Roar, raging torrent! and thou, mighty river,
Pour thy white foam on the valley below;
Frown, ye dark mountains! and shadow for ever
The deep rocky bed where the wild rapids flow.
The green sunny glade, and the smooth flowing fountain,
Brighten the home of the coward and slave;
The flood and the forest, the rock and the mountain,
Rear on their bosoms the free and the brave.
Nurslings of nature, I mark your bold bearing,
Pride in each aspect and strength in each form,
Hearts of warm impulse, and souls of high daring,
Born in the battle and rear’d in the storm.
The red levin flash and the thunder’s dread rattle,
The rock-riven wave and the war trumpet’s breath,
The din of the tempest, the yell of the battle,
Nerve your steeled bosoms to danger and death.
High on the brow of the Alps’ snowy towers
The mountain Swiss measures his rock-breasted moors,
O’er his lone cottage the avalanche lowers,
Round its rude portal the spring-torrent pours.
Sweet is his sleep amid peril and danger,
Warm is his greeting to kindred and friends,
Open his hand to the poor and the stranger,
Stern on his foeman his sabre descends.
Lo! where the tempest the dark waters sunder
Slumbers the sailor boy, reckless and brave,
Warm’d by the lighting and lulled by the thunder,
Fann’d by the whirlwind and rock’d on the wave;
Wildly the winter wind howls round his pillow,
Cold on his bosom the spray showers fall;
Creaks the strained mast at the rush of the billow,
Peaceful he slumbers, regardless of all.
Mark how the cheek of the warrior flushes,
As the battle drum beats and the war torches glare;
Like a blast of the north to the onset he rushes,
And his wide-waving falchion gleams brightly in air.
Around him the death-shot of foemen are flying,
At his feet friends and comrades are yielding their breath;
He strikes to the groans of the wounded and dying,
But the war cry he strikes with is, ‘conquest or death!’
Then pour thy broad wave like a flood from the heavens,
Each son that thou rearest, in the battle’s wild shock,
When the death-speaking note of the trumpet is given,
Will charge like thy torrent or stand like thy rock.
Let his roof be the cloud and the rock be his pillow,
Let him stride the rough mountain, or toss on the foam,
He will strike fast and well on the field or the billow,
In triumph and glory, for God and his home!
Source: Joseph Rodman Drake The Culprit Fay, and Other Poems, New York: George Dearborn, 1836
See Drake’s other poem on this site, Niagara’s Everlasting Voice