsake them when they want it most—
"From their wheel'd engines torn be every gun—
"And now, to sum up every curse in one,
"May latent flames, to save us, intervene,
"And hell-ward drive them from their magazine!"—
The Frigate now had every sail unfurl'd,
And rush'd tremendous o'er the wat'ry world;
Thus fierce Pelides, eager to destroy,
Chac'd the proud Trojan to the gates of Troy—
Swift o'er the waves while hostile they pursue
As swiftly from their fangs Aurora flew,
At length Henlopen's cape we gain'd once more,
And vainly strove to force the ship ashore;
Stern fate forbade the barren shore to gain,
Denial sad, and source of future pain!
For then the inspiring breezes ceas'd to blow,
Lost were they all, and smooth the seas below;
By the broad cape becalm'd, our lifeless sails
No longer swell'd their bosoms to the gales;
The ship, unable to pursue her way,
Tumbling about, at her own guidance lay,
No more the helm its wonted influence lends,
No oars assist us, and no breeze befriends;
Meantime the foe, advancing from the sea,
Rang'd her black cannon, pointed on our lee,
Then up she luff'd, and blaz'd her entrails dire,
Bearing destruction, terror, death and fire.
  Vext at our fate, we prim'd a piece, and then
Return'd the shot, to shew them we were men.
Dull night at length her dusky pinions spread,
And every hope to 'scape the foe was fled;
Close to thy cape, Henlopen, though we press'd,
We could not gain thy desert, dreary breast;
Though ruin'd trees beshroud thy barren shore
With mounds of sand half hid, or cover'd o'er,
Though ruffian winds disturb thy summit bare,
Yet every hope and every wish was there;
In vain we sought to reach the joyless strand,
Fate stood between, and barr'd us from the land.
  All dead becalm'd, and helpless as we lay,
The ebbing current forc'd us back to sea,
While vengeful Iris, thirsting for our blood,
Flash'd her red lightnings o'er the trembling flood,
At every flash a storm of ruin came
'Till our shock'd vessel shook through all her frame—
Mad for revenge, our breasts with fury glow
To wreak returns of vengeance on the foe;
Full at his hull our pointed guns we rais'd,
His hull resounded as the cannon blaz'd;
Through his main top-sail one a passage tore,
His sides re-echo'd to the dreadful roar,
Alternate fires dispell'd the shades of night—
But how unequal was this daring fight!
Our stoutest guns threw but a six-pound ball,
Twelve pounders from the foe our sides did maul,
And, while no power to save him intervenes,
A bullet struck our captain of Marines;
Fierce, though he bid defiance to the foe
He felt his death and ruin in the blow,
Headlong he fell, distracted with the wound,
The deck distain'd, and heart blood streaming round.
Another blast, as fatal in its aim,
Wing'd by destruction, through our rigging came,
And, whistling tunes from hell upon its way,
Shrouds, stays, and braces tore at once away,
Sails, blocks, and oars in scatter'd fragments fly—
Their softest language was—submit, or die!
  Repeated cries throughout the ship resound;
Now every bullet brought a different wound;
'Twixt wind and water, one assail'd the side,
Through this aperture rush'd the briny tide—
'Twas then the Master trembled for his crew,
And bade thy shores, O Delaware, adieu!—
And must we yield to yon' destructive ball,
And must our colours to these ruffians fall!—
They fall!—his thunders forc'd our pride to bend,
The lofty topsails with their yards descend,
And the proud foe, such leagues of ocean pass'd,
His wish completed in our woe at last.
  Convey'd to York, we found, at length, too late,
That Death was better than the prisoner's fate;
There doom'd to famine, shackles and despair,
Condemn'd to breathe a foul, infected air
In sickly hulks, devoted while we lay,
Successive funerals gloom'd each dismal day—
But what on captives British rage can do,
Another Canto, friend, shall let you know.


Canto II.—The Prison Ship

  The various horrors of these hulks to tell,
These Prison Ships where pain and horror dwell,
Where death in tenfold vengeance holds his reign,
And injur'd ghosts, yet unaveng'd, complain;
This be my task—ungenerous Britons, you
Conspire to murder those you can't subdue.—
  Weak as I am, I'll try my strength to-day
And my best arrows at these hell-hounds play,
To future years one scene of death prolong,
And hang them up to infamy, in song.
