Henry O'Meara Ballads of America

Decoration

THE BATTLE OF SHIRLEY STRAIT

BOSTON HARBOR, 1775
IN Boston's Spring of Pride - her soil from sentinel ranks set free -
While Britain's navy yet unvanquished shut her from the sea,
King George's vulpine brood of ships hung still in hostile quest,
Their black hulls marred, as blots on Liberty, her Harbor's breast,
Spread like a low'ring brow of war across the Bay-
Nantasket's surf-wrought crescent spanned to Winthrop's wall of spray.
 
"I'll vow," the British captain said, "no rebel privateer
Shall dare to leave this Town or stir a sail while we lie here."
They dreamt not of the sturdy hearts with whom their fleet should cope,
Of Mugford's men whose fishing-smack bore off their navy's "Hope."
Now with the "Franklin" steals the fisher hero forth to Shirley Strait -
The saucy cruiser "Lady Washington" a worthy mate;
But here capricious tides and currents lure his hast'ning band,
And craft that scorned a navy's strength lie. captured by the strand.
With Britain's instinct to surprise the trapped or supine prey,
An armed flotilla from the fleet speeds proudly to the fray;
Barges and boats in shoals careen around th' encircled prize -
But stay - the soul of Battle blazes in the patriots' eyes!
 
Though tier-shot sweep their spar and shroud, and langrage tear their sail,
From cannons' mouths they hurl back musket- balls like death-borne hail;
Wheeling, tbe barges meet at every turn in that swift eddy
The "Franklin's" levelled metal and the swivels of the "Lady."
"One effort more - quick - board their decks!" the British leader cries -
Grappling and scrambling from their boats, the agile seamen rise;
" Lively, my men," -calls Mugford; "pikemen, show your mettle now!"-
The foes impetuous scale the boarding-net from stern to bow;
Defenders and assailants lock in fierce palestric strife
As, man to man, each grimly fronts the struggle of a life.
 
The sun that early lit the fight grows lurid ere its set,
And looks askant o'er Shawmut's hills to find them struggling yet.
At last with spear and pike-head all that blood-stained net is rent,
The boldest barges crippled, the heart's-tide of the tenants spent.
Sullen the proud flotilla turns to leave its prize unwon,
Its stately sortie foiled, its vaunted task un-done.
.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .  
When dawn shone over Winthrop Head a child by Shirley's tide
Discerned the British leader's form, a spear- wound in the side;
But dearly was that victory for a striving people bought,
For Mugford's last long cruise was done - his final battle fought;
No more his feats would thrill old Marblehead - her captain brave
Had found the death he courted in that duel of the wave.
Decoration
SAM ADAMS CONTENTS MARY WASHINGTON

 

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updated Wednesday, April 19, 2000
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