the Liberty Bell.
Details to follow.
I Proclaim! (3-25-10)
The inscription on the L.B. begins: Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof Lev. XXV. v X. (Leviticus is book #3; chapter 25, verse 10.)
I was born with a tragic flaw.
The bell famously cracked when first rung. Presumably this was because of some defect in manufacture.
While still in my infancy I was sent away,
To a new home far across the sea.
It was made in London but immediately sent to Pennsylvania.
In time my new masters put me to the test,
A test I failed utterly.
As above: its rim cracked when it was first rung.
Those who'd brought me from old land to new
Would not take me back, and so,
My fate uncertain, I waited . . .
The master of the ship that had brought the bell from England to America was unwilling to take it back again.
Until, like a Dragon of renown, I was Reborn!
The bell was recast.
My weakness now alloyed with new mettle,
There's a pun here: some extra copper was added to the bell's metal when the bits of the original were melted down.
My lip untrembling, my shoulders firm,
The lip presumably because it was at the rim that the first version of the bell had cracked.
I went again to my masters' test —
Defeat behind me! At last, success!
This may be an exaggeration. The bell sounded terrible and they took it away and recast it again. But it was OK after that.
No longer broken, I would now be held high,
Ready to serve my masters gladly!
Held high, in the steeple of the State House.
Proclaim the Good Word to all! they said,
And so for many years I did as they asked.
I would often call the people to gather,
And I announced many momentous occasions.
I lived a life of relative ease,
And all was well.
Nothing fancy going on here, so far as I can see. The bell was used to summon the state assembly.
But trouble was stirring . . .
I spoke out loudly on the occasion of
a particularly divisive proclamation.
It seems actually to be a bit unclear whether the Liberty Bell was rung at the proclamation of American Independence (note: on the 8th, not the 4th, of July) because the bell tower was in bad shape.
Little more than a year later,
I was forced to go into hiding.
In the War of Independence, the bell was taken down lest it be taken by the British and supply useful metal for making munitions.
(OP adds: ...and hidden under the floorboards of a church.)
I spent several long months alone,
And for years after I had no proper home.
Until 1785, in fact.
At last, trouble and tumult put to rest,
And peace and order established anew,
I was finally able to return home again.
It was mounted in the State House again. (Not, I think, in its bell tower.)
(OP adds: I believe the bell tower was in fact rebuilt to house it.)
Years passed; I celebrated birthdays;
And, with great regularity, I was called upon
To call the people to assemble,
To announce special days,
To proclaim the Good Word.
The bell was rung on the Fourth of July, on Washington's birthday, and on election days.
But the tragic flaw I was born with
Remained in me throughout the years,
And at last it revealed itself once more:
One day, tasked yet again with announcing
Yet another Occasion of Great Import,
The stress was simply too much for me to bear,
And I cracked under the pressure.
Some time in the early 19th century the bell cracked again.
I can't (won't?) remember now what the occasion was,
Nor what happened when I faltered.
No one seems to know just when. There are several theories.
But the damage certainly was done,
And no amount of damage control could undo it.
The bell was severely cracked, though still apparently ringable.
Infrequent now were the calls for my services,
And eventually the day arrived that would mark
the last time I'd be called on to speak in public.
Loud and clear was my voice that morning;
But it would never be heard again.
In 1846, even though the bell was known to be cracked it was rung again (having filed away the edges of the crack to prevent unpleasant noises when the two opposite sides vibrated against one another) -- and this caused a considerable expansion of the crack, after which the bell was so obviously unfit for ringing that it was never rung again.
Now I had a new mission; now I had a new name.
Now the Good Word I once proclaimed so boldly,
Which had been a part of me from the beginning,
Is the very name I am called by.
The name "Liberty Bell" was given to it in the early 19th century, probably (though it seems hard to tell) after it cracked and stopped being used as a bell. Of course the word "liberty" had been prominently on the bell since its first founding.
I stand for those who cannot stand for themselves,
And speak without speaking for those who have no voice.
It was used as a sort of icon by the anti-slavery movement (which is where that name "Liberty Bell" came from).
I am older now than the nation I live in,
An enduring symbol of a noble idea.
The bell antedates the American Revolution.
And though I no longer call them together,
Every year the people still gather
To celebrate another birthday with me,
Not with candles, but with taps,
The count always the same.
Every Fourth of July (birthday of the USA, in some sense) it is gently tapped 13 times. (It's also tapped for MLK day, apparently.)
So the name is
Liberty, or the Liberty Bell
and the count is