There was tumult in the city,
In the quaint old Quaker town,
And the streets were rife with people,
Pacing restless up and down;—
People gathering at corners,
Where they whispered each to each,
And the sweat stood on their temples,
With the earnestness of speech.
"Will they do it?" "Dare they do it?"
"Who is speaking?" "What’s the news?"
"What of Adams?" "What of Sherman?"
"Oh, God grant they won’t refuse!"
"Make some way there!" "Let me nearer!"
"I am stifling!" "Stifle then!
When a nation’s life’s at hazard,
We’ve no time to think of men!"
So they beat against the portal,
Man and woman, maid and child;
And the July sun in heaven
On the scene looked down and smiled,
The same sun that saw the Spartan
Shed his patriot blood in vain,
Now beheld the soul of freedom
All unconquer’d rise again.
See! See! The dense crowd quivers
Through all its lengthy line,
As the boy beside the portal
Looks forth to give the sign!
With his small hands upward lifted,
Breezes dallying with his hair,
Hark! With deep, clear intonation,
Breaks his young voice on the air.
Hushed the people’s swelling murmur,
List, the boy’s exultant cry!
"Ring!" he shouts, "Ring, Grandpa,
Ring, O, ring for Liberty!"
And straightway at the signal,
The old bellman lifts his hand,
And sends the good news, making
Iron music through the land.
How they shouted! What rejoicing!
How the old bell shook the air,
Till the clang of freedom ruffled
The calm, gliding Delaware!
How the bonfires and the torches
Illumed the night’s repose,
And from the flames like fabled Phoenix,
Our glorious Liberty arose!
That old bell now is silent,
And hushed its iron tongue,
But the spirit it awakened,
Still lives—forever young.
And when we greet the smiling sunlight,
On the fourth of each July,
We’ll ne’er forget the bellman,
Who, betwixt the earth and sky,
Rang out OUR INDEPENDENCE,
Which, please God, shall never die!