Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War.
By Herman Melville.
The Battle-Pieces in this volume are dedicated to the memory of the THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND who in the war for the maintenance of the Union fell devotedly under the flag of their fathers.
[With few exceptions, the Pieces in this volume originated in an impulse imparted by the fall of Richmond. They were composed without reference to collective arrangement, but being brought together in review, naturally fall into the order assumed.
The events and incidents of the conflict—making up a whole, in varied amplitude, corresponding with the geographical area covered by the war—from these but a few themes have been taken, such as for any cause chanced to imprint themselves upon the mind.
The aspects which the strife as a memory assumes are as manifold as are the moods of involuntary meditation—moods variable, and at times widely at variance. Yielding instinctively, one after another, to feelings not inspired from any one source exclusively, and unmindful, without purposing to be, of consistency, I seem, in most of these verses, to have but placed a harp in a window, and noted the contrasted airs which wayward wilds have played upon the strings.]
The Portent. (1859.)
Hanging from the beam, Slowly swaying (such the law), Gaunt the shadow on your green, Shenandoah! The cut is on the crown (Lo, John Brown), And the stabs shall heal no more.
Hidden in the cap Is the anguish none can draw; So your future veils its face, Shenandoah! But the streaming beard is shown (Weird John Brown), The meteor of the the war.
When ocean-clouds over inland hills Sweep storming in late autumn brown, And horror the sodden valley fills, And the spire falls crashing in the town, I muse upon my country's ills— The tempest bursting from the waste of Time On the world's fairest hope linked with man's foulest crime.
Nature's dark side is heeded now— (Ah! optimist-cheer disheartened flown)— A child may read the moody brow Of yon black mountain lone. With shouts the torrents down the gorges go, And storms are formed behind the storm we feel: The hemlock shakes in the rafter, the oak in the driving keel.
The Conflict of Convictions. (1860-1.)
On starry heights A bugle wails the long recall; Derision stirs the deep abyss, Heaven's ominous silence over all. Return, return, O eager Hope, And face man's latter fall. Events, they make the dreamers quail; Satan's old age is strong and hale, A disciplined captain, gray in skill, And Raphael a white enthusiast still; Dashed aims, at which Christ's martyrs pale, Shall Mammon's slaves fulfill?
(Dismantle the fort, Cut down the fleet— Battle no more shall be! While the fields for fight in aeons to come Congeal beneath the sea.)
The terrors of truth and dart of death To faith alike are vain; Though comets, gone a thousand years, Return again, Patient she stands—she can no more— And waits, nor heeds she waxes hoar.
(At a stony gate, A statue of stone, Weed overgrown— Long 'twill wait!)
But God his former mind retains, Confirms his old decree; The generations are inured to pains, And strong Necessity Surges, and heaps Time's strand with wrecks. The People spread like a weedy grass, The thing they will they bring to pass, And prosper to the apoplex. The rout it herds around the heart, The ghost is yielded in the gloom; Kings wag their heads—Now save thyself Who wouldst rebuild the world in bloom.
(Tide-mark And top of the ages' strike, Verge where they called the world to come, The last advance of life— Ha ha, the rust on the Iron Dome!)
Nay, but revere the hid event; In the cloud a sword is girded on, I mark a twinkling in the tent Of Michael the warrior one. Senior wisdom suits not now, The light is on the youthful brow.
(Ay, in caves the miner see: His forehead bears a blinking light; Darkness so he feebly braves— A meagre wight!)
But He who rules is old—is old; Ah! faith is warm, but heaven with age is cold.
(Ho ho, ho ho, The cloistered doubt Of olden times Is blurted out!)
The Ancient of Days forever is young, Forever the scheme of Nature thrives; I know a wind in purpose strong— It spins against the way it drives. What if the gulfs their slimed foundations bare? So deep must the stones be hurled Whereon the throes of ages rear The final empire and the happier world.
(The poor old Past, The Future's slave, She drudged through pain and crime To bring about the blissful Prime, Then—perished. There's a grave!)
Power unanointed may come— Dominion (unsought by the free) And the Iron Dome, Stronger for stress and strain, Fling her huge shadow athwart the main; But the Founders' dream shall flee. Agee after age shall be As age after age has been, (From man's changeless heart their way they win);
And death be busy with all who strive— Death, with silent negative.
