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- BEHIND him lay the gray Azores,
- Behind the Gates of Hercules;
- Before him not the ghost of shores,
- Before him only shoreless seas.
- The good mate said: "Now we must pray,
- For lo! the very stars are gone.
- Brave Admiral, speak, what shall I say?"
- "Why, say, 'Sail on! sail on! and on!' "
- "My men grow mutinous day by day;
- My men grow ghastly wan and weak."
- The stout mate thought of home; a spray
- Of salt wave washed his swarthy cheek.
- "What shall I say, brave Admiral, say,
- If we sight naught but seas at dawn?"
- "Why, you shall say at break of day,
- 'Sail on! sail on! and on!' "
- They sailed and sailed, as winds might blow,
- Until at last the blanched mate said:
- "Why, now not even God would know
- Should I and all my men fall dead.
- These very winds forget their way,
- For God from these dead seas is gone.
- Now speak, brave Admiral, speak and say" --
- He said, "Sail on! sail on! and on!"
- They sailed. They sailed. Then spake the mate:
- "This mad sea shows his teeth tonight.
- He curls his lip, he lies in wait,
- With lifted teeth, as if to bite!
- Brave Admiral, say but one good word:
- What shall we do when hope is gone?"
- The words leapt like a leaping sword:
- "Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!"
- Then pale and worn, he kept his deck,
- And peered through darkness. Ah, that night
- Of all dark nights! And then a speck --
- A light! a light! at last a light!
- It grew, a starlit flag unfurled!
- It grew to be Time's burst of dawn.
- He gained a world; he gave that world
- Its grandest lesson: "On! sail on!"
- Joaquin Miller
- SANTA ANA came storming, as a storm might come;
- There was rumble of cannon; there was rattle of blade;
- There was cavalry, infantry, bugle and drum --
- Full seven thousand in pomp and parade.
- The chivalry, flower of Mexico;
- And a gaunt two hundred in the Alamo!
- And thirty lay sick, and some were shot through;
- For the siege had been bitter, and bloody, and long.
- "Surrender, or die!" -- "Men, what will you do?"
- And Travis, great Travis, drew sword, quick and strong;
- Drew a line at his feet. . . . "Will you come" Will you go?
- I die with my wounded, in the Alamo."
- Then Bowie gasped, "Lead me over that line!"
- Then Crockett, one hand to the sick, one hand to his gun,
- Crossed with him; then never a word or a sign
- Till all, sick or well, all, all save but one,
- One man. Then a woman stepped, praying, and slow
- Across; to die at her post in the Alamo.
- Then that one coward fled, in the night, in that night
- When all men silently prayed and thought
- Of home; of to-morrow; of God and the right,
- Till dawn; and with dawn came Travis's cannon-shot,
- In answer to insolent Mexico,
- From the old bell-tower of the Alamo.
- Then came Santa Ana; a crescent of flame!
- Then the red escalade; then the fight hand to hand;
- Such an unequal fight as never had name
- Since the Persian hordes butchered that doomed Spartan band.
- All day -- all day and all night; and the morning? so slow,
- Through the battle smoke mantling the Alamo.
- Now silence! Such silence! Two thousand lay dead
- In a crescent outside! And within? Not a breath
- Save the gasp of a woman, with gory gashed head,
- All alone, all alone there, waiting for death;
- And she but a nurse. Yet when shall we know
- Another like this of the Alamo?
- Shout "Victory, victory, victory ho!"
- I say 'tis not always to the hosts that win!
- I say that the victory, high or low,
- Is given the hero who grapples with sin,
- Or legion or single; just asking to know
- When duty fronts death in his Alamo.
- Joaquin Miller
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