Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Those are mighty powerful words, Mister!

Old Ironsides

By Oliver Wendell Holmes

September 16, 1830

Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
That banner in the sky;

Beneath it rung the battle shout,
And burst the cannon's roar;--
The meteor of the ocean air
Shall sweep the clouds no more.

Her deck, once red with heroes' blood,
Where knelt the vanquished foe,
When winds were hurrying o'er the flood,
And waves were white below,

No more shall feel the victor's tread,
Or know the conquered knee;--
The harpies of the shore shall pluck
The eagle of the sea!

Oh, better that her shattered bulk
Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
And there should be her grave;

Nail to the mast her holy flag,
Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
The lightning and the gale!

Don't you love the feeling you get when you read a poem like this? It is so dramatic, so powerful.  This has long been a favorite of mine to read aloud.

I found it interesting that Oliver Wendell Holmes was only 21 when he wrote this. After reading in the newspaper that the Navy planned to scrap the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides was it's nickname), he was moved to write this poem. He evoked a lot of passion with his words. So much so, that the Navy changed its plans to scrap the Constitution and eventually restored it instead.

Thinking of the power Mr. Holmes evoked by his words, makes me think of the words I am using every day. Do my words built up or tear down? Our words are powerful ~ we need to use them wisely. We never know just how much they could mean to someone else (for good or for bad.)

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