A Ballad Of The Boston Tea-Party

Oliver Wendell Holmes 1841 ( Boston, Massachusetts, United States) – 1935 ( Washington, D.C., )

No! never such a draught was poured
    Since Hebe served with nectar
    The bright Olympians and their Lord,
    Her over-kind protector, -
    Since Father Noah squeezed the grape
    And took to such behaving
    As would have shamed our grandsire ape
    Before the days of shaving, -
    No! ne'er was mingled such a draught
    In palace, hall, or arbor,
    As freemen brewed and tyrants quaffed
    That night in Boston Harbor!
    The Western war-cloud's crimson stained
    The Thames, the Clyde, the Shannon;
    Full many a six-foot grenadier
    The flattened grass had measured,
    And many a mother many a year
    Her tearful memories treasured;
    Fast spread the tempest's darkening pall,
    The mighty realms were troubled,
    The storm broke loose, but first of all
    The Boston teapot bubbled!

    An evening party, - only that,
    No formal invitation,
    No gold-laced coat, no stiff cravat,
    No feast in contemplation,
    No silk-robed dames, no fiddling band,
    No flowers, no songs, no dancing, -
    A tribe of red men, axe in hand, -
    Behold the guests advancing!
    How fast the stragglers join the throng,
    From stall and workshop gathered!
    The lively barber skips along
    And leaves a chin half-lathered;
    The smith has flung his hammer down,
    The horseshoe still is glowing;
    The truant tapster at the Crown
    Has left a beer-cask flowing;
    The cooper's boys have dropped the adze,
    And trot behind their master;
    Up run the tarry ship-yard lads, -
    The crowd is hurrying faster, -
    Out from the Millpond's purlieus gush
    The streams of white-faced millers,
    And down their slippery alleys rush
    The lusty young Fort-Hillers -
    The ropewalk lends its 'prentice crew, -
    The tories seize the omen:
    "Ay, boys, you'll soon have work to do
    For England's rebel foemen,
    'King Hancock,' Adams, and their gang,
    That fire the mob with treason, -
    When these we shoot and those we hang
    The town will come to reason."

    On - on to where the tea-ships ride!
    And now their ranks are forming, -
    A rush, and up the Dartmouth's side
    The Mohawk band is swarming!
    See the fierce natives! What a glimpse
    Of paint and fur and feather,
    As all at once the full-grown imps
    Light on the deck together!
    A scarf the pigtail's secret keeps,
    A blanket hides the breeches, -
    And out the cursed cargo leaps,
    And overboard it pitches!

    O woman, at the evening board
    So gracious, sweet, and purring,
    So happy while the tea is poured,
    So blest while spoons are stirring,
    What martyr can compare with thee,
    The mother, wife, or daughter,
    That night, instead of best Bohea,
    Condemned to milk and water!

    Ah, little dreams the quiet dame
    Who plies with' rock and spindle
    The patient flax, how great a flame
    Yon little spark shall kindle!
    The lurid morning shall reveal
    A fire no king can smother
    Where British flint and Boston steel
    Have clashed against each other!
    Old charters shrivel in its track,
    His Worship's bench has crumbled,

    It climbs and clasps the union-jack,
    Its blazoned pomp is humbled,
    The flags go down on land and sea
    Like corn before the reapers;
    So burned the fire that brewed the tea
    That Boston served her keepers!

    The waves that wrought a century's wreck
    Have rolled o'er whig and tory;
    The Mohawks on the Dartmouth's deck
    Still live in song and story;
    The waters in the rebel bay
    Have kept the tea-leaf savor;
    Our old North-Enders in their spray
    Still taste a Hyson flavor;
    And Freedom's teacup still o'erflows
    With ever fresh libations,
    To cheat of slumber all her foes
    And cheer the wakening nations.

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Submitted by halel on July 15, 2020

Modified on April 26, 2023

3:03 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 3,731
Words 598
Stanzas 7
Stanza Lengths 22, 32, 12, 8, 10, 6, 12

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1902 to 1932, and as Acting Chief Justice of the United States in January–February 1930. more…

All Oliver Wendell Holmes poems | Oliver Wendell Holmes Books

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