YEA, AND NAY— EACH HATH HIS SAY; BUT GOD HE KEEPS THE MIDDLE WAY. NONE WAS BY WHEN HE SPREAD THE SKY; WISDOM IS VAIN, AND PROPHESY.
Apathy and Enthusiasm. (1860-1.)
O the clammy cold November, And the winter white and dead, And the terror dumb with stupor, And the sky a sheet of lead; And events that came resounding With the cry that All was lost, Like the thunder-cracks of massy ice In intensity of frost— Bursting one upon another Through the horror of the calm. The paralysis of arm In the anguish of the heart; And the hollowness and dearth. The appealings of the mother To brother and to brother Not in hatred so to part— And the fissure in the hearth Growing momently more wide. Then the glances 'tween the Fates, And the doubt on every side, And the patience under gloom In the stoniness that waits The finality of doom.
So the winter died despairing, And the weary weeks of Lent; And the ice-bound rivers melted, And the tomb of Faith was rent. O, the rising of the People Came with springing of the grass, They rebounded from dejection And Easter came to pass. And the young were all elation Hearing Sumter's cannon roar, And they thought how tame the Nation In the age that went before. And Michael seemed gigantical, The Arch-fiend but a dwarf; And at the towers of Erebus Our striplings flung the scoff. But the elders with foreboding Mourned the days forever o'er, And re called the forest proverb, The Iroquois' old saw: Grief to every graybeard When young Indians lead the war.
The March into Virginia, Ending in the First Manassas. (July, 1861.)
Did all the lets and bars appear To every just or larger end, Whence should come the trust and cheer? Youth must its ignorant impulse lend— Age finds place in the rear. All wars are boyish, and are fought by boys, The champions and enthusiasts of the state: Turbid ardors and vain joys Not barrenly abate— Stimulants to the power mature, Preparatives of fate.
Who here forecasteth the event? What heart but spurns at precedent And warnings of the wise, Contemned foreclosures of surprise?
The banners play, the bugles call, The air is blue and prodigal. No berrying party, pleasure-wooed, No picnic party in the May, Ever went less loth than they Into that leafy neighborhood. In Bacchic glee they file toward Fate, Moloch's uninitiate; Expectancy, and glad surmise Of battle's unknown mysteries. All they feel is this: 'tis glory, A rapture sharp, though transitory, Yet lasting in belaureled story. So they gayly go to fight, Chatting left and laughing right.
But some who this blithe mood present, As on in lightsome files they fare, Shall die experienced ere three days are spent— Perish, enlightened by the vollied glare; Or shame survive, and, like to adamant, The throe of Second Manassas share.
Lyon. Battle of Springfield, Missouri. (August, 1861.)
Some hearts there are of deeper sort, Prophetic, sad, Which yet for cause are trebly clad; Known death they fly on: This wizard-heart and heart-of-oak had Lyon.
"They are more than twenty thousand strong, We less than five, Too few with such a host to strive" "Such counsel, fie on! 'Tis battle, or 'tis shame;" and firm stood Lyon.
"For help at need in van we wait— Retreat or fight: Retreat the foe would take for flight, And each proud scion Feel more elate; the end must come," said Lyon.
By candlelight he wrote the will, And left his all To Her for whom 'twas not enough to fall; Loud neighed Orion Without the tent; drums beat; we marched with Lyon.
The night-tramp done, we spied the Vale With guard-fires lit; Day broke, but trooping clouds made gloom of it: "A field to die on" Presaged in his unfaltering heart, brave Lyon.
We fought on the grass, we bled in the corn— Fate seemed malign; His horse the Leader led along the line— Star-browed Orion; Bitterly fearless, he rallied us there, brave Lyon.
There came a sound like the slitting of air By a swift sharp sword— A rush of the sound; and the sleek chest broad Of black Orion Heaved, and was fixed; the dead mane waved toward Lyon.
"General, you're hurt—this sleet of balls!" He seemed half spent; With moody and bloody brow, he lowly bent: "The field to die on; But not—not yet; the day is long," breathed Lyon.
For a time becharmed there fell a lull In the heart of the fight; The tree-tops nod, the slain sleep light; Warm noon-winds sigh on, And thoughts which he never spake had Lyon.
