Two ships upon a southern sea,
their sails afire with early sun.
Each judging what the other be;
if friend or nay—to fight or run.
The gentle swells and easy wind,
the creak of oak and cry of gulls,
Spoke not at all of bloody end—
of life undone and splintered hulls.
A British brig and rigged for war,
now coming ‘round to close the mile
Twixt her and whom she did abhor
for being such a rebel vile.
“American,” her colors said—
a rattlesnake, “Don’t Tread On Me,”
A sloop that might have easy fled
but hauled her wind, now westerly.
A bow gun spoke, an English threat,
and water plumed abaft the beam.
The Yank now fixed in silhouette—
her filling sails in morning’s gleam.
She was the Rogue—had thirty guns—
fourteen per side—one fore, one aft.
Her burden was but ninety tons—
a lively sloop of shallow draft.
Old England’s pride, the Diligent,
with helm alee to meet the fight—
Her colors up to represent
her king and all his glory bright.
The Continental Navy men,
the bravest souls upon the sea,
Ran out their guns and fired and then
Reloaded for the liberty
Of those ashore who must defend
a nation’s right to stand alone
Against constraints that can’t amend
indignities sent from the throne.
And so, the ships now side by side
threw shot and chain across the swells
‘Til pride and fury burned and died
Upon a sea of grim farewells.
Beneath the bloodied brine and wrecks
The vessels settled to their graves—
The shredded sails and splintered decks
Forever gone below the waves.
Two ships upon a southern sea—
each judging what the other be.