O brave flag, O bright flag, O flag to lead
The glory of thy silver stars,
Engrailed in blue above the bars
Of red for courage, white for truth,
Has brought the world a second youth
And drawn a hundred million hearts to follow after thee.
Old Cambridge saw thee first unfurled,
By Washington’s far-reaching hand,
To greet, in Seventy-six, the wintry morn
Of a new year, and herald to the world
Glad tidings from a Western land,—
A people and a hope new-born!
The double cross then filled thine azure field,
In token of a spirit loath to yield
The breaking ties that bound thee to a throne.
But not for long thine oriflamme could bear
That symbol of an outworn trust in kings.
The wind that bore thee out on widening wings
Called for a greater sign and all thine own,—
A new device to speak of heavenly laws
And lights that surely guide the people’s cause.
Oh, greatly did they hope, and greatly dare,
Who bade the stars in heaven fight for them,
And set upon their battle-flag a fair
New constellation as a diadem!
Along the blood-stained banks of Brandywine
The ragged troops were rallied to this sign;
Through Saratoga’s woods it fluttered bright
Amid the perils of the hard-won fight;
O’er Yorktown’s meadows broad and green
It hailed the glory of the final scene;
And when at length Manhattan saw
The last invaders’ line of scarlet coats
Pass Bowling Green, and fill the waiting boats
And sullenly withdraw,
The flag that proudly flew
Above the battered line of buff and blue,
Marching, with rattling drums and shrilling pipes,
Along the Bowery and down Broadway,
Was this that leads the great parade to-day,—
The glorious banner of the stars and stripes.
First of the flags
of earth to dare
A heraldry so high;
First of the flags of earth to bear
The blazons of the sky;
Long may thy constellation glow,
Foretelling happy fate;
Wider thy starry circle grow,
And every star a State!
Pass on, pass on, ye flashing files
Of men who march in militant array;
Ye thrilling bugles, throbbing drums,
Ring out, roll on, and die away;
And fade, ye crowds, with the fading day!
Around the city’s lofty piles
Of steel and stone
The lilac veil of dusk is thrown,
Entangled full of sparks of fairy light;
And the never-silent heart of the city hums
To a homeward-turning tune before the night.
But far above, on the sky-line’s broken height,
From all the towers and domes outlined
In gray and gold along the city’s crest,
I see the rippling flag still take the wind
With a promise of good to come for all mankind.