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Ode--Shell the Old City! Shell!

William Gilmore Simms 1806 (Charleston) – 1870 (Charleston)



I.
Shell the old city I shell!
Ye myrmidons of Hell;
Ye serve your master well,
With hellish arts!
Hurl down, with bolt and fire,
The grand old shrines, the spire;
But know, your demon ire
Subdues no hearts!

II.

There, we defy ye still,
With sworn and resolute will;
Courage ye cannot kill
While we have breath!
Stone walls your bolts may break,
But, ere our souls ye shake,
Of the whole land we'll make
One realm of death!

III.

Dear are our homes! our eyes
Weep at their sacrifice;
And, with each bolt that flies,
Each roof that falls,
The pang extorts the tear,
That things so precious, dear
To memory, love, and care,
Sink with our walls.

IV.

Trophies of ancient time,
When, with great souls, sublime,
Opposing force and crime,
Our fathers fought;
Relics of golden hours,
When, for our shrines and bowers,
Genius, with magic powers,
Her triumphs wrought!

V.

Each Sabbath-hallowed dome,
Each ancient family home,
The dear old southwest room,
All trellised round;
Where gay, bright summer vines,
Linked in fantastic twines
With the sun's blazing lines,
Rubied the ground!

VI.

Homes, sacred to the past,
Which bore the hostile blast,
Though Spain, France, Britain cast
Their shot and shell!
Tombs of the mighty dead,
That in our battles bled,
When on our infant head
These furies fell!

VII.

Halls which the foreign guest
Found of each charm possessed,
With cheer unstinted blessed,
And noblest grace;
Where, drawing to her side
The stranger, far and wide,
Frank courtesy took pride
To give him place!

VIII.

The shaded walks--the bowers
Where, through long summer hours,
Young Love first proved his powers
To win the prize;
Where every tree has heard
Some vows of love preferred,
And, with his leaves unstirred,
Watch'd lips and eyes.

IX.

Gardens of tropic blooms,
That, through the shaded rooms,
Sent Orient-winged perfumes
With dusk and dawn;
The grand old laurel, tall,
As sovereign over all,
And, from the porch and hall,
The verdant lawn.

X.

Oh! when we think of these
Old homes, ancestral trees;
Where, in the sun and breeze,
At morn and even,
Was to enjoy the play
Of hearts at holiday,
And find, in blooms of May,
Foretaste of Heaven!

XI.

Where, as we cast our eyes
On thing's of precious prize,
Trophies of good and wise,
Grand, noble, brave;
And think of these, so late
Sacred to soul and state,
Doomed, as the wreck of fate,
By fiend and slave!--

XII.

The inevitable pain,
Coursing through blood and brain,
Drives forth, like winter rain,
The bitter tear!
We cannot help but weep,
From depth of hearts that keep
The memories, dread and deep.
To vengeance dear!

XIII.

Aye, for each tear we shed,
There shall be torrents red,
Not from the eye-founts fed,
But from the veins!
Bloody shall be the sweat,
Fiends, felons, that shall yet
Pay retribution's debt,
In torture's pains!

XIV.

Our tears shall naught abate,
Of what we owe to hate--
To the avenging fate--
To earth and Heaven!
And, soon or late, the hour
Shall bring th' atoning power,
When, through the clouds that lower,
The storm-bolt's driven!

XV.

Shell the old city--shell!
But, with each rooftree's knell,
Vows deep of vengeance fell,
Fire soul and eye!
With every tear that falls
Above our stricken walls
Each heart more fiercely calls,
'Avenge, or die!'

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:52 min read
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William Gilmore Simms

William Gilmore Simms was a poet, novelist and historian from the American South. more…

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