Poetry Corner: The Men Behind the Guns
A CHEER and salute for the Admiral, and here's to the Captain bold,
And never forget the Commodore's debt when the deeds of might are told!
They stand to the deck through the battle's wreck when the great shells roar and screech.
And never they fear when the foe is near to practice what they preach:
But off with your hat and three times three for Columbia's true-blue sons,
The men below who batter the foe - the men behind the guns!
Oh, light and merry of heart are they when they swing into port once more,
When, with more than enough of the “green-back stuff,” they start for their leave-o'-shore;
And you'd think, perhaps, that the blue-bloused chaps who loll along the street
Are a tender bit, with salt on it, for some fierce “mustache” to eat -
Some warrior bold, with straps of gold, who dazzles and fairly stuns
The modest worth of the sailor boys - the lads who serve the guns.
But say not a word till the shot is heard that tells the fight is on,
Till the long, deep roar grows more and more from the ships of “Yank” and “Don,”
Till over the deep and tempest's sweep of fire and bursting shell,
And the very air is a mad Despair in the throes of a living hell;
Then down, deep down, in the mighty ship, unseen by the midday suns,
You'll find the chaps who are giving the raps - the men behind the guns!
Oh, well they know how the cyclones blow that they loose from their cloud of death,
And they know is heard the thunder-word their fierce ten-incher saith!
The steel decks rock with the lightning shock, and shake with the great recoil,
And the sea grows red with the blood of the dead and reaches for his spoil -
But not till the foe has gone below or turns his prow and runs,
Shall the voice of peace bring sweet release to the men behind the guns!
Printed in “Best Loved Poems of the American People” in 1960.