  That Britain's rage should dye our plains with gore,
And desolation spread through every shore,
None e'er could doubt, that her ambition knew,
This was to rage and disappointment due;
But that those monsters whom our soil maintain'd,
Who first drew breath in this devoted land,
Like famish'd wolves, should on their country prey,
Assist its foes, and wrest our lives away,
This shocks belief—and bids our soil disown
Such friends, subservient to a bankrupt crown,
By them the widow mourns her partner dead,
Her mangled sons to darksome prisons led,
By them—and hence my keenest sorrows rise,
My friend, my guardian, my Orestes dies;
Still for that loss must wretched I complain,
And sad Ophelia mourn her favourite swain.
  Ah! come the day when from this bloody shore
Fate shall remove them to return no more—
To scorch'd Bahama shall the traitors go
With grief and rage, and unremitting woe,
On burning sands to walk their painful round,
And sigh through all the solitary ground,
Where no gay flower their haggard eyes shall see,
And find no shade but from the cypress tree.
  So much we suffer'd from the tribe I hate,
So near they shov'd me to the brink of fate,
When two long months in these dark hulks we lay,
Barr'd down by night, and fainting all the day
In the fierce fervours of the solar beam,
Cool'd by no breeze on Hudson's mountain-stream;
That not unsung these threescore days shall fall
To black oblivion that would cover all!—
  No masts or sails these crowded ships adorn,
Dismal to view, neglected and forlorn!
Here, mighty ills oppress the imprison'd throng,
Dull were our slumbers, and our nights too long—
From morn to eve along the decks we lay
Scorch'd into fevers by the solar ray;
No friendly awning cast a welcome shade,
Once was it promis'd, and was never made;
No favours could these sons of death bestow,
'Twas endless cursing, and continual woe:
Immortal hatred doth their breasts engage,
And this lost empire swells their souls with rage.
  Two hulks on Hudson's stormy bosom lie,
Two, farther south, affront the pitying eye—
There, the black Scorpion at her mooring rides,
There, Strombolo swings, yielding to the tides;
Here, bulky Jersey fills a larger space,
And Hunter, to all hospitals disgrace—
Thou, Scorpion, fatal to thy crowded throng,
Dire theme of horror and Plutonian song,
Requir'st my lay—thy sultry decks I know,
And all the torments that exist below!
The briny wave that Hudson's bosom fills
Drain'd through her bottom in a thousand rills,
Rotten and old, replete with sighs and groans,
Scarce on the waters she sustain'd her bones;
Here, doom'd to toil, or founder in the tide,
At the moist pumps incessantly we ply'd,
Here, doom'd to starve, like famish'd dogs we tore
The scant allowance, that our tyrants bore.
  Remembrance shudders at this scene of fears—
Still in my view some English brute appears,
Some base-born Hessian slave walks threat'ning by,
Some servile Scot with murder in his eye
Still haunts my sight, as vainly they bemoan
Rebellions manag'd so unlike their own!
O may I never feel the poignant pain
To live subjected to such fiends again,
Stewards and Mates that hostile Britain bore,
Cut from the gallows on their native shore;
Their ghastly looks and vengeance-beaming eyes
Still to my view in dismal colours rise—
O may I ne'er review these dire abodes,
These piles for slaughter, floating on the floods,—
And you, that o'er the troubled ocean go,
Strike not your standards to this miscreant foe,
Better the greedy wave should swallow all,
Better to meet the death-conducted ball,
Better to sleep on ocean's deepest bed,
At once destroy'd and number'd with the dead,
Than thus to perish in the face of day
Where twice ten thousand deaths one death delay.
  When to the ocean dives the western sun,
And the scorch'd Tories fire their evening gun,
"Down, rebels, down!" the angry Scotchmen cry,
"Damn'd dogs, descend, or by our broad swords die!"
  Hail, dark abode! what can with thee compare—
Heat, sickness, famine, death, and stagnant air—
Pandora's box, from whence all mischief flew,
Here real found, torments mankind anew!—
Swift from the guarded decks we rush'd along,
And vainly sought repose, so vast our throng:
Three hundred wretches here, denied all light,
In crowded mansions pass the infernal night,
Some for a bed their tatter'd vestments join,
And some on chests, and some on floors recline;
Shut from the blessings of the evening air,
Pensive we lay with mingled corpses there,
Meagre and wan, and scorch'd with heat below,
We loom'd like ghosts, ere death had made us so—
How could we else, where heat and hunger join'd
Thus to debase the body and the mind,
Where cruel thirst the parching throat invades,
Dries up the man, and fits him for the shades.
