She was in active service throughout the entire war, and captured five ships of war from the British, two of which were frigates.
In all her service, her success was remarkable. She never lost her masts, never went ashore, and though so often in battle, no very serious loss of life ever occurred on her decks. Her entire career was that of what is called in the navy “a lucky ship.”
Perhaps this may be explained by the fact that she always had excellent commanders, and that she probably possessed as fine a ship’s company as ever manned a frigate.
In 1829, the Government ordered the Constitution to be dismantled and taken to pieces, because she had become unfit for service.
At that time, Oliver Wendell Holmes, who has since become famous as a writer, was a young man twenty years of age, about completing his studies at Harvard College.
When he heard of the intended destruction of “Old Ironsides,” he went directly to his room, and, inspired by patriotic feelings, wrote the following poem.
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 cannons’ roar:
The meteor of the ocean air
Shall sweep the clouds no more.
Her deck, once red with heroes’
Where knelt the vanquished foe,
When winds were hurrying o’er the flood
And waves were white below,
No more shall feel the victors’ tread,
Or know the conquered knee:
The harpies of the shore shall pluck
The eagle of the sea!
O, better that her shattered hulk
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!
The effect of this poem upon the people was so great that a general outcry arose against the destruction of the gallant old ship.
The Government was induced to reconsider its determination. The old ship was saved, repaired, and for many years has delighted the eyes of thousands of people who have visited her.
At present, she is used as a receiving-ship at the United States Navy Yard, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
* * * * *
Directions for Reading.—With what tone of voice should the prose part of the lesson be read?
Read the poetry—first, slowly and quietly; then, in a loud tone of voice, expressing the feeling of anger.
Which method of reading the poem do the pupils prefer?
Which do they think represents the poet’s feelings?
Let pupils pronounce in concert, and singly, the following words: hero, year, people, deep, eagle, knee, serious, meteor, complete, pieces.