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

July 2

Spain’s Last Armada

By Wallace Rice (1859–1939)

THEY fling their flags upon the morn,

Their safety’s held a thing for scorn,

As to the fray the Spaniards on the wings of war are borne;

Their sullen smoke-clouds writhe and reel,

And sullen are their ships of steel,

All ready, cannon, lanyards, from the fighting-tops to keel.

They cast upon the golden air

One glancing, helpless, hopeless prayer,

To ask that swift and thorough be the victory falling there;

Then giants with a cheer and sigh

Burst forth to battle and to die

Beneath the walls of Morro on that morning in July.

The Teresa heads the haughty train

To bear the Admiral of Spain,

She rushes, hurtling, whitening, like the summer hurricane;

El Morro glowers in his might;

Socapa crimsons with the fight;

The Oquendo’s lunging lightning blazes through her somber night.

In desperate and eager dash

The Vizcaya hurls her vivid flash,

As wild upon the waters her enormous batteries crash;

Like spindrift scuds the fleet Colon,

And, on her bubbling wake bestrown,

Lurch, hungry for the slaughter, El Furor and El Pluton.

Round Santiago’s armored crest,

Serene, in their gray valor dressed,

Our behemoths lie quiet, watching well from south and west;

Their keen eyes spy the harbor-reek;

The signals dance, the signals speak;

Then breaks the blasting riot as our broadsides storm and shriek!

Quick, poising on her eagle-wings,

The Brooklyn into battle swings;

The wide sea falls and wonders as the titan Texas springs;

The Iowa in monster-leaps

Goes bellowing above the deeps;

The Indiana thunders as her terror onward sweeps.

And, hovering near and hovering low

Until the moment strikes to go,

In gallantry the Gloucester swoops down on her double foe;

She volleys—the Furor falls lame;

Again—and the Pluton’s aflame;

Hurrah, on high she’s tossed her! Gone the grim destroyers’ fame!

And louder yet and louder roar

The Oregon’s black cannon o’er

The clangor and the booming all along the Cuban shore.

She’s swifting down her valkyr-path,

Her sword sharp for the aftermath,

With levin in her glooming, like Jehovah in His wrath.

Great ensigns snap and shine in air

Above the furious onslaught where

Our sailors cheer the battle, danger but a thing to dare;

Our gunners speed, as oft they’ve sped, sped,

Their hail of shrilling, shattering lead,

Swift-sure our rifles rattle, and the foeman’s decks are red.

Like baying bloodhounds lope our ships,

Adrip with fire their cannons’ lips;

We scourge the fleeing Spanish, whistling weals from scorpion-whips;

Till, livid in the ghastly glare,

They tremble on in dread despair,

And thoughts of victory vanish in the carnage they must bear.

Where Cuban coasts in beauty bloom,

Where Cuban breakers swirl and boom,

The Teresa’s onset slackens in a scarlet spray of doom;

Near Nimanima’s greening hill

The streaming flames cry down her will,

Her vast hull blows and blackens, prey to every mortal ill.

On Juan Gonzales’ foaming strand

The Oquendo plunges ’neath our hand,

Her armaments all strangled, and her hope a showering brand;

She strikes and grinds upon the reef,

And, shuddering there in utter grief,

In misery and mangled, wastes away beside her chief.

The Vizcaya nevermore shall ride

From out Aserradero’s tide,

With hate upon her forehead ne’er again she’ll pass in pride;

Beneath our fearful battle-spell

She moaned and struggled, flared and fell,

To lie a-gleam and horrid, while the piling fires swell.

Thence from the wreck of Spain alone

Tears on the terrified Colon,

In bitter anguish crying, like a storm-bird forth she’s flown;

Her throbbing engines creak and thrum;

She sees abeam the Brooklyn come,

For life she’s gasping, flying; for the combat is she dumb.

Till then the man behind the gun

Had wrought whatever must be done—

Here, now, beside our boilers is the fight fought out and won;

Where great machines pulse on and beat,

A-swelter in the humming heat

The Nation’s nameless toilers make her mastery complete.

The Cape o’ the Cross casts out a stone

Against the course of the Colon,

Despairing and inglorious on the wind her white flag’s thrown;

Spain’s last Armada, lost and wan,

Lies where Tarquino’s stream rolls on,

As round the world, victorious, looms the dreadnaught Oregon.

The sparkling daybeams softly flow

To glint the twilight afterglow,

The banner sinks in splendor that in battle ne’er was low;

The music of our country’s hymn

Rings out like songs of seraphim,

Fond memories and tender fill the evening fair and dim;

Our huge ships ride in majesty

Unchallenged o’er the glittering sea,

Above them white stars cluster, mighty emblem of the free;

And all a-down the long sea-lane

The fitful bale-fires wax and wane

To shed their lurid lustre on the empire that was Spain.