  No waters laded from the bubbling spring
To these dire ships the British monsters bring—
By planks and ponderous beams completely wall'd
In vain for water, and in vain, I call'd—
No drop was granted to the midnight prayer,
To Dives in these regions of despair!—
The loathsome cask a deadly dose contains,
Its poison circling through the languid veins;
"Here, generous Britain, generous, as you say,
"To my parch'd tongue one cooling drop convey,
"Hell has no mischief like a thirsty throat,
"Nor one tormentor like your David Sproat."
Dull flew the hours, till, from the East display'd,
Sweet morn dispells the horrors of the shade;
On every side dire objects meet the sight,
And pallid forms, and murders of the night,
The dead were past their pain, the living groan,
Nor dare to hope another morn their own;
But what to them is morn's delightful ray,
Sad and distressful as the close of day,
O'er distant streams appears the dewy green,
And leafy trees on mountain tops are seen,
But they no groves nor grassy mountains tread,
Mark'd for a longer journey to the dead.
  Black as the clouds that shade St. Kilda's shore,
Wild as the winds that round her mountains roar,
At every post some surly vagrant stands,
Pick'd from the British or the Irish bands,
Some slave from Hesse, some hangman's son at least
Sold and transported, like his brother beast—
Some miscreant Tory, puff'd with upstart pride,
Led on by hell to take the royal side;
Dispensing death triumphantly they stand,
Their musquets ready to obey command;
Wounds are their sport, as ruin is their aim;
On their dark souls compassion has no claim,
And discord only can their spirits please:
Such were our tyrants here, and such were these.
  Ingratitude! no curse like thee is found
Throughout this jarring world's extended round,
Their hearts with malice to our country swell
Because in former days we us'd them well!—
This pierces deep, too deeply wounds the breast;
We help'd them naked, friendless, and distrest,
Receiv'd their vagrants with an open hand,
Bestow'd them buildings, privilege, and land—
Behold the change!—when angry Britain rose,
These thankless tribes became our fiercest foes,
By them devoted, plunder'd, and accurst,
Stung by the serpents whom ourselves had nurs'd.
  But such a train of endless woes abound,
So many mischiefs in these hulks are found,
That on them all a poem to prolong
Would swell too high the horrors of my song—
Hunger and thirst to work our woe combine,
And mouldy bread, and flesh of rotten swine,
The mangled carcase, and the batter'd brain,
The doctor's poison, and the captain's cane,
The soldier's musquet, and the steward's debt,
The evening shackle, and the noon-day threat.
  That juice destructive to the pangs of care
Which Rome of old, nor Athens could prepare,
Which gains the day for many a modern chief
When cool reflection yields a faint relief,
That charm, whose virtue warms the world beside,
Was by these tyrants to our use denied,
While yet they deign'd that healthy juice to lade
The putrid water felt its powerful aid;
But when refus'd—to aggravate our pains—
Then fevers rag'd and revel'd through our veins;
Throughout my frame I felt its deadly heat,
I felt my pulse with quicker motions beat:
A pallid hue o'er every face was spread,
Unusual pains attack'd the fainting head,
No physic here, no doctor to assist,
My name was enter'd on the sick man's list;
Twelve wretches more the same dark symptoms took,
And these were enter'd on the doctor's book;
The loathsome Hunter was our destin'd place,
The Hunter, to all hospitals disgrace;
With soldiers sent to guard us on our road,
Joyful we left the Scorpion's dire abode;
Some tears we shed for the remaining crew,
Then curs'd the hulk, and from her sides withdrew.


Canto III.—The Hospital Prison Ship

  Now tow'rd the Hunter's gloomy sides we came,
A slaughter-house, yet hospital in name;
For none came there (to pass through all degrees)
'Till half consum'd, and dying with disease;—
But when too near with labouring oars we ply'd,
The Mate with curses drove us from the side;
That wretch who, banish'd from the navy crew,
Grown old in blood, did here his trade renew;
His serpent's tongue, when on his charge let loose,
Utter'd reproaches, scandal, and abuse,
Gave all to hell who dar'd his king disown,
And swore mankind were made for George alone:
Ten thousand times, to irritate our woe,
He wish'd us founder'd in the gulph below;
Ten thousand times he brandish'd high his stick,
And swore as often that we were not sick—
And yet so pale!—that we were thought by some
A freight of ghosts from Death's dominions come—
But calm'd at length—for who can always rage,
Or the fierce war of endless passion wage,
He pointed to the stairs that led below
To damps, disease, and varied shapes of woe—
Down to the gloom I took my pensive way,
Along the decks the dying captives lay;
Some struck with madness, some with scurvy pain'd,
But still of putrid fevers most complain'd!
