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

June 14

The American Flag

By Joseph Rodman Drake (1795–1820)

  • Adoption of the American flag, June 14, 1777.

  • I.
    WHEN Freedom from her mountain height

    Unfurled her standard to the air,

    She tore the azure robe of night,

    And set the stars of glory there;

    She mingled with its gorgeous dyes

    The milky baldric of the skies,

    And striped its pure, celestial white

    With streakings of the morning light;

    Then from his mansion in the sun

    She called her eagle bearer down,

    And gave into his mighty hand

    The symbol of her chosen land.

    Majestic monarch of the cloud!

    Who rear’st aloft thy regal form,

    To hear the tempest-trumpings loud,

    And see the lightning lances driven,

    When strive the warriors of the storm,

    And rolls the thunder-drum of heaven—

    Child of the sun! to thee ’tis given

    To guard the banner of the free,

    To hover in the sulphur smoke,

    To ward away the battle-stroke,

    And bid its blendings shine afar,

    Like rainbows on the cloud of war,

    The harbingers of victory!

    Flag of the brave! thy folds shall fly,

    The sign of hope and triumph high,

    When speaks the signal trumpet tone,

    And the long line comes gleaming on;

    Ere yet the life-blood, warm and wet,

    Has dimmed the glistening bayonet,

    Each soldier eye shall brightly turn

    To where thy sky-born glories burn,

    And, as his springing steps advance,

    Catch war and vengeance from the glance;

    And when the cannon-mouthings loud

    Heave in wild wreathes the battle-shroud,

    And gory sabres rise and fall,

    Like shoots of flame on midnight’s pall;

    Then shall thy meteor-glances glow,

    And cowering foes shall sink beneath

    Each gallant arm that strikes below

    That lovely messenger of death.

    Flag of the seas! on ocean wave

    Thy stars shall glitter o’er the brave;

    When death, careering on the gale,

    Sweeps darkly round the bellied sail,

    And frighted waves rush wildly back

    Before the broadside’s reeling rack,

    Each dying wanderer of the sea

    Shall look at once to heaven and thee,

    And smile to see thy splendors fly

    In triumph o’er his closing eye.

    Flag of the free heart’s hope and home,

    By angel hands to valor given;

    The stars have lit the welkin dome,

    And all thy hues were born in heaven.

    For ever float that standard sheet!

    Where breathes the foe but falls before us,

    With Freedom’s soil beneath our feet,

    And Freedom’s banner streaming o’er us?