High o'er the Andes' towering crest
  The Storm King lined his hosts;
Came from out of East and West;
  Swept from coast to coast
Frowning legions, thunder-borne,
  Aflash their charging fore.
O'er the land flashed the storm;
  Old Chagres' sullen roar
Down the valley to the plain
Came rumbling on, rumbling on.
High rose the flood o'er man-made bar;
  The digger left his post,
And sent the warning near and far
  That lives might not be lost.
High o'er the works came rushing flood;
  The toiler army swore,
As on the heights it powerless stood,
  Mocked by Old Chagres' roar.
An army thirty thousand strong;
  Steam monsters at their beck;
A fretful, swearing, helpless throng;
  Their mighty force a wreck.

Then ceased the thunder; shone the sun:
  Fled onward to the sea
Surly Chagres, the battle won;
  It's murmur seemed of glee.

It mocked the toilers on its way,
  And tossed their dead ashore;
They found the victims of its play,
  And looked, and softly swore.

As swiftly went as swiftly came the flood;
  The Army swarmed below;
The toll was paid in gold and blood,
  As conquered pay to foe.

Thus Chagres toys with might of man,
  Unchained, but soon to feel
It's mighty, all-invading span
  Gripped by stone and steel.
Grim the battle, and high the toll,
  But man the victory gains.
He bows and gives the brute its dole --
  Then binds the beast with chains.

from: Panama Roughneck Ballads by John Hall, 1912

April 17, 1999

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