On the hard floors these wasted objects laid,
There toss'd and tumbled in the dismal shade,
There no soft voice their bitter fate bemoan'd,
And Death strode stately, while the victims groan'd;
Of leaky decks I heard them long complain,
Drown'd as they were in deluges of rain,
Deny'd the comforts of a dying bed,
And not a pillow to support the head—
How could they else but pine, and grieve, and sigh,
Detest a wretched life—and wish to die?
  Scarce had I mingled with this dismal band
When a thin spectre seiz'd me by the hand—
"And art thou come, (death heavy on his eyes)
"And art thou come to these abodes," he cries;
"Why didst thou leave the Scorpion's dark retreat,
"And hither haste a surer death to meet?
"Why didst thou leave thy damp infected cell?
"If that was purgatory, this is hell—
"We, too, grown weary of that horrid shade,
"Petitioned early for the doctor's aid;
"His aid denied, more deadly symptoms came,
"Weak, and yet weaker, glow'd the vital flame;
"And when disease had worn us down so low
"That few could tell if we were ghosts or no,
"And all asserted, death would be our fate—
"Then to the doctor we were sent—too late.
"Here wastes away Autolycus the brave,
"Here young Orestes finds a wat'ry grave,
"Here gay Alcander, gay, alas! no more,
"Dies far sequester'd from his native shore;
"He late, perhaps, too eager for the fray,
"Chac'd the vile Briton o'er the wat'ry way
"'Till fortune jealous, bade her clouds appear,
"Turn'd hostile to his fame, and brought him here.
  "Thus do our warriors, thus our heroes fall,
"Imprison'd here, base ruin meets them all,
"Or, sent afar to Britain's barbarous shore,
"There die neglected, and return no more:
"Ah! rest in peace, poor, injur'd, parted shade,
"By cruel hands in death's dark weeds array'd,
"But happier climes, where suns unclouded shine,
"Light undisturb'd, and endless peace are thine."—
  From Brookland groves a Hessian doctor came,
Not great his skill, nor greater much his fame;
Fair Science never call'd the wretch her son,
And Art disdain'd the stupid man to own;—
Can you admire that Science was so coy,
Or Art refus'd his genius to employ!—
Do men with brutes an equal dullness share,
Or cuts yon' grovelling mole the midway air?
In polar worlds can Eden's blossoms blow?
Do trees of God in barren desarts grow?
Are loaded vines to Etna's summit known,
Or swells the peach beneath the torrid zone?—
Yet still he doom'd his genius to the rack,
And, as you may suppose, was own'd a quack.
  He on his charge the healing work begun
With antimonial mixtures, by the tun,
Ten minutes was the time he deign'd to stay,
The time of grace allotted once a day—
He drencht us well with bitter draughts, 'tis true,
Nostrums from hell, and cortex from Peru—
Some with his pills he sent to Pluto's reign,
And some he blister'd with his flies of Spain;
His cream of Tartar walk'd its deadly round,
Till the lean patient at the potion frown'd,
And swore that hemlock, death, or what you will,
Were nonsense to the drugs that stuff'd his bill.—
On those refusing he bestow'd a kick,
Or menac'd vengeance with his walking stick;
Here uncontroul'd he exercis'd his trade,
And grew experienced by the deaths he made;
By frequent blows we from his cane endur'd
He kill'd at least as many as he cur'd;
On our lost comrades built his future fame,
And scatter'd fate, where'er his footsteps came.
  Some did not seem obedient to his will,
And swore he mingled poison with his pill,
But I acquit him by a fair confession,
He was no Englishman—he was a Hessian,—
Although a dunce, he had some sense of sin,
Or else the Lord knows where we now had been;
Perhaps in that far country sent to range
Where never prisoner meets with an exchange—
Then had we all been banish'd out of time
Nor I return'd to plague the world with rhyme.
  Fool though he was, yet candour must confess
Not chief Physician was this dog of Hesse—
One master o'er the murdering tribe was plac'd,
By him the rest were honour'd or disgrac'd;—
Once, and but once, by some strange fortune led
He came to see the dying and the dead—
He came—but anger so deform'd his eye,
And such a faulchion glitter'd on his thigh,
And such a gloom his visage darken'd o'er,
And two such pistols in his hands he bore!
