Vintage Poetry for the Fourth of July



While the vote on the adoption of the Declaration of Independence was being taken in the State House at Philadelphia, crowds surged about the streets. The suspense was terrible. Would Congress dare declare the colonies free? Would they dare defy the power of England?

The old State House bell was to ring out the news if Congress acted. Already, in the belfry the old bell-ringer waited for the signal. At last it came, and as his grandson bounded up the stairs shouting “Ring! Ring! Ring!” the peals of the bell broke forth spreading the good news far and near. And the shouts from the crowds below told that the joyous sound found echo in the hearts of the people of the new and independent nation.


There was tumult in the city,
In the quaint old Quaker town,
And the streets were rife with people
Pacing restless up and down, —
People gathering at corners,
Where they whispered each to each
And the sweat stood on their temples
With the earnestness of speech.

As the bleak Atlantic currents
Lash the wild Newfoundland shore,
So they beat against the State-House,
So they surged against the door;
And the mingling of their voices
Made a harmony profound,
Till the quiet street of Chestnut
Was all turbulent with sound.
“Will the do it?” “Dare they do it?”
“Who is speaking? “What’s the news?”
“What of Adams?” “What of Sherman?”
“Oh, God grant they won’t refuse?”
“Make some way there!” “Let me nearer!”
“I am stifling!” “Stifle, then!
When a nation’s life’s a hazard,
We’ve no time to think of men!”

So they beat against the portal,
Man and woman, maid and child;
And the July sun is heaven
On the scene looked down and smiled’
The same sun that saw the Spartan
Shed his patriot blood in vain,
Now beheld the soul of freedom
All unconquer’d rise again.
See! See! The dense crowd quivers,
Thru all its lengthy line,
As the boy beside the portal
Looks forth to give the sign!
With his little hand uplifted,
Breezes dallying with his hair.
Hark! with deep, clear intonation,
Breaks his young voice on the air.

Hushed the people’s swelling murmur,
List the boy’s exultant cry!
“Ring!” he shouts, “Ring! grandpa,
Ring! oh, ring for Liberty!”
Quickly at the given signal
The old bell-man lifts his hand,
Forth he sends the good news, making
Iron music thru the land.

How they shouted! What rejoicing!
How the old bell shook the air.
Till the clang of freedom ruffled
The calmly gliding Delaware!
How the bonfires and the torches
Lighted up the night’s repose,
And from the flames, like fabled Phoenix,
Our glorious Liberty arose!

That old State-House bell is silent,
Hushed is now its clamorous tongue;
But the spirit it awakened
Still is living — ever young;
And when we greet the smiling sunlight
On the Fourth of each July,
We will ne’er forget the bell-man
Who, betwixt the earth and sky,
Rung out, loudly, “Independence”
Which, please God, shall never die.

–Author Unknown

** The two stanzas between the double asterisks are from the version of the poem printed in the Bayard Advocate, 1916. The rest of the poem is for the most part, the same as the Davenport Democrat, 1925 version.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, Iowa) Jul 3, 1925
Bayard Advocate (Bayard, Iowa) Jun 29, 1916

The First State Print (Image from

The First State Print (Image from


On the Third day of July, 1776, Caesar Rodney rode on horseback from St. James’ Neck, below Dover, Delaware, to Philadelphia, in a driving rain storm, for the purpose of voting for the Declaration of Independence.

In that soft mid-land where the breezes bear
The North and South on the genial air,
Through the county of Kent, on affairs of State,
Rode Caesar Rodney, the delegate.

Burly and big, and bold and bluff,
In his three-cornered hat and coat of snuff,
A foe to King George and the English State,
Was Caesar Rodney, the delegate.

Into Dover village he rode apace,
And his kinfolk knew from his anxious face,
It was matter grave that brought him there,
To the counties three upon the Delaware.

“Money and men we must have,” he said,
“Or the Congress fails and our cause is dead.
Give us both and the King shall not work his will.
We are men, since the blood of Bunker Hill.”

Comes a rider swift on a panting bay;
“Ho, Rodney, ho! you must save the day,
For the Congress halts at a deed so great,
And your vote alone may decide its fate.”

Answered Rodney then: “I will ride with speed;
It is Liberty’s stress; it is Freedom’s need.”
“When stands it?” “Tonight.” “Not a moment to spare,
But ride like the wind from the Delaware.”

“Ho, saddle the black! I’ve but half a day,
And the Congress sits eighty miles away —
But I’ll be in time, if God grants me grace,
To shake my fist in King George’s face.”

He is up; he is off! and the black horse flies
On the northward road ere the “God-speed” dies,
It is gallop and spur, as the leagues they clear,
And the clustering mile-stones move arear.

