Intermediate Language Lessons Part 3, Lesson 79, Selection To Be Memorized

The Flag Goes By - Henry Holcolm Bennett

The first truly American flag had its origin in the following resolution adopted by the American Congress, June 14, 1777:

“Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

The first flag of this general design was displayed at the siege of Fort Stanwix. It is said to have been made from strips of a red flannel petticoat, and pieces of a white skirt, and a blue jacket. The first official flag under this resolution was made by Mrs. Elizabeth Ross of Philadelphia — familiarly known as “Betsy Ross” — at the request of a Committee of Congress accompanied by General Washington. This flag consisted of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, with thirteen white stars arranged in a circle in a blue field. From time to time, as new states are admitted, new stars have been added to the union — the official design of the flag changing each Fourth of July after the admission of new states.

As to the meaning of our flag, Henry Ward Beecher says:

“The American flag means, then, all that the fathers meant in the Revolutionary War; it means all that the Declaration of Independence meant; it means all that the Constitution of a people, organizing for justice, for liberty, and for happiness, meant. The American flag carries American ideas, American history, American feelings. Beginning with the colonies and coming down to our time, in its sacred heraldry, in its glorious insignia, it has gathered and stored chiefly this supreme idea: Divine Right of Liberty in Man. Every color, means liberty, every thread means liberty, every form of star and beam of light means liberty — liberty through law, and law for liberty. Accept it, then, in all its fullness of meaning. It is not a painted rag! It is a whole national history! It is the Constitution. It is the Government! It is the emblem of the sovereignty of the people!”

What wonder, then, that, with the poet, we instinctively throw up our hats and shout wild “huzzas” as the glorious old ensign of our republic passes by!

“Purity speaks from your folds of white,
Truth from your sky of blue,
Courage shines forth in the crimson stripes,
And leads to victories new.”


By Henry Holcomb Bennett

Hats off!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
A flash of color beneath the sky:
Hats off!
The flag is passing by!

Blue and crimson and white it shines
Over the steel-tipped, ordered lines.
Hats off!
The colors before us fly;
But more than the flag is passing by.

Sea-fights and land-fights, grim and great,
Fought to make and to save the State:
Weary marches and sinking ships;
Cheers of victory on dying lips;

Days of plenty and years of peace;
March of a strong land’s swift increase;
Equal justice, right, and law,
Stately honor and reverend awe;

Sign of a nation, great and strong
To ward her people from foreign wrong:
Pride and glory and honor, — all
Live in the colors to stand or fall.

Hats off!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums;
And loyal hearts are beating high:
Hats off!
The flag is passing by!


1. Give a brief sketch of the history of our flag.
2. What feeling prompts the first “Hats off”?
3. What “more than the flag” is passing by?
4. Just what, in detail, does our flag stand for, or symbolize?
5. Give historic incidents to explain each of the references in stanzas three and four.
6. Why, then, is our flag regarded with such veneration?
7. Why do soldiers in battle fight till death to save a mere cloth called the flag?
8. Why repeat the first stanza in closing?
9. What effect has the appearance of our flag on all loyal hearts?


Filed under: Part 3 - Poems

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