Texans and Indians trim for a charge: "Stand ready, men! Let them come close, right up, and then After the lead, the iron; Fire, and charge back!" So strength returned to Lyon.
The Iowa men who held the van, Half drilled, were new To battle: "Some one lead us, then we'll do" Said Corporal Tryon: "Men! I will lead," and a light glared in Lyon.
On they came: they yelped, and fired; His spirit sped; We leveled right in, and the half-breeds fled, Nor stayed the iron, Nor captured the crimson corse of Lyon.
This seer foresaw his soldier-doom, Yet willed the fight. He never turned; his only flight Was up to Zion, Where prophets now and armies greet brave Lyon.
Ball's Bluff. A Reverie. (October, 1861.)
One noonday, at my window in the town, I saw a sight—saddest that eyes can see— Young soldiers marching lustily Unto the wars, With fifes, and flags in mottoed pageantry; While all the porches, walks, and doors Were rich with ladies cheering royally.
They moved like Juny morning on the wave, Their hearts were fresh as clover in its prime (It was the breezy summer time), Life throbbed so strong, How should they dream that Death in a rosy clime Would come to thin their shining throng? Youth feels immortal, like the gods sublime.
Weeks passed; and at my window, leaving bed, By night I mused, of easeful sleep bereft, On those brave boys (Ah War! thy theft); Some marching feet Found pause at last by cliffs Potomac cleft; Wakeful I mused, while in the street Far footfalls died away till none were left.
Dupont's Round Fight. (November, 1861.)
In time and measure perfect moves All Art whose aim is sure; Evolving ryhme and stars divine Have rules, and they endure.
Nor less the Fleet that warred for Right, And, warring so, prevailed, In geometric beauty curved, And in an orbit sailed.
The rebel at Port Royal felt The Unity overawe, And rued the spell. A type was here, And victory of Law.
The Stone Fleet. An Old Sailor's Lament. (December, 1861.)
I have a feeling for those ships, Each worn and ancient one, With great bluff bows, and broad in the beam; Ay, it was unkindly done. But so they serve the Obsolete— Even so, Stone Fleet!
You'll say I'm doting; do but think I scudded round the Horn in one— The Tenedos, a glorious Good old craft as ever run— Sunk (how all unmeet!) With the Old Stone Fleet.
An India ship of fame was she, Spices and shawls and fans she bore; A whaler when her wrinkles came— Turned off! till, spent and poor, Her bones were sold (escheat)! Ah! Stone Fleet.
Four were erst patrician keels (Names attest what families be), The Kensington, and Richmond too, Leonidas, and Lee: But now they have their seat With the Old Stone Fleet.
To scuttle them—a pirate deed— Sack them, and dismast; They sunk so slow, they died so hard, But gurgling dropped at last. Their ghosts in gales repeat Woe's us, Stone Fleet!
And all for naught. The waters pass— Currents will have their way; Nature is nobody's ally; 'tis well; The harbor is bettered—will stay. A failure, and complete, Was your Old Stone Fleet.
Donelson. (February, 1862.)
The bitter cup Of that hard countermand Which gave the Envoys up, Still was wormwood in the mouth, And clouds involved the land, When, pelted by sleet in the icy street, About the bulletin-board a band Of eager, anxious people met, And every wakeful heart was set On latest news from West or South. "No seeing here," cries one—"don't crowd—" "You tall man, pray you, read aloud."
IMPORTANT. _We learn that General Grant, Marching from Henry overland, And joined by a force up the Cumberland sent (Some thirty thousand the command), On Wednesday a good position won— Began the siege of Donelson.
The stronghold crowns a river-bluff, A good broad mile of leveled top; Inland the ground rolls off Deep-gorged, and rocky, and broken up— A wilderness of trees and brush. The spaded summit shows the roods Of fixed intrenchments in their hush; Breast-works and rifle-pits in woods Perplex the base.— The welcome weather Is clear and mild; 'tis much like May. The ancient boughs that lace together Along the stream, and hang far forth, Strange with green mistletoe, betray A dreamy contrast to the North.
Our troops are full of spirits—say The siege won't prove a creeping one. They purpose not the lingering stay Of old beleaguerers; not that way; But, full of _vim_ from Western prairies won, They'll make, ere long, a dash at Donelson._
Washed by the storm till the paper grew Every shade of a streaky blue, That bulletin stood. The next day brought A second.
