Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Happy Hull's Victory Day!

Sure, you won't find it printed on your calendar; not many people will stop you on the street and wish you "pleasant dancing"; and I can't imagine that anyone will get a day off work in honor of the occasion. Still, it is Hull's Victory Day nonetheless - so have a happy one!

It has now been 202 years since the day on which the battle between the USS Constitution and the HMS Guerriere was fought; 202 years since Captain Isaac Hull and his crew proved their skill in battle; 202 years since the naval victory that gave heart to the Americans in the War of 1812. But you can read all about that here; no need for me to go over all the same details again, especially since this blog has so little material anyway. Something new must be posted in honor of the day... I have a few selections in the draft folder to choose from, but none of them are anything like completed at present. How about... oh, I know! Today you can have a poem, tomorrow a dance analysis, Thursday a music feature, and Friday another related post yet to be determined - a full week of Hull's Victory-themed posting! (All of you who know me are nodding your heads sarcastically at this point... no, really, I mean it this time!)

I first came across this poem a few years ago while reading The Patriot's Handbook, a compilation of patriotic songs, historic speeches, and notable documents from throughout America's history. At the time, I didn't think much about the poem - I just read it briefly and moved on. Once I actually learned about sea battle that inspired this poem, though, it quickly became a favorite of mine!

First Fruits in 1812 
By Wallace Rice

What is that a-billowing there
Like a thunderhead in air?
Why should such a sight be whitening the seas;
That’s a Yankee man-o’-war,
And three things she’s seeking for:
For a prize, and for a battle, and a breeze.
When the war blew o’er the sea
Out went Hull and out went we
In the Constitution, looking for the foe;
But five British ships came down—
And we got to Boston-town
By a mighty narrow margin, you must know!
Captain Hull can’t fight their fleet,
But he fairly aches to meet
Quite the prettiest British ship of all there were;
So he stands again to sea
In the hope that on his lee
He’ll catch Dacres and his pretty Guerriere.
‘Tis an August afternoon
Not a day too late or soon,
When we raise a ship whose lettered mainsail reads:
All who meet me have a care,
I am England’s Guerriere;
So Hull gaily clears for action as he speeds.
Cheery bells had chanted five
On the happiest day alive
When we Yankees dance to quarters at his call;
While the British bang away
With their broadsides’ screech and bray;
But the Constitution never fires a ball.
We send up three times to ask
If we sha’n’t begin our task?
Captain Hull sends back each time the answer No;
Till to half a pistol shot
The two frigates he had brought,
Then he whispers, Lay along! And we let go.
Twice our broadside lights and lifts,
And the Briton, crippled, drifts
With her mizzen dangling hopeless at her poop;
Laughs a Yankee, She’s a brig!
Says our Captain, “That’s too big;
Try another, so we’ll have her for a sloop!”
We huzzah, and fire again,
Lay aboard of her like men,
And, like men, they beat us off, and try in turn;
But we drive bold Dacres back
With our muskets’ snap and crack
All the while our crashing broadsides boom and burn.
‘Tis but half an hour, bare,
When that pretty Guerriere
Not a stick calls hers aloft or hers alow,
Save the mizzen’s shattered mast,
Where her “meteor flag” is nailed fast
Till, a fallen star, we quench its ruddy glow.
Dacres, injured, o’er our side
Slowly bears his sword of pride,
Holds it out, as Hull stands there in his renown;
No, no! Says th’ American,
Never, from so brave a man:
But I see you’re wounded, let me help you down.
All that night we work in vain
Keeping her upon the main,
But we’ve hulled her far too often, and at last
In a blaze of fire there
Dies the pretty Guerriere;
While away we cheerly sail upon the blast.

Oh, the breeze that blows so free!
Oh, the prize beneath the sea!
Oh, the battle! Was there ever better won?
Still the happy Yankee cheers
Are a-ringing in our ears
From old Boston, glorying in what we’ve done.
What is that a-billowing there
Like a thunderhead in air?
Why should such a sight be whitening the seas?
That’s Old Ir’nsides, trim and taut,
And she’s found the things she sought:
Found a prize, a bully battle, and a breeze!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for reminding me of this historic event in the life of our family. It's neat to see how God has used your interests to bring so many wonderful times to us. I can't wait to read more this week. Love you, Mom

Zoë said...

Thou art welcome! :) And I do most heartily thank thee for commenting!

Yes, this is indeed a memorable dance on many levels! It is truly incredible how God's providence can be revealed even in such seemingly small happenings as becoming interested in historic dancing. I'm looking forward to seeing more of His plan unfold!

Oh wait, reading more posts? This week? Umm... methinks this shall be the last time I make such rash promises! ;]