THE AMERICAN FLAG by Fr. Charles Constantine Pise

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THE AMERICAN FLAG

This poem was written by the accomplished Rev. Charles Constantine Pise, the only Catholic priest who ever had the distinction of being chaplain to the United States Senate. He held the office with credit and dignity from 1830 to 1833. The poem was written during the exciting times of Knownothingism that preceded the Civil War, when Catholics were on all sides accused of being enemies of the Government. It is said that it was inspired by the flag waving from the national capitol, as the author saw it while walking up Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.

They say I do not love thee,

Flag of my native land;

Whose meteor folds above me,

To the free breeze expand;

Thy broad stripes proudly streaming,

And thy stars so brightly gleaming.

They say I would forsake thee,

Should some dark crisis lower;

That, recreant, I should make thee

Crouch to a foreign power;

Seduced by license ample,

On thee, best flag, to trample.

They say that bolts of thunder,

Cast in the forge of Rome,

May rise and bring thee under,

Flag of my native home,

And with one blow dissever

My heart from thee forever.

False are the words they utter,

Ungenerous their brand;

And rash the oaths they mutter,

Flag of my native land;

Whilst still, in hope above me,

Thou wavest—and I love thee!

God is my love’s first duty,

To Whose Eternal Name

Be praise for all thy beauty,

Thy grandeur and thy fame;

But ever have I reckoned

Thine, native flag, my second.

Woe to the foe or the stranger,

Whose sacrilegious hand

Would touch thee, or endanger,

Flag of my native land!

Though some would fain discard thee,

Mine should be raised to guard thee.

Then wave, thou first of banners!

And in thy gentle shade

Let all opinions, manners,

Promiscuously be laid,

And there, all discord ended,

Our hearts and souls be blended!

Stream on, stream on, before us,

Thou labarum of light,

While in one generous chorus

Our vows to thee we plight;

Unfaithful to thee—never !

My native land forever!

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