LATER FROM THE FORT. _Grant's investment is complete— A semicircular one. Both wings the Cumberland's margin meet, Then, backwkard curving, clasp the rebel seat. On Wednesday this good work was done; But of the doers some lie prone. Each wood, each hill, each glen was fought for; The bold inclosing line we wrought for Flamed with sharpshooters. Each cliff cost A limb or life. But back we forced Reserves and all; made good our hold; And so we rest.
Events unfold. On Thursday added ground was won, A long bold steep: we near the Den. Later the foe came shouting down In sortie, which was quelled; and then We stormed them on their left. A chilly change in the afternoon; The sky, late clear, is now bereft Of sun. Last night the ground froze hard— Rings to the enemy as they run Within their works. A ramrod bites The lip it meets. The cold incites To swinging of arms with brisk rebound. Smart blows 'gainst lusty chests resound.
Along the outer line we ward A crackle of skirmishing goes on. Our lads creep round on hand and knee, They fight from behind each trunk and stone; And sometimes, flying for refuge, one Finds 'tis an enemy shares the tree. Some scores are maimed by boughs shot off In the glades by the Fort's big gun. We mourn the loss of colonel Morrison, Killed while cheering his regiment on. Their far sharpshooters try our stuff; And ours return them puff for puff: 'Tis diamond-cutting-diamond work. Woe on the rebel cannoneer Who shows his head. Our fellows lurk Like Indians that waylay the deer By the wild salt-spring.—The sky is dun, Fordooming the fall of Donelson.
Stern weather is all unwonted here. The people of the country own We brought it. Yea, the earnest North Has elementally issued forth To storm this Donelson._
FURTHER. A yelling rout Of ragamuffins broke profuse To-day from out the Fort. Sole uniform they wore, a sort Of patch, or white badge (as you choose) Upon the arm. But leading these, Or mingling, were men of face And bearing of patrician race, Splendid in courage and gold lace— The officers. Before the breeze Made by their charge, down went our line; But, rallying, charged back in force, And broke the sally; yet with loss. This on the left; upon the right Meanwhile there was an answering fight; Assailants and assailed reversed. The charge too upward, and not down— Up a steep ridge-side, toward its crown, A strong redoubt. But they who first Gained the fort's base, and marked the trees Felled, heaped in horned perplexities, And shagged with brush; and swarming there Fierce wasps whose sting was present death— They faltered, drawing bated breath, And felt it was in vain to dare; Yet still, perforce, returned the ball, Firing into the tangled wall Till ordered to come down. They came; But left some comrades in their fame, Red on the ridge in icy wreath And hanging gardens of cold Death. But not quite unavenged these fell; Our ranks once out of range, a blast Of shrapnel and quick shell Burst on the rebel horde, still massed, Scattering them pell-mell. (This fighting—judging what we read— Both charge and countercharge, Would seem but Thursday's told at large, Before in brief reported.—Ed.) Night closed in about the Den Murky and lowering. Ere long, chill rains. A night not soon to be forgot, Reviving old rheumatic pains And longings for a cot.
No blankets, overcoats, or tents. Coats thrown aside on the warm march here— We looked not then for changeful cheer; Tents, coats, and blankets too much care. No fires; a fire a mark presents; Near by, the trees show bullet-dents. Rations were eaten cold and raw. The men well soaked, come snow; and more— A midnight sally. Small sleeping done— But such is war; No matter, we'll have Fort Donelson._
"Ugh! ugh! 'Twill drag along—drag along" Growled a cross patriot in the throng, His battered umbrella like an ambulance-cover Riddled with bullet-holes, spattered all over. "Hurrah for Grant!" cried a stripling shrill; Three urchins joined him with a will, And some of taller stature cheered. Meantime a Copperhead passed; he sneered. "Win or lose," he pausing said, "Caps fly the same; all boys, mere boys; Any thing to make a noise. Like to see the list of the dead; These 'craven Southerners' hold out; Ay, ay, they'll give you many a bout" "We'll beat in the end, sir" Firmly said one in staid rebuke, A solid merchant, square and stout. "And do you think it? that way tend, sir" Asked the lean Cooperhead, with a look Of splenetic pity. "Yes, I do" His yellow death's head the croaker shook: "The country's ruined, that I know" A shower of broken ice and snow, In lieu of words, confuted him; They saw him hustled round the corner go, And each by-stander said—Well suited him.
