A Ballad of the Boston Tea Party

Index: Tea Leaves - A Collection of East India Co. Letters, 1773 




No! never such a draught was poured

     Since Hebe served with nectar

The bright Olympians and their Lord,

     Her over-kind protector;

Since Father Noah squeezed the grape

     And took to such behaving,

As would have shamed our grandsire ape,

     Before the days of shaving;

No! ne'er was mingled such a draught,

     In palace, hall, or arbor,

As freemen brewed, and tyrants quaffed,

     That night in Boston harbor!

It kept King George so long awake,

     His brain at last got addled,

It made the nerves of Britain shake

     With seven score millions saddled;

Before that bitter cup was drained

     Amid the roar of cannon,

The western war-cloud's crimson stained

     The Thames, the Clyde, the Shannon;

Full many a six-foot grenadier

     The flattened grass had measured,

And many a mother many a year

     Her tearful memories treasured.

Fast spread the tempest's darkening pall,

     The mighty realms were troubled,

The storm broke loose, but first of all

     The Boston tea-pot bubbled!

An evening party,—only that,

     No formal invitation,

No gold-laced coat, no stiff cravat,

     No feast in contemplation;

No silk-robed dames, no fiddling band,

     No flowers, no songs, no dancing!

A tribe of red men,—axe in hand,—

     Behold the guests advancing!

How fast the stragglers join the throng,

     From stall and work-shop gathered;

The lively barber skips along

     And leaves a chin half-lathered;

The smith has flung his hammer down,

     The horse-shoe still is glowing,

The truant tapster at the Crown

     Has left a beer-cask flowing;

The coopers' boys have dropped the adze,

     And trot behind their master;

Up run the tarry ship-yard lads;—

     The crowd is hurrying faster.

Out from the mill-pond's purlieus gush,

     The streams of white-faced millers,

And down their slippery alleys rush

     The lusty young Fort-Hillers.

The rope-walk lends its 'prentice crew,

     The Tories seize the omen;

"Ay, boys! you'll soon have work to do

     For England's rebel foemen,

'King Hancock,' Adams, and their gang,

     That fire the mob with treason,—

When these we shoot, and those we hang,

     The town will come to reason.

"On—on to where the tea-ships ride!

     And now their ranks are forming,—

A rush and up the Dartmouth's side,

     The Mohawk band is swarming!

See the fierce natives! what a glimpse

     Of paint and fur and feather,

As all at once the full-grown imps

     Light on the deck together!

A scarf the pig-tail's secret keeps,

     A blanket hides the breeches,—

And out the cursed cargo leaps,

     And overboard it pitches!

O woman, at the evening board,

     So gracious, sweet and purring,

So happy while the tea is poured,

     So blest while spoons are stirring.

What martyr can compare with thee?

     The mother, wife, or daughter,—

That night, instead of best Bohea,

     Condemned to milk and water!

Ah, little dreams the quiet dame,

     Who plies with rack and spindle,

The patient flax, how great a flame

     Yon little spark shall kindle!

The lurid morning shall reveal

     A fire no king can smother,

When British flint and Boston steel

     Have clashed against each other!

Old charters shrivel in its track,

     His worship's bench has crumbled,

It climbs and clasps the Union Jack,—

     Its blazoned pomp is humbled.

The flags go down on land and sea,

     Like corn before the reapers;

So burned the fire that brewed the tea

     That Boston served her keepers!

The waves that wrought a country's wreck

     Have rolled o'er Whig and Tory;

The Mohawks on the Dartmouth's deck

     Shall live in song and story.

The waters in the rebel bay

     Have kept the tea-leaf savor;

Our old North-Enders in their spray

     Still taste a Hyson flavor.

And Freedom's tea-cup still o'erflows,

     With ever-fresh libations,

To cheat of slumber all her foes,

     And cheer the wakening nations!"