It was a starry night in June, the air was soft and still,
When the "minute-men" from Cambridge came, and gathered on the hill;
Beneath us lay the sleeping town, around us frowned the fleet,
But the pulse of freemen, not of slaves, within our bosoms beat;
And every heart rose high with hope, as fearlessly we said,
"We will be numbered with the free, or numbered with the dead!"
"Bring out the line to mark the trench, and stretch it on the sward!"
The trench is marked, the tools are brought, we utter not a word,
But stack our guns, then fall to work with mattock and with spade,
A thousand men with sinewy arms, and not a sound is made;
So still were we, the stars beneath, that scarce a whisper fell;
We heard the red-coat's musket click, and heard him cry, "All's well!"
See how the morn, is breaking; the red is in the sky!
The mist is creeping from the stream that floats in silence by;
The "Lively's" hall looms through the fog, and they our works have spied,
For the ruddy flash and round-shot part in thunder from her side;
And the "Falcon" and the "Cerberus" make every bosom thrill,
With gun and shell, and drum and bell, and boatswain's whistle shrill;
But deep and wider grows the trench, as spade and mattock ply,
For we have to cope with fearful odds, and the time is drawing nigh!
Up with the pine-tree banner! Our gallant Prescott stands
Amid the plunging shells and shot, and plants it with his hands;
Up with the shout! for Putnam comes upon his reeking bay,
With bloody spur and foaming bit, in haste to join the fray.
But thou whose soul is glowing in the summer of thy years,
Unvanquishable Warren, thou, the youngest of thy peers,
Wert born and bred, and shaped and made, to act a patriot's part,
And dear to us thy presence is as heart's blood to the heart!
Hark! from the town a trumpet! The barges at the wharf
Are crowded with the living freight; and now they're pushing off;
With clash and glitter, trump and drum, in all its bright array,
Behold the splendid sacrifice move slowly o'er the bay!
And still and still the barges fill, and still across the deep,
Like thunder clouds along the sky, the hostile transports sweep.
And now they're forming at the Point; and now the lines advance:
We see beneath the sultry sun their polished bayonets glance;
We hear anear the throbbing drum, the bugle-challenge ring;
Quick bursts and loud the flashing cloud, and rolls from wing to wing;
But on the height our bulwark stands, tremendous in its gloom,—
As sullen as a tropic sky, and silent as a tomb.
And so we waited till we saw, at scarce ten rifles' length,
The old vindictive Saxon spite, in all its stubborn strength;
When sudden, flash on flash, around the jagged rampart burst
From every gun the livid light upon the foe accursed.
Then quailed a monarch's might before a free-born people's ire;
Then drank the sward the veteran's life, where swept the yeoman's fire.
Then, staggered by the shot, he saw their serried columns reel,
And fall, as falls the bearded rye beneath the reaper's steel;
And then arose a mighty shout that might have waked the dead,—
"Hurrah! they run! the field is won! Hurrah! the foe is fled!"
And every man hath dropped his gun to clutch a neighbor's hand,
As his heart kept praying all the while for home and native land.
Thrice on that day we stood the shock of thrice a thousand foes,
And thrice that day within our lines the shout of victory rose;
And though our swift fire slackened then, and, reddening in the skies,
We saw from Charlestown's roofs and walls the flamy columns rise,
Yet while we had a cartridge left, we still maintained the fight,
Nor gained the foe one foot of ground upon that blood-stained height.
What though for us no laurels bloom, and o'er the nameless brave
No sculptured trophy, scroll, nor hatch records a warrior grave!
What though the day to us was lost!—upon that deathless page
The everlasting charter stands for every land and age!
For man hath broke his felon bonds, and cast them in the dust,
And claimed his heritage divine, and justified the trust;
While through his rifted prison-bars the hues of freedom pour,
O'er every nation, race and clime, on every sea and shore,
Such glories as the patriarch viewed, when, mid the darkest skies,
He saw above a ruined world the Bow of Promise rise.