Next day another crowd was seen In the dark weather's sleety spleen. Bald-headed to the storm came out A man, who, 'mid a joyous shout, Silently posted this brief sheet:
GLORIOUS VICTORY OF THE FLEET!
FRIDAY'S GREAT EVENT!
THE ENEMY'S WATER-BATTERIES BEAT!
WE SILENCED EVERY GUN!
THE OLD COMMODORE'S COMPLIMENTS SENT PLUMP INTO DONELSON!
"Well, well, go on!" exclaimed the crowd To him who thus much read aloud. "That's all," he said. "What! nothing more" "Enough for a cheer, though—hip, hurrah!" "But here's old Baldy come again—" "More news!"—And now a different strain.
(Our own reporter a dispatch compiles, As best he may, from varied sources.)
Large re-enforcements have arrived— Munitions, men, and horses— For Grant, and all debarked, with stores.
The enemy's field-works extend six miles— The gate still hid; so well contrived.
Yesterday stung us; frozen shores Snow-clad, and through the drear defiles
And over the desolate ridges blew A Lapland wind. The main affair Was a good two hours' steady fight Between our gun-boats and the Fort. The Louisville's wheel was smashed outright. A hundred-and-twenty-eight-pound ball Came planet-like through a starboard port, Killing three men, and wounding all The rest of that gun's crew, (The captain of the gun was cut in two); Then splintering and ripping went— Nothing could be its continent. In the narrow stream the Louisville, Unhelmed, grew lawless; swung around, And would have thumped and drifted, till All the fleet was driven aground, But for the timely order to retire.
Some damage from our fire, 'tis thought, Was done the water-batteries of the Fort.
Little else took place that day, Except the field artillery in line Would now and then—for love, they say— Exchange a valentine. The old sharpshooting going on. Some plan afoot as yet unknown; So Friday closed round Donelson.
LATER. Great suffering through the night— A stinging one. Our heedless boys Were nipped like blossoms. Some dozen Hapless wounded men were frozen. During day being struck down out of sight, And help-cries drowned in roaring noise, They were left just where the skirmish shifted— Left in dense underbrush now-drifted. Some, seeking to crawl in crippled plight, So stiffened—perished. Yet in spite Of pangs for these, no heart is lost. Hungry, and clothing stiff with frost, Our men declare a nearing sun Shall see the fall of Donelson. And this they say, yet not disown The dark redoubts round Donelson, And ice-glazed corpses, each a stone— A sacrifice to Donelson; They swear it, and swerve not, gazing on A flag, deemed black, flying from Donelson. Some of the wounded in the wood Were cared for by the foe last night, Though he could do them little needed good, Himself being all in shivering plight. The rebel is wrong, but human yet; He's got a heart, and thrusts a bayonet. He gives us battle with wondrous will— The bluff's a perverted Bunker Hill._
The stillness stealing through the throng The silent thought and dismal fear revealed; They turned and went, Musing on right and wrong And mysteries dimly sealed— Breasting the storm in daring discontent; The storm, whose black flag showed in heaven, As if to say no quarter there was given To wounded men in wood, Or true hearts yearning for the good— All fatherless seemed the human soul. But next day brought a bitterer bowl— On the bulletin-board this stood;
_Saturday morning at 3 A.M. A stir within the Fort betrayed That the rebels were getting under arms; Some plot these early birds had laid. But a lancing sleet cut him who stared Into the storm. After some vague alarms, Which left our lads unscared, Out sallied the enemy at dim of dawn, With cavalry and artillery, and went In fury at our environment. Under cover of shot and shell Three columns of infantry rolled on, Vomited out of Donelson— Rolled down the slopes like rivers of hell, Surged at our line, and swelled and poured Like breaking surf. But unsubmerged Our men stood up, except where roared The enemy through one gap. We urged Our all of manhood to the stress, But still showed shattered in our desperateness. Back set the tide, But soon afresh rolled in; And so it swayed from side to side— Far batteries joining in the din, Though sharing in another fray— Till all became an Indian fight, Intricate, dusky, stretching far away, Yet not without spontaneous plan However tangled showed the plight; Duels all over 'tween man and man, Duels on cliff-side, and down in ravine, Duels at long range, and bone to bone; Duels every where flitting and half unseen. Only by courage good as their own, And strength outlasting theirs, Did our boys at last drive the rebels off. Yet they went not back to their distant lairs In strong-hold, but loud in scoff Maintained themselves on conquered ground— Uplands; built works, or stalked around. Our right wing bore this onset. Noon Brought calm to Donelson.
