Song of the Forge

Image from The Victorian Web: A Victorian Blacksmith’s Shop


We give below the “Song of the Forge,” a spirited and powerful poem. Even compared with Schuler‘s famous “Song of the Bell,” it remains unsurpassed. Many years ago it went the rounds of the papers, starting, we believe, from Blackwood’s Magazine. It then took a Rip Van Winkle’s nap, preserved, however, in the admiring memories of the discriminating, till, after circumnavigating the globe, it lately appeared in the “Calcutta Magazine,” whence it was copied as original by some American journals of more taste than reading. We reprint it, to preserve it in our pages, “for the long day,” as we hope. Observe — and admire too — the masterly variations of the tone in the gentle and genial description of the future course of the food-giving plough, in the dream of the mysterious wanderings of the anchor’s chain, and in the soul-stirring anticipations of the flashings of the sword.
— New Mirror.

Clang, clang! the massive anvils ring —
Clang, clang! a hundred hammers swing,
Like the thunder-rattle of a tropic sky
Clang, clang!
Say, brothers of the dusky brow,
What are your strong arms forging now?

Clang, clang — we forge the coulter now —
The coulter of the kindly plough;
Sweet Mary mother, bless our toil;
May its broad furrow still unbind
To genial rains, to sun and wind,
The most benignant soil.

Clang, clang — our coulter’s course shall be
On many a sweet and sheltered lea,
By many a streamlet’s silver tide,
Amidst the song of morning birds,
Amidst the low of sauntering herds,
Amidst soft breezes which do stray
Through woodbine hedges and sweet May,
Along the green hill’s side.

When regal autumn’s bounteous hand,
With wide-spread glory clothes the land;
When to the valleys, from the brow
Of each resplendent slope, is rolled
A ruddy sea of living gold,
We bless — we bless the PLOUGH.

Clang, clang — again, my mates, what glows
Beneath the hammer’s potent blows?
Clink, clank — we forge the giant’s chain,
Which bears the gallant vessel’s strain,
‘Midst stormy winds and adverse tides;
Secured by this, the good ship braves
The rocky roadstead, and the waves
Which thunder on her sides.

Anxious no more, the merchant sees
The mist drive dark before the breeze,
The storm cloud on the hill;
Calmly he rests though far away
In boisterous climes his vessel lay,
Reliant on our skill.

Say, on what sands these links shall sleep,
Fathoms beneath the solemn deep?
By Afric’s pestilential shore —
By many an iceberg, lone and hoar —
By many a palmy, western isle,
Basking in spring’s perpetual smile —
By stormy Labrador?

Say, shall they feel the vessel reel,
When to the battery’s deadly peal
The crashing broadside makes reply?
Or else, as at the glorious Nile,
Held grappling ships that strive the while,
To death or victory?

Hurrah! clang, clang — once more what glows
Dark brothers of the forge, beneath
The iron tempest of your blows
The furnace’s red breath?

Clang, clang — a burning torrent clear
And brilliant, of bright sparks, is poured
Around and up in the dusky air,
As our hammers forge the SWORD.

The sword! — a name of dread; yet when
Upon the freeman’s thigh ’tis bound,
While for his altar and his hearth,
While for the land that gave him birth,
The war-drums roll, the trumpets sound,
How sacred is it then!

Whenever for the truth and right
It flashes in the van of fight,
Whether in some wild mountain pass,
As that where fell Leonidas;
Or on some sterile plain and stern,
A Marston or a Bannockburn;
Or mid fierce crags and bursting rills,
The Switzer’s Alps, gray Tyrol’s hills;
Or, as when sunk the Armada’s pride,
It gleams above the stormy tide;
Still, still, whene’er the battle word
Is Liberty, when men do stand
For justice and their native land,
Then Heaven bless the SWORD!

South Port American (South Port, Wisconsin) Aug 3, 1843

Some definitions and explanations of words mentioned in the poem:



Title: The Fifth Reader: for the use of public and private schools
Author: George Stillman Hillard
Publisher: Brewer and Tileston, 1863
Pages 111-113

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