That, by the gods!—with such a load of steel
He came, we thought, to murder, not to heal—
Hell in his heart, and mischief in his head,
He gloom'd destruction, and had smote us dead,
Had he so dar'd—but fate with-held his hand—
He came—blasphem'd—and turn'd again to land.
  From this poor vessel, and her sickly crew
An English ruffian all his titles drew,
Captain, esquire, commander, too, in chief,
And hence he gain'd his bread, and hence his beef,
But, sir, you might have search'd creation round
Ere such another miscreant could be found—
Though unprovok'd, an angry face he bore,
We stood astonish'd at the oaths he swore;
He swore, till every prisoner stood aghast,
And thought him Satan in a brimstone blast;
He wish'd us banish'd from the public light,
He wish'd us shrouded in perpetual night!
That were he king, no mercy would he show,
But drive all rebels to the world below;
That if we scoundrels did not scrub the decks
His staff should break our damn'd rebellious necks;
He swore, besides, that if the ship took fire
We too should in the pitchy flame expire;
And meant it so—this tyrant, I engage,
Had lost his breath to gratify his rage.—
  If where he walk'd a captive carcase lay,
Still dreadful was the language of the day—
He call'd us dogs, and would have us'd us so,
But vengeance check'd the meditated blow,
The vengeance from our injur'd nation due
To him, and all the base, unmanly crew.
  Such food they sent, to make complete our woes,
It look'd like carrion torn from hungry crows,
Such vermin vile on every joint were seen,
So black, corrupted, mortified, and lean
That once we try'd to move our flinty chief,
And thus address'd him, holding up the beef:
  "See, captain, see! what rotten bones we pick,
"What kills the healthy cannot cure the sick:
"Not dogs on such by Christian men are fed,
"And see, good master, see, what lousy bread!"
  "Your meat or bread (this man of flint replied)
"Is not my care to manage or provide—
"But this, damn'd rebel dogs, I'd have you know,
"That better than you merit we bestow;
"Out of my sight!"——nor more he deign'd to say,
But whisk'd about, and frowning, strode away.
  Each day, at least three carcases we bore,
And scratch'd them graves along the sandy shore;
By feeble hands the shallow graves were made,
No stone memorial o'er the corpses laid;
In barren sands, and far from home, they lie,
No friend to shed a tear, when passing by;
O'er the mean tombs insulting Britons tread,
Spurn at the sand, and curse the rebel dead.
  When to your arms these fatal islands fall,
(For first or last they must be conquer'd all)
  Americans! to rites sepulchral just,
With gentlest footstep press this kindred dust,
And o'er the tombs, if tombs can then be found,
Place the green turf, and plant the myrtle round.
Americans! a just resentment shew,
And glut revenge on this detested foe;
While the warm blood exults the glowing vein
Still shall resentment in your bosoms reign,
Can you forget the greedy Briton's ire,
Your fields in ruin, and your domes on fire,
No age, no sex from lust and murder free,
And, black as night, the hell born refugee!
Must York forever your best blood entomb,
And these gorg'd monsters triumph in their doom,
Who leave no art of cruelty untry'd;
Such heavy vengeance, and such hellish pride!
Death has no charms—his realms dejected lie
In the dull climate of a clouded sky;
Death has no charms, except in British eyes,
See, arm'd for death, the infernal miscreants rise;
See how they pant to stain the world with gore,
And millions murder'd, still would murder more;
This selfish race, from all the world disjoin'd,
Perpetual discord spread throughout mankind,
Aim to extend their empire o'er the ball,
Subject, destroy, absorb, and conquer all,
As if the power that form'd us did condemn
All other nations to be slaves to them—
Rouse from your sleep, and crush the thievish band,
Defeat, destroy, and sweep them from the land,
Ally'd like you, what madness to despair,
Attack the ruffians while they linger there;
There Tryon sits, a monster all complete,
See Clinton there with vile Knyphausen meet,
And every wretch whom honour should detest
There finds a home—and Arnold with the rest.
Ah! traitors, lost to every sense of shame,
Unjust supporters of a tyrant's claim;
Foes to the rights of freedom and of men,
Flush'd with the blood of thousands you have slain,
To the just doom the righteous skies decree
We leave you, toiling still in cruelty,
Or on dark plans in future herds to meet,
Plans form'd in hell, and projects half complete:
The years approach that shall to ruin bring
Your lords, your chiefs, your miscreant of a king,
Whose murderous acts shall stamp his name accurs'd,
And his last triumphs more than damn the first.


This poem is in the public domain.