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

September 22

Nathan Hale

By Francis Miles Finch (1827–1907)

  • An American Revolutionary patriot. Sent by General Washington to procure intelligence concerning the British at New York, he was arrested in the British camp and hung as a spy on Sept. 22, 1776.

  • TO drum-beat and heart-beat,

    A soldier marches by;

    There is color in his cheek,

    There is courage in his eye,

    Yet to drum-beat and heart-beat

    In a moment he must die.

    By starlight and moonlight,

    He seeks the Briton’s camp;

    He hears the rustling flag,

    And the armed sentry’s tramp;

    And the starlight and moonlight

    His silent wanderings lamp.

    With slow tread and still tread,

    He scans the tented line;

    And he counts the battery guns,

    By the gaunt and shadowy pine;

    And his slow tread and still tread

    Gives no warning sign.

    The dark wave, the plumed wave,

    It meets his eager glance;

    And it sparkles ’neath the stars,

    Like the glimmer of a lance—

    A dark wave, a plumed wave,

    On an emerald expanse.

    A sharp clang, a still clang,

    And terror in the sound!

    For the sentry, falcon-eyed,

    In the camp a spy hath found;

    With a sharp clang, a steel clang,

    The patriot is bound.

    With calm brow, steady brow,

    He listens to his doom;

    In his look there is no fear,

    Nor a shadow-trace of gloom;

    But with calm brow and steady brow

    He robes him for the tomb.

    In the long night, the still night,

    He kneels upon the sod;

    And the brutal guards withhold

    E’en the solemn word of God!

    In the long night, the still night,

    He walks where Christ hath trod.

    ’Neath the blue morn, the sunny morn,

    He dies upon the tree;

    And he mourns that he can lose

    But one life for liberty;

    And in the blue morn, the sunny morn,

    His spent wings are free.

    But his last words, his message-words,

    They burn, lest friendly eye

    Should read how proud and calm

    A patriot could die,

    With his last words, his dying words,

    A soldier’s battle-cry.

    From Fame-leaf and Angel-leaf,

    From monument and urn,

    The sad of earth, the glad of heaven,

    His tragic fate shall learn;

    And on Fame-leaf and Angel-leaf

    The name of HALE shall burn!