There was a 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.
As the bleak Atlantic currents
Lash the wild Newfoundland shore,
So they beat against the State House,
So they surged against the door;
And the mingling of their voices
Made the harmony profound,
Till the quiet street of Chestnut
Was all turbulent with sound.
“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 surged against the State House,
While all solemnly inside,
Sat the Continental Congress,
Truth and reason for their guide,
Over a simple scroll debating,
Which, though simple it might be,
Yet should shake the cliffs of England
With the thunders of the free.
Far aloft in that high steeple
Sat the bellman, old and gray,
He was weary of the tyrant
And his iron-sceptered sway;
So he sat, with one hand ready
On the clapper of the bell,
When his eye could catch the signal,
The long-expected news to tell.
See! See! The dense crowd quivers
Through all its lengthy line,
As the boy beside the portal
Hastens forth to give the sign!
With his little hands uplifted,
Breezes dallying with his hair,
Hark! with deep, clear intonation,
Breaks his young voice on the air.
Hushed the people’s swelling murmur,
Whilst the boy crys joyously;
“Ring!” he shouts, “Ring! Grandpapa,
Ring! oh, ring for Liberty!”
Quickly, at the given signal
The old bellman lifts his hand,
Forth he sends the goods 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 calmly gliding Delaware!
How the bonfires and the torches
Lighted up the night’s repose,
And from the flames, like fabled Phoenix,
Our glorious liberty arose!
That old State House bell is silent,
Hushed is now its glamorous tongue;
But the spirit it awakened
Still is living—ever young;
And when we greet the smiling sunlight
On the fourth of each July,
We will never forget the bellman
Who, between the earth and sky,
Rung out, loudly, “Independence”;
Which, please God, shall never die!