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    At the Cannon's Mouth

    by Herman Melville
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    Launch Reading Mode
    Destruction of the Ram Albermarle by the Torpedo-Launch.

    (October, 1864.)

    Palely intent, he urged his keel
    Full on the guns, and touched the spring;
    Himself involved in the bolt he drove
    Timed with the armed hull's shot that stove
    His shallop--die or do!
    Into the flood his life he threw,
    Yet lives--unscathed--a breathing thing
    To marvel at.

    He has his fame;
    But that mad dash at death, how name?

    Had Earth no charm to stay the Boy
    From the martyr-passion? Could he dare
    Disdain the Paradise of opening joy
    Which beckons the fresh heart every where?
    Life has more lures than any girl
    For youth and strength; puts forth a share
    Of beauty, hinting of yet rarer store;
    And ever with unfathomable eyes,
    Which baffingly entice,
    Still strangely does Adonis draw.
    And life once over, who shall tell the rest?
    Life is, of all we know, God's best.
    What imps these eagles then, that they
    Fling disrespect on life by that proud way
    In which they soar above our lower clay.

    Pretense of wonderment and doubt unblest:
    In Cushing's eager deed was shown
    A spirit which brave poets own--
    That scorn of life which earns life's crown;
    Earns, but not always wins; but he--
    The star ascended in his nativity.
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