It is two of the clock; and the fleet hoofs fling
The Fieldboro’s dust with a clang and a cling,
It is three; and he gallops with slack rein where
The road winds down to the Delaware.

Four; and he spurs into New Castle town,
From his panting steed he gets him down —
“A fresh one quick! and not a moment’s wait!”
And off speeds Rodney, the delegate.

It is five; and the beams of the western sun
Tinge the spires of Wilmington, gold and dun;
Six; and the dust of Chester street
Flies back in a cloud from his courser’s feet.

It is seven; the horse-beat broad of beam,
At the Schuyikill ferry crawls over the stream —
And at seven fifteen by the Rittenhouse clock,
He flings his reins to the tavern jock.

The Congress is met; the debate’s begun.
And Liberty lags for the vote of one —
When into the hall, not a moment late,
Walks Caesar Rodney, the delegate.

Not a moment late! and that half day’s ride
Forwards the world with a mighty stride;
For the act was passed; ere the midnight stroke
O’er the Quaker City its echoes woke.

At Tyranny’s feet was the gauntlet flung
“We are free!” all the bells through the colonies rung,
And the sons of the free may recall with pride,
The day of Delegate Rodney’s ride.

Bayard Advocate (Bayard, Iowa) Jun 29, 1916

Vintage Flag


Stand by the flag! on land and ocean billow;
By it your fathers stood, unmoved and true;
Living, defended; lying, from their pillow,
With their last blessing, passed it on to you.
The lines that divide us are written in water.
The love that unites us is cut deep as rock.

Thus by friendship’s ties united,
We will change the bloody past
Into golden links of union,
Blending all in love at last.

Thus beneath the one broad banner,
Flag of the true, the brave and free,
We will build anew the Union,
Fortress of our Liberty.

Bayard Advocate (Bayard, Iowa) Jun 29, 1916



God bless our star-gemmed banner;
Shake its folds out to the breeze;
From church, from fort, from housetop,
Over the city, on the seas;

The die is cast, the storm at last
Has broken in its might;
Unfurl the starry banner,
And may God defend the right.

Then bless our banner, God of hosts!
Watch o’er each starry fold;
Tis Freedom’s standard, tried and proved
On many a field of old;

And Then, who long has blessed us,
Now bless us yet again,
And crown our cause with victory,
And keep our flag from stain.

Bayard Advocate (Bayard, Iowa) Jun 29, 1916


Independence Day.

Columbia fair,
With glory rare.
Sitting as queen in thy western sea,
The peoples pause
To give applause,
To celebrate thine ascendancy.

From eastern surge
To western verge
They sons, in glad activity,
Hail loud and long
With shout and song
They day of thy nativity.

Though dark they morn
Of oppression born,
And bloody thine earliest history,
Splendidly bright
Is they noonday light;
Grand be thy future of mystery.

The portal gleams
With the radiant beams
From the lifted hand of Liberty,
A sign of rest
For those opprest
And promise of peace and prosperity.

God save our land,
Where, hand in hand,
Justice and mercy habitate.
For her be strong
Whene’er the wrong,
Or dangers ‘gainst her militate.

Free as the breeze
That fans her leas,
Bright as the stars of her summer night,
Pure as the ore
In her treasured store,
Lord, may she ever by thy delight.

— E.B. Van Arsdale.

The News (Frederick, Maryland) Jun 30, 1893


Our Glorious Fourth — 1899.

Our flag on high
Kissing the sky,
Red, white and blue,
In gallant array.
O hear the drum
Of those who come
With fife and drum
On this natal day.

Patriots cheering,
Rockets glaring,
As the royal
And the brave come forth,
A united life,
Where once was rife
The earthly strife
Betwixt South and North.

Ye Yankee sons,
Shoot off the guns!
O Columbia,
Your proud spirit wake!
Let cannons roar
And huzzahs pour
From shore to shore
Until hillsides quake.

Urchin and man,
Those of our clan,
To the spirit
Of patriotism yield.
This mighty throng
Sings loud the song
Which makes us strong
Our valor to wield.

Our soldier boys
Will fire their toys
Upon the Philippines.
Steam whistles toot
And guns’ salute
Will crack and shoot
From marshalled lines.

Phalanx and file
In Cuba’s isle
For our Yankee
Liberty will root.
The Spaniards brave
And those that clave
Their land to save
Will join in and hoot.

Bells sway and ring
And patriots sing
But it is not
Our requiem song.
Our Nation’s creed
And daring deed
The world will heed,
If not now, ere long.

Freemen by birth
All join in mirth
Upon this day,
“Our Glorious Fourth.”
No alien’s hand
Shall spoil our land,
Firmly we stand
Now no South no North.

— J. EDWARD LUTZ, Harmony, Md.

The News (Frederick, Maryland) Jul 1, 1899

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