Ode to a Bytown Youth by J. A. Murphy

“Enshrined in the records of Canadian achievement a century ago, is the fascinating and thrilling story of a daring feat performed at Brock’s monument on Queenston Heights by a young Bytonian — Matthew Murphy, father of Mr. J.A. Murphy of 412 McLeod Street. Mr. Murphy has penned the following lines relating to the historic incident but fuller details will be found in a story elsewhere on this page.” Ottawa Citizen, December 17, 1938

S.E. View of Brock’s Monument on Queenston Heights as it appeared May 9, A.D.1841
“S.E. View of Brock’s Monument on Queenston Heights as it appeared May 9, A.D.1841”
              I
Well nigh a century ago, Beside Niagara's river, On Queenston Heights was struck a blow Brock's monument to shiver.
A dastard alien's coward hand Had piled within its bottle A quarter hundred powder bags The tower to o'ertopple.
When fired, the blast was strong enough The wooden stair to shatter, Mortar and stone proved all too tough, For such a piffling matter.
As angry embryo nation rose To right the wrong intended, From town and country, copse and close, Their various ways they wended.
Not trains nor aeroplanes, nor cars Conveyed these sturdy yeomen. None carried arms though some bore scars, But all were worthy foemen.
They rode, they ran, they sailed, they swam O'er trails through swamps, wet, dreary; Berries and leaves their stomachs cram, Footsore they were, and weary.
From nearby hills and dales they come, From broad Ontario's beaches, Where'er a spark or loyal flame Gave urge to man the breaches.
Another such determined host Not all our land could muster They frightened rebels from our coast And quelled the Yankee bluster.
To us who live, with swords sheathed, On dainty foods a-plenty Their sacrificial faith bequeathed Strength, comfort and nepenthe. II
To her who honored England's throne, In eighteen-thirty-seven, Who ruled, by faith in God alone, Hearts purged from ancient leaven.
Three years had passed, her natal day Sanctioned their thus assembling, The Empire's call they must obey, None fearing or dissembling.
The flag that braved a thousand years The storm and stress of battle Again should float, through blood and tears O'er winds and waves' wild rattle.
But how ascend the monument That oft so proudly bore it? How scale those walls so rudely rent, Until they first repair it?
The hour demanded utmost haste, Strength, skill, and nerves like iron. And who would dare their lives to waste, And burst their birth's environ?
"Cast thyself down", the devil said, "To earth from yonder pinnacle!" But few were here who knew the ropes From spanaker to binnacle. III
Then forth stepped one, a jolly tar, Who hailed from far-famed Bytown; "Give me a thirty-fathom cord, And I will make a try-down.
"I'll put the colors on the top, Or die in the endeavor!" To count the cost he did not stop - 'T'was "do it now or never!"
He quickly stripped off all his gear, Save trousers and suspenders, Tied twine to button, void of fear, Then grasped the lightning fender.
The rod, by staples lightly held, Sustained its ten-stone burden. And soon beneath the parapet, His vision was his guerdon.
A platform, eight feet wide, girt round, Fifteen feet 'neath the summit; Nigh thirty fathoms from the ground, As measured by the plummet.
Leaving the wall, still on the rod. Under this platform swinging, With nothing 'twixt him and the sod - There were no joy bells ringing.
Twenty-five thousand pairs of eyes Watched one pair legs a-dangle. His eyes look'd upward to the skies, With never a downward angle.
At last above the rail he went, Like sailor on the crow's nest; His ardent spirit, nigh forespent, Felt grateful for the floor's rest.
Then o'er the top he drew the twine, With stronger cord combining, On it the folded flag rose fine - And bright the sun was shining!
Alas! The flagstaff wobbling leans - Which taxed him to the limit; By signs, with knife on string - such measures - They sent up chips to shim it.
From twice twelve thousand throats the cry Rang out as from an army, "Fling out our banner! Raise it high! And nothing e'er can harm ye!" IV
The task his ardor had begun Seem'd done - but not yet finished; Life still was sweet beneath the sun; And now, with strength diminished,
He climbed the battlements and swung, At arm's length, 'neath the coping. Hand over hand, till ankles wrung, Knees scraped, on rubble stopping.
The loosened staples, giving way, His eyes with mortar sprinkled; His tongue was parch'd, his face was gray, His brow a wee bit wrinkled.
He told them, as he gained his breath, Of soldiers deftly drilling. Across the river, threatening death, And plunder, rapine, killing.
However, though they strove to sow In York, the seeds of treason, No further did rebellion grow 'Gainst right and truth and reason.
Peace, strength and vision were restored, When died the Family Compact, And soon the vile, adventurous horde Foreswore their devilish contract. V
Our patriotic escapade Gave Britain's door its hinges, Made safe the avenues of trade, From th' Great Lakes to the fringes.
Victoria, Winnipeg, Montreal, Quebec and Halifax. Swing through these gates, which ne'er shall fall, While Britain wields the axe!
"What axe?" you cry: the battle axe Of God's advancing kingdom. This Britain holds, and nothing lacks, To meet earth's wrangling ring-dom.
All ye who speak our mother tongue, So much at ease in Zion, Join with the race from which you sprang Whose God you still rely on!
So shall there be one conquering host, By men of vision led on. When all the alien armies boast Their strength at Armageddon.

Source: Michael Ross Murphy, May 1, 2002.
Read about Matthew Murphy’s exploit 

Brock’s Monument, Queenston Heights from The Canadian Encyclopedia

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