The reader ceased; the storm beat hard; 'Twas day, but the office-gas was lit; Nature retained her sulking-fit, In her hand the shard. Flitting faces took the hue Of that washed bulletin-board in view, And seemed to bear the public grief As private, and uncertain of relief; Yea, many an earnest heart was won, As broodingly he plodded on, To find in himself some bitter thing, Some hardness in his lot as harrowing As Donelson.
That night the board stood barren there, Oft eyes by wistful people passing, Who nothing saw but the rain-beads chasing Each other down the wafered square, As down some storm-beat grave-yard stone. But next day showed—
MORE NEWS LAST NIGHT.
STORY OF SATURDAY AFTERNOON.
VICISSITUDES OF THE WAR.
_The damaged gun-boats can't wage fight For days; so says the Commodore. Thus no diversion can be had. Under a sunless sky of lead Our grim-faced boys in blacked plight Gaze toward the ground they held before, And then on Grant. He marks their mood, And hails it, and will turn the same to good. Spite all that they have undergone, Their desperate hearts are set upon This winter fort, this stubborn fort, This castle of the last resort, This Donelson.
An order given Requires withdrawal from the front Of regiments that bore the brunt Of morning's fray. Their ranks all riven Are being replaced by fresh, strong men. Great vigilance in the foeman's Den; He snuffs the stormers. Need it is That for that fell assault of his, That rout inflicted, and self-scorn— Immoderate in noble natures, torn By sense of being through slackness overborne— The rebel be given a quick return: The kindest face looks now half stern. Balked of their prey in airs that freeze, Some fierce ones glare like savages. And yet, and yet, strange moments are— Well—blood, and tears, and anguished War! The morning's battle-ground is seen In lifted glades, like meadows rare; The blood-drops on the snow-crust there Like clover in the white-week show— Flushed fields of death, that call again— Call to our men, and not in vain, For that way must the stormers go.
The work begins. Light drifts of men thrown forward, fade In skirmish-line along the slope, Where some dislodgments must be made Ere the stormer with the strong-hold cope.
Lew Wallace, moving to retake The heights late lost— (Herewith a break. Storms at the West derange the wires. Doubtless, ere morning, we shall hear The end; we look for news to cheer— Let Hope fan all her fires.)_
Next day in large bold hand was seen The closing bulletin:
VICTORY! _Our troops have retrieved the day By one grand surge along the line; The spirit that urged them was divine. The first works flooded, naught could stay The stormers: on! still on! Bayonets for Donelson!
Over the ground that morning lost Rolled the blue billows, tempest-tossed, Following a hat on the point of a sword. Spite shell and round-shot, grape and canister, Up they climbed without rail or banister— Up the steep hill-sides long and broad, Driving the rebel deep within his works. 'Tis nightfall; not an enemy lurks In sight. The chafing men Fret for more fight: "To-night, to-night let us take the Den" But night is treacherous, Grant is wary; Of brave blood be a little chary. Patience! the Fort is good as won; To-morrow, and into Donelson._
LATER AND LAST.
THE FORT IS OURS.
_A flag came out at early morn Bringing surrender. From their towers Floats out the banner late their scorn. In Dover, hut and house are full Of rebels dead or dying. The national flag is flying From the crammed court-house pinnacle. Great boat-loads of our wounded go To-day to Nashville. The sleet-winds blow; But all is right: the fight is won, The winter-fight for Donelson. Hurrah! The spell of old defeat is broke, The Habit of victory begun; Grant strikes the war's first sounding stroke At Donelson.
For lists of killed and wounded, see The morrow's dispatch: to-day 'tis victory._
The man who read this to the crowd Shouted as the end he gained; And though the unflagging tempest rained, They answered him aloud. And hand grasped hand, and glances met In happy triumph; eyes grew wet. O, to the punches brewed that night Went little water. Windows bright Beamed rosy on the sleet without, And from the deep street came the frequent shout; While some in prayer, as these in glee, Blessed heaven for the winter-victory.
