The Battle of the Kegs

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Battle of the Kegs

by Francis Hopkinson

Gallants attend, and hear a friend,
Trill forth harmonious ditty;
Strange things I’ll tell,
Which late befell, In Philadelphia City.
‘Twas early day, as poets say,
Just when the sun was rising,
A soldier stood on a log of wood,
And saw a site surprising.

As in a maze, he stood to gaze,
The truth can’t be denied, sir
He spied a score – of kegs, or more,
Come floating down the tide, sir.
A sailor too, in jerkin blue,
The strange appearance viewing,
First damned his eyes, in great surprise,
Then said, “Some mischief’s brewing.”

“These kegs now hold the rebels bold,
Pack’d up like pickled herring:
And they’re come down to attack the town,
In this new way of ferrying.”
The soldier flew, the sailor too,
And, scared almost to death, sir,
Wore out their shoes, to spread the news,
And ran til out of breath, sir.

Now up and down throughout the town,
Most frantic scenes were acted:
And some ran here, and some ran there
Like men almost distracted,
Some fire cried, which some denied,
But said the earth had quaked;
And girls and boys, with hideous noise
Ran through the town half-naked.

Sir William he, snug as a flea,
Lay all this time a-snoring,
Nor dreamed of harm, as he lay warm,
In bed with Mrs. Loring.
Now in a fright he starts upright,
Awaked by such a clatter;
He rubs his eyes and boldly cries,
“For God’s sake what’s the matter?”

At his bedside, he then espied,
Sir Erskine in command, sir,
Upon one foot he had one boot,
And t’other in his hand, sir.
“Arise! Arise!” Sir Erskine cries;
“The rebels – more’s the pity –
Without a boat, are all on float,
And ranged before the city.”

The motley crews, in vessels new,
With Satan for their guide, sir,
Packed up in bags or wooden kegs,
Come driving down the tide, sir.
Therefore prepare for bloody war;
These kegs must all be routed;
Or surely we despised shall be,
And British courage doubted.

The royal band now ready stand,
All ranged in dread array, sir,
With stomach stout to see it out,
And make a bloody day, sir.
The cannons roar, from shore to shore,
The small arms make a rattle:
Since wars began I’m sure no man,
E’er saw so strange a battle.

The fish below swam to and fro,
Attacked form every quarter;
Why sure, thought they, the devil’s to pay,
‘Mongst folk above the water.
These kegs ’tis said, tho’ strongly made,
Of rebel staves and hoops, sir,
Could not oppose their powerful foes,
The conquering British troops, sir.

From morn to night, these men of might
Displayed amazing courage;
And when the sun was fairly down,
Retired to sup their porridge:
An hundred men with each a pen,
Or more upon my word, sir,
It is most true, should be too few,
Their valor to record sir.

Such feats did they perform that day
Upon these wicked kegs, sir,
That years to come, if they get home,
They’ll make their boasts and brags, sir.


About The Mithril Guardian

I like stories.  Whether they’re on film, in song, or in print, I always remember a good story.  They remind me of paintings.  People cannot see them without learning something.  So it’s a good idea to look at a story from as many angles as possible.  I can watch the same movie a million times and still I will learn something that I did not know before.  Thoughts on the Edge of Forever is where I get to focus on what I learned from stories; what was not obvious the first time, the second time, or the umpteenth time. Earlier posts are written in the form of letters, usually to specific characters, to point out what I saw in a particular story or heard in a piece of music. Some of those letters, though, are like letters to the editor. Why did someone write a story this way and not another? Would the story have turned out better if the writer had done something different? These ‘letters to the editor’ will probably never be answered by the writers - the characters certainly will not answer anything - but their contents are still up for debate. After all, unless you ask a question, you will never get an answer. Still, civil ground rules apply. Any foul language or other form of abuse will not be tolerated in Thoughts on the Edge of Forever. I mean, who wants to be around the guest at the dinner party who is being nasty? Practically nobody, since people go to a party to have fun, not to hang around a grouch. So let’s have fun! The Mithril Guardian
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