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

April 24

The “Varuna”

By George H. Boker (1823–1890)

  • The Varuna was a gunboat, one of the fleet under the command of Farragut, which was sunk on April 24, 1861, while attempting the passing of the forts below New Orleans. She had previously sunk five of the enemy.

  • WHO has not heard of the dauntless VARUNA?

    Who has not heard of the deeds she has done?

    Who shall not hear, while the Brown Mississippi

    Rushes along from the snow to the sun?

    Crippled and leaking she enters the battle,

    Sinking and burning she fought through the fray;

    Crushed were her sides and the waves ran across her,

    Ere, like a death wounded lion at bay,

    Sternly she closed in the last fatal grapple,

    Then in her triumph moved grandly away.

    Five of the rebels, like satellites round her,

    Burned in her orbit of splendor and fear;

    One, like the pleiad of mystical story,

    Shot, terror-stricken, beyond her dread sphere.

    We who are waiting with crowns for the victors,

    Though we should offer the wealth of our store,

    Load the VARUNA from deck down to kelson,

    Still would be niggard, such tribute to pour

    On courage so boundless. It beggars possession,—

    It knocks for just payment at heaven’s bright door!

    Cherish the heroes who fought the Varuna;

    Treat them as kings if they honor your way;

    Succor and comfort the sick and the wounded;

    Oh! for the dead let us all kneel to pray!