Our Poets February Poem - WASHINGTON, AT TRENTON


                                           WASHINGTON, AT TRENTON

                                               26 December 1776


                                    Foul blew the winter’s air,
                                    Soldiers were in despair,
                                    Ice choked the Delaware,
                                      Marsh and reed-bordered.
                                    Prospects of deepest black,
                                    Giving his map a whack,
                                    “We shall attack–attack!”
                                      Washington ordered.
                                    “Think–how on Christmas Day,
                                    Deeming us far away,
                                    The Hessian hogs will say
                                       ‘Drink and be merry!’
                                    While with vainglorious boasts
                                    They are exchanging toasts,
                                    We–ragged, starving ghosts–
                                       Cross at the ferry.
                                    “Marshaling, one by one,
                                    Each soldier, horse and gun,
                                    By the first light of sun
                                       Tomorrow morning,
                                    Roust from its downy bed
                                    The aching Hessian head,
                                    Spatter the snow with red,
                                       Strike without warning!”
                                    Thus, in the wind and sleet,
                                    Marching on bloody feet,
                                    Troops mustered to the beat
                                       Of bone-chilled drummers,
                                    Down to the frozen shore,
                                    (Bad night to wage a war–
                                    Not to be thawed, men swore,
                                       By twenty summers).

                                    Soldiers in tattered coats,

                                    Filing aboard the boats,

                                    Hearts throbbed in many throats–

                                      Perilous crossing!

                                    On, through the swirling snows,

                                    As feet and fingers froze,

                                    Oared amid jagged floes,

                                       Grinding and tossing.


                                    On the New Jersey side

                                    Scouts raced ahead to guide,

                                    “Forward!” the general cried,

                                      “Sweep to surround ‘em!

                                    Doubtless they’re sleeping yet–

                                    What though your powder’s wet,

                                    Charge with the bayonet,

                                       Crush and confound ‘em!”


                                    As the pale sun arose,

                                    Breaking the German’s doze,

                                    “Turn out! Here come our foes!”

                                      His sentries shouted,

                                    Sounding alarm, too late–

                                    Knox’s guns lent their weight,

                                    Cannon fired fast and straight,

                                      Hessians were routed!


                                    Down icy streets they ran,

                                    Terror on every man,

                                    “Fly, save yourselves who can!”

                                       Their troops were crying;

                                    Unhappy Colonel Rall,

                                    Pierced by a musket-ball,

                                    Yielded his sword, to fall,

                                       Conquered and dying.

                                 The guns of Freedom spoke,

                                 Chain of disasters broke–

                                 Washington’s master-stroke

                                    Turning the tables;

                                 Britons, in dark dismay,

                                 Asking themselves if they

                                 Must buy, as one might say,

                                     “A suit of sables”.


                              Soundly defeated, then

                              Turning to fight again,

                              Stauncher than stout Turenne,

                                  Bolder and grander–

                             Washington! Born to lead,

                             Winning by stealth and speed,

                             God send us, in our need,

                                Such a commander!


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