Read by Alice Oswald
The boy stood on the burning deck,
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle's wreck,
Shone round him o'er the dead.
Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
As born to rule the storm;
A creature of heroic blood,
A proud, though child-like form.
The flames roll’d on – he would not go,
Without his father's word;
That father, faint in death below,
His voice no longer heard.
He call’d aloud – 'Say, father, say
If yet my task is done?'
He knew not that the chieftain lay
Unconscious of his son.
'Speak, father!' once again he cried,
'If I may yet be gone!'
– And but the booming shots replied,
And fast the flames roll’d on.
Upon his brow he felt their breath
And in his waving hair;
And look’d from that lone post of death,
In still yet brave despair.
And shouted but once more aloud,
'My father! must I stay?'
While o'er him fast, through sail and shroud,
The wreathing fires made way.
They wrapt the ship in splendor wild,
They caught the flag on high,
And stream’d above the gallant child,
Like banners in the sky.
There came a burst of thunder sound –
The boy – oh! where was he?
– Ask of the winds that far around
With fragments strew’d the sea!
With mast, and helm, and pennon fair,
That well had borne their part –
But the noblest thing which perish’d there,
Was that young faithful heart.