But others were who wakeful laid In midnight beds, and early rose, And, feverish in the foggy snows, Snatched the damp paper—wife and maid. The death-list like a river flows Down the pale sheet, And there the whelming waters meet.
Ah God! may Time with happy haste Bring wail and triumph to a waste, And war be done; The battle flag-staff fall athwart The curs'd ravine, and wither; naught Be left of trench or gun; The bastion, let it ebb away, Washed with the river bed; and Day In vain seek Donelson.
The Cumberland. (March, 1862.)
Some names there are of telling sound, Whose voweled syllables free Are pledge that they shall ever live renowned; Such seem to be A Frigate's name (by present glory spanned)— The Cumberland.
Sounding name as ere was sung, Flowing, rolling on the tongue— Cumberland! Cumberland!
She warred and sunk. There's no denying That she was ended—quelled; And yet her flag above her fate is flying, As when it swelled Unswallowed by the swallowing sea: so grand— The Cumberland.
Goodly name as ere was sung, Roundly rolling on the tongue— Cumberland! Cumberland!
What need to tell how she was fought— The sinking flaming gun— The gunner leaping out the port— Washed back, undone! Her dead unconquerably manned The Cumberland.
Noble name as ere was sung, Slowly roll it on the tongue— Cumberland! Cumberland!
Long as hearts shall share the flame Which burned in that brave crew, Her fame shall live—outlive the victor's name; For this is due. Your flag and flag-staff shall in story stand— Cumberland!
Sounding name as ere was sung, Long they'll roll it on the tongue— Cumberland! Cumberland!
In the Turret. (March, 1862.)
Your honest heart of duty, Worden, So helped you that in fame you dwell; You bore the first iron battle's burden Sealed as in a diving-bell. Alcides, groping into haunted hell To bring forth King Admetus' bride, Braved naught more vaguely direful and untried. What poet shall uplift his charm, Bold Sailor, to your height of daring, And interblend therewith the calm, And build a goodly style upon your bearing.
Escaped the gale of outer ocean— Cribbed in a craft which like a log Was washed by every billow's motion— By night you heard of Og The huge; nor felt your courage clog At tokens of his onset grim: You marked the sunk ship's flag-staff slim, Lit by her burning sister's heart; You marked, and mused: "Day brings the trial: Then be it proved if I have part With men whose manhood never took denial."
A prayer went up—a champion's. Morning Beheld you in the Turret walled by adamant, where a spirit forewarning And all-deriding called: "Man, darest thou—desperate, unappalled— Be first to lock thee in the armored tower? I have thee now; and what the battle-hour To me shall bring—heed well—thou'lt share; This plot-work, planned to be the foeman's terror, To thee may prove a goblin-snare; Its very strength and cunning—monstrous error!"
"Stand up, my heart; be strong; what matter If here thou seest thy welded tomb? And let huge Og with thunders batter— Duty be still my doom, Though drowning come in liquid gloom; First duty, duty next, and duty last; Ay, Turret, rivet me here to duty fast!—" So nerved, you fought wisely and well; And live, twice live in life and story; But over your Monitor dirges swell, In wind and wave that keep the rites of glory.
(Supposed to have been suggested to an Englishman of the old order by the fight of the Monitor and Merrimac.)
The gloomy hulls, in armor grim, Like clouds o'er moors have met, And prove that oak, and iron, and man Are tough in fibre yet.
But Splendors wane. The sea-fight yields No front of old display; The garniture, emblazonment, And heraldry all decay.
Towering afar in parting light, The fleets like Albion's forelands shine— The full-sailed fleets, the shrouded show Of Ships-of-the-Line.
The fighting Temeraire, Built of a thousand trees, Lunging out her lightnings, And beetling o'er the seas— O Ship, how brave and fair, That fought so oft and well, On open decks you manned the gun Armorial. What cheering did you share, Impulsive in the van, When down upon leagued France and Spain We English ran— The freshet at your bowsprit Like the foam upon the can. Bickering, your colors Licked up the Spanish air, You flapped with flames of battle-flags— Your challenge, Temeraire! The rear ones of our fleet They yearned to share your place, Still vying with the Victory Throughout that earnest race— The Victory, whose Admiral, With orders nobly won, Shone in the globe of the battle glow— The angel in that sun. Parallel in story, Lo, the stately pair, As late in grapple ranging, The foe between them there— When four great hulls lay tiered, And the fiery tempest cleared, And your prizes twain appeared, Temeraire!
