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

September 11

The Taking of Sebastopol

By Thomas William Parsons (1819–1892)

  • By an American aboard the Boston ship Sultana.
  • The siege of Sebastopol was the chief event of the Crimean War. It was begun in October, 1854, and continued for over a year, the city being entered by the Allies on September 10, 1855.

  • I SAILED by Tenedos, in sight of Troy,

    My Homer in my hand, but in my heart

    Little remembrance of the past, or joy

    In the sad present or the poet’s art.

    A ship went by that bore my country’s name,

    “The Great Republic,” and a moment’s thrill

    Flashed through my breast, but vanished as it came,

    For in that bark an Iliad was of ill.

    A thousand wounded soldiers in her deeps

    Lay groaning, bleeding; scarce a man but bore

    His deathmark on him. Happy he that sleeps

    There where he fell, beside the Pontic shore.

    And farther onward as we stretched our sail

    Along the sacred Hellespont, a gleam

    Came in the night, and mingled with a wail

    That seemed the voice of the complaining stream.

    Black messengers of death were on the wing,

    Like clouds containing tempests, darkly driven

    By autumn winds—alas! the news they bring

    The doom that took the gentle chief to heaven.

    Farewell, brave heart! if not the brightest sword,

    Set of true temper, thou wert of the best:

    Considerate chieftain, unpresuming Lord,

    Fitzroy! good angels bear thee to thy rest!

    We mourned with England, if the vulgar swarm

    Read of her sorrow with unfriendly smile;

    We mourn for them too, for our hearts are warm

    Yet with a drop from the ancestral isle.

    Tell me thy name, American! What race,

    What blood, what accent ruled thee at thy birth?

    That when the news comes of a new disgrace

    Mak’st England’s grief the staple of thy mirth.

    But we are past Seraglio Point—behold!


    All the old places—lo! the Horn of Gold!

    The Sultan’s pride—the glory of the Greeks.

    There as we anchored in Byzantium’s wave

    Beneath the walls of Constantine, a cry

    Startled our ears; but ’twas a cry that gave

    Joy to my soul and gladness to mine eye.

    A new gleam breaketh on the dusky night!

    Gilding Sophia’s, like Saint Peter’s dome;

    Good news! they have it! God hath sped the right;

    A hundred minarets flash it on the foam!

    Mount Ida caught the flash and sent it on

    To the isle of Lemnos, like that courier-light

    Which bright with news of Troy’s destruction shone,

    And thence it sped to Athos’ holy height;

    So on to Argos, on to Syracuse,

    And, by Hesperia, to the bounteous land

    That owes to Gallic hearts its generous juice,

    Crimsoning the white face of the sacred strand;

    Till to this young half-world, where Hesperus

    Hangs a new signal in the nation’s eyes,

    The lightning sped! and brought the thrill to us—

    A thrill of joy! they have it! the Allies!

    For we must joy with England or abjure

    The faith in freedom that our fathers had.

    Dost thou rejoice not? Wouldst thyself endure

    The sway whose downfall does not make thee glad?

    Tell me thy name, that I may set it down,

    And say this man—he had a double soul:

    Proud of old England and her past renown,

    He felt no triumph at Sebastopol!