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

November 6

The Old Admiral

By Edmund Clarence Stedman (1833–1908)

  • Admiral Stewart, an American admiral, distinguished in the cruises against French privateers and in the War of 1812. He was the grandfather of Charles S. Parnell. He died on Nov. 6, 1869.

  • GONE at last,

    That brave old hero of the Past!

    His spirit has a second birth,

    An unknown, grander life;—

    All of him that was earth

    Lies mute and cold,

    Like a wrinkled sheath and old

    Thrown off forever from the shimmering blade

    That has good entrance made

    Upon some distant, glorious strife.

    From another generation,

    A simpler age, to ours Old Ironsides came;

    The morn and noontide of the nation

    Alike he knew, nor yet outlived his fame,—

    O, not outlived his fame!

    The dauntless men whose service guards our shore

    Lengthen still their glory-roll

    With his name to lead the scroll,

    As a flagship at her fore

    Carries the Union, with its azure and the stars,

    Symbol of times that are no more

    And the old heroic wars.

    He was the one

    Whom Death had spared alone

    Of all the captains of that lusty age,

    Who sought the foeman where he lay.

    On sea or sheltering bay,

    Nor till the prize was theirs repressed their rage.

    They are gone,—all gone:

    They rest with glory and the undying Powers;

    Only their name and fame and what they saved are ours!

    It was fifty years ago,

    Upon the Gallic Sea,

    He bore the banner of the free,

    And fought the fight whereof our children know.

    The deathful, desperate fight!—

    Under the fair moon’s light

    The frigate squared, and yawed to left and right.

    Every broadside swept to death a score!

    Roundly played her guns and well, till their fiery ensigns fell,

    Neither foe replying more.

    All in silence, when the night-breeze cleared the air,

    Old Ironsides rested there,

    Locked in between the twain, and drenched with blood.

    Then homeward, like an eagle with her prey!

    O, it was a gallant fray,

    That fight in Biscay Bay!

    Fearless the Captain stood, in his youthful hardihood;

    He was the boldest or them all,

    Our brave old Admiral!

    And still our heroes bleed,

    Taught by that golden deed.

    Whether of iron or of oak

    The ships we marshal at our country’s need,

    Still speak their cannon now as then they spoke;

    Still floats our unstruck banner from the mast

    As in the stormy Past.

    Lay him in the ground:

    Let him rest where the ancient river rolls;

    Let him sleep beneath the shadow and the sound

    Of the bell whose proclamation, as it tolls,

    Is of Freedom and the gift our father’s gave,

    Lay him gently down:

    The clamor of the town

    Will not break the slumbers deep, the beautiful ripe sleep

    Of this lion of the wave,

    Will not trouble the old Admiral in his grave.

    Earth to earth his dust is laid.

    Methinks his stately shade

    On the shadow of a great ship leaves the shore;

    Over cloudless western seas

    Seeks the far Hesperides,

    The islands of the blest,

    Where no turbulent billows roar,—

    Where is rest.

    His ghost upon the shadowy quarter stands

    Nearing the deathless lands.

    There all his martial mates, renewed and strong,

    Await his coming long.

    I see the happy Heroes rise

    With gratulation in their eyes:

    “Welcome, old comrade,” Lawrence cries;

    “Ah, Stewart, tell us of the wars!

    Who win the glory and the scars?

    How floats the skyey flag,—how many stars?

    Still speak they of Decatur’s name,

    Of Bainbridge’s and Perry’s fame?

    Of me, who earliest came?

    Make ready, all:

    Room for the Admiral!

    Come, Stewart, tell us of the wars!”