Achsa White Sprague

Nov. 17, 1827 - Jul. 6, 1862


The American Eagle

by Achsa White Sprague

The Eagle sits with drooping wing upon the Southern coast,
With soiled and broken shield, the arrows from his talons lost,
The stars from his blue banner fled, the lightning from his eye; --
Old Eagle, by thy sons betrayed, dost think it time to die?

Why waits he silent on his crag, his eyrie on the height?
Has his keen eye grown dim with age, or blasted by this sight?
Hears he no clash of sounding steel, no tramp of armed men?
Down let him sweep, and lead to Death or Liberty again!

But, lo! the North, that upward springs the Stars and Stripes to save,
With serried ranks, and glistening steel, and loyal hearts and brave,
To hold the Union -- leaves behind the patriot's cleaving sword,
The watchword of a Nation's might, its sacred household word;

And though that Northern-heart is stirred, and though its shout has rung
Through all the land, -- 'tis not the song the patriot fathers sung;
They shout The Union! evermore -- we'll stand or fall for thee!
The dying Eagle scorns to hear; his word is -- Liberty.

The British Lion leaves his lair, and shakes his shaggy mane, --
America's proud bird will die -- her sons be mine again;
And in his haste to seize his prey, treads down the bleeding slave,
That, through long years of misery, has fled to him to save.

The eagle opes his glazing eye, as comes the distant roar
Of his old enemy, that wakes the echoes of each shore;
With ruffled plumage lists in vain for Freedom's battle cry,
Then sinks; unlike his fallen sons, he knows his time to die.

Proud bird! thou scorn'st to live, --tis well! Die brave, and bold, and free,
Rather than live to symbolize aught less than Liberty.
When these thy sons shout other words, to wake thy boding scream,
Perish the nation of thy love, -- a vague, forgotten dream!

Better America should die -- her light forever set
Among the nations -- than her sons that watchword should forget;
Better her daughters die of grief o'er freemens' bloody graves,
Than these her stars and stripes should float above her million slaves.

Shout but the watchword, Liberty! and the old Eagle springs
Back to his native power, and loud his piercing warcry rings.
His eye shall catch its ancient fire, then, Northmen, only then,
Shall come his scream, -- the tocsin bell of liberty again.

Shout but the watchword, Liberty! Mount Vernon's tomb shall shake,
Shout but the watchword, Liberty! and the whole world must wake,
Shout but the watchword, Liberty! the spirits of the free,
Shall leave e'en heaven to watch and write thy nation's history.

Yes, patriots, martyrs, heroes brave, through all the mighty past,
Who died for freedom, and around her shrine a glory cast,
Shall break from their long mystic sleep at that one word sublime,
And roll the anthem grand through all the corridors of Time.

No! Eagle, in thy wounded pride, we pray thee die not yet;
Thy glorious sun of liberty we pledge thee shall not set;
America shall send her voice through all the listening sky,
And call for God and Liberty. Ho, Eagle! scorn to die!


The Poet And Other Poems.
Copyright 1864
Boston: William White And Co.,
158 Washington Street.