Poem of the Week
Founded August 1996
<   PotW #396   >
This Week's Poem

Past Poems...
...by Poet
...by Title and First Line
...by Occasion

Contact about...
...Free Subscription
...Submitting a Poem
...other Questions

The Fine Print...
...Copyright Information
...Page Mission
...Privacy Policy

Links to...
...other Poetry Sites



  William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870)

                    THE SWAMP FOX.

    "We follow where the Swamp Fox guides,
        His friends and merry men are we;
    And when the troop of Tarleton rides,
        We burrow in the cypress tree.
    The turfy hammock is our bed,
        Our home is in the red-deerís den,
    Our roof, the tree-top overhead,
        For we are wild and hunted men.

    "We fly by day, and shun its light,
        But, prompt to strike the sudden blow,
    We mount and start with early night,
        And through the forest track our foe.
    And soon he hears our chargers leap,
        The flashing sabre blinds his eyes,
    And ere he drives away his sleep,
        And rushes from his camp, he dies.

    "Free bridle-bit, good gallant steed,
        That will not ask a kind caress,
    To swim the Santee at our need,
        When on his heels the foemen press—
    The true heart and the ready hand,
        The spirit, stubborn to be free—
    The twisted bore, the smiting brand—
        And we are Marionís men, you see.

    "Now light the fire, and cook the meal,
        The last, perhaps, that we shall taste;
    I hear the Swamp Fox round us steal,
        And thatís a sign we move in haste.
    He whistles to the scouts, and hark!
        You hear his order calm and low—
    Come, wave your torch across the dark,
        And let us see the boys that go.

    "We may not see their forms again,
        God help íem, should they find the strife!
    For they are strong and fearless men,
        And make no coward terms for life;
    Theyíll fight as long as Marion bids,
        And when he speaks the word to shy,
    Then—not till then—they turn their steeds,
        Through thickening shade and swamp to fly.

    "Now stir the fire, and lie at ease,
        The scouts are gone, and on the brush
    I see the colonel bend his knees,
        To take his slumbers too—but hush!
    Heís praying, comrades; ítis not strange;
        The man thatís fighting day by day,
    May well, when night comes, take a change,
        And down upon his knees to pray.

    "Break up that hoecake, boys, and hand
        The sly and silent jug thatís there;
    I love not it should idly stand,
        When Marionís men have need of cheer.
    íTis seldom that our luck affords
        A stuff like this we just have quaffed,
    And dry potatoes on our boards
        May always call for such a draught.

    "Now pile the brush and roll the log;
        Hard pillow, but a soldierís head,
    Thatís half the time in brake and bog
        Must never think of softer bed.
    The owl is hooting to the night,
        The cooter crawling oíer the bank,
    And in that pond the flashing light
        Tells where the alligator sank.

    What!—ítis the signal! start so soon,
        And through the Santee swamp so deep,
    Without the aid of friendly moon,
        And we, Heaven help us, half asleep!
    But courage, comrades! Marion leads,
        The Swamp Fox takes us out to-night;
    So clear your swords and spur your steeds,
        Thereís goodly chance, I think, of fight.

    "We follow where the Swamp Fox guides,
        We leave the swamp and cypress tree,
    Our spurs are in our coursersí sides,
        And ready for the strife are we—
    The Tory camp is now in sight,
        And there he cowers within his den—
    He hears our shouts, he dreads the fight,
        He fears, and flies from Marionís men."


Legend has that Francis Marion (1732-1795) was nicknamed The Swamp Fox by British Colonel Banastre Tarleton during the American Revolutionary War. Promoted to Brigadier General of the South Carolina Militia in 1780, he was also elected to the South Carolina Senate in 1781. Marion's name is used for a National Forest and University in South Carolina as well as cities and counties in at least eighteen other states. The movie The Patriot was loosely based on a combination of Marion and several other prominent milliatry leaders of the American Revolution.

The above poem can be found in Chapter 21 of Simms' novel The Partisan.

  • Simms, William Gilmore. The Partisan. New York: J.S. Redfield, 1859.

    The George Dennison it is credited to there appears to be a fictional character created for the novel.