African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

James T. Franklin, "Battle of Manilla" (1900)

Battle of Manilla.

         Just off Manila’s lighted port,
              *Corr’gidor and Cabilla lay,
         And sentinel like each island, armed,
              Kept watch at the mouth of the bay;
         While cross each narrow neck between
              The mainland and its guardian isle,
         A chain of mines were hung unseen
              To make our ships a funeral pile-
         Between the isles a current swept
               And sped unchecked a spreading sheet,
         Beyond, an island city slept
               Protected by the Spanish fleet,
         And on the bay black night was King,
               The winds were strolling toward the lea:
         Our men-of-war like birds on wing
               Were speeding o’er the China sea.
         'Twas midnight by the Eastern clocks,
               Strong batteries guarded the seas,
         Manilla shone in lighted blocks
                And the Spaniards were at their ease
         No man of sense, the captain thought,
                Would clinch with death to enter there;
         But Dewey brave, our hero, wrought
                A deed none other man would dare.
         For like the winds on wings of night,
                He swept the secret passage way
         With ships and men prepared to fight
                 As his fleet put into the bay.
         Just then the drowsy iles awoke
                And spied, it seems, the phantom floats,

* corregidor. 

And thunder like their voices spoke
     With roaring flames from cannon throats
 Manilla ’woke from slumber sweet,
     A frightened queen in robes of night,
And rushed into the drowsy street,
     Producing pamic in her flight.
The winds helped bear the fleeting skirts,
     The streets echoed the sounding tread
Till forth upon the eastern sky
     The sun its golden glory spread.
And Sunday morn beheld our fleet
     In haste a steaming to the fray.
While from each yawing cannon mouth
     Was bursting judgment on the bay.
The Spanish fleet and batteries loud
    Spat out their flames the waters o’er
While from our ships with pennons proud,
    Came one reverberating roar.
A cloud of smoke spread o’er the bay
    And thro’ it loud the thunders crashed:
Beneath it was the shimm’ring sea,
    Resplendent as the lightning flashed.
Terrific shells, hot thunder bolts,
    From Yankee cannon’s deadly pour,
Burst flaming o’er the Spaniard’s decks
    And made them slippery with gore.
Old Spanish hulks were raised on high
    And poised were they the waters o’er,
Their magazines lit up the sky
    And frightened gunboats dashed ashore.
Then all was still, the smoking cloud
    Went up from o’er the judgment seat
And coiled its sombre glory round
    The flags of our victorious fleets.

Published in Jessamine Poems, 1900

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