But Trafalgar' is over now, The quarter-deck undone; The carved and castled navies fire Their evening-gun. O, Tital Temeraire, Your stern-lights fade away; Your bulwarks to the years must yield, And heart-of-oak decay. A pigmy steam-tug tows you, Gigantic, to the shore— Dismantled of your guns and spars, And sweeping wings of war. The rivets clinch the iron-clads, Men learn a deadlier lore; But Fame has nailed your battle-flags— Your ghost it sails before: O, the navies old and oaken, O, the Temeraire no more!
A Utilitarian View of the Monitors Fight.
Plain be the phrase, yet apt the verse, More ponderous than nimble; For since grimed War here laid aside His Orient pomp, 'twould ill befit Overmuch to ply The Rhyme's barbaric cymbal.
Hail to victory without the gaud Of glory; zeal that needs no fans Of banners; plain mechanic power Plied cogently in War now placed— Where War belongs— Among the trades and artisans.
Yet this was battle, and intense— Beyond the strife of fleets heroic; Deadlier, closer, calm 'mid storm; No passion; all went on by crank, Pivot, and screw, And calculations of caloric.
Needless to dwell; the story's known. the ringing of those plates on plates Still ringeth round the world— The clangor of that blacksmith's fray. The anvil-din Resounds this message from the Fates:
War shall yet be, and to the end; But war-paint shows the streaks of weather; War yet shall be, but warriors Are now but operatives; War's made Less grand than Peace, And a singe runs through lace and feather.
Shiloh. A Requiem. (April, 1862.)
Skimming lightly, wheeling still, The swallows fly low Over the field in clouded days, The forest-field of Shiloh— Over the field where April rain Solaced the parched ones stretched in pain Through the pause of night That followed the Sunday fight Around the church of Shiloh— The church so lone, the log-built one, That echoed to many a parting groan And natural prayer Of dying foemen mingled there— Foemen at morn, but friends at eve— Fame or country least their care: (What like a bullet can undeceive!) But now they lie low, While over them the swallows skim, And all is hushed at Shiloh.
The Battle for the Mississipppi. (April, 1862.)
When Israel camped by Migdol hoar, Down at her feet her shawm she threw, But Moses sung and timbrels rung For Pharaoh's standed crew. So God appears in apt events— The Lord is a man of war! So the strong wind to the muse is given In victory's roar.
Deep be the ode that hymns the fleet— The fight by night—the fray Which bore our Flag against the powerful stream, And led it up to day. Dully through din of larger strife Shall bay that warring gun; But none the less to us who live It peals—an echoing one.
The shock of ships, the jar of walls, The rush through thick and thin— The flaring fire-rafts, glare and gloom— Eddies, and shells that spin— The boom-chain burst, the hulks dislodged, The jam of gun-boats driven, Or fired, or sunk—made up a war Like Michael's waged with leven.
The manned Varuna stemmed and quelled The odds which hard beset; The oaken flag-ship, half ablaze, Passed on and thundered yet; While foundering, gloomed in grimy flame, The Ram Manassas—hark the yell!— Plunged, and was gone; in joy or fright, The River gave a startled swell.
They fought through lurid dark till dawn; The war-smoke rolled away With clouds of night, and showed the fleet In scarred yet firm array, Above the forts, above the drift Of wrecks which strife had made; And Farragut sailed up to the town And anchored—sheathed the blade.
The moody broadsides, brooding deep, Hold the lewd mob at bay, While o'er the armed decks' solemn aisles The meek church-pennons play; By shotted guns the sailors stand, With foreheads bound or bare; The captains and the conquering crews Humble their pride in prayer.
They pray; and after victory, prayer Is meet for men who mourn their slain; The living shall unmoor and sail, But Death's dark anchor secret deeps detain. Yet glory slants her shaft of rays Far through the undisturbed abyss; There must be other, nobler worlds for them Who nobly yield their lives in this.
Malvern Hill. (July, 1862.)
Ye elms that wave on Malvern Hill In prime of morn and May, Recall ye how McClellan's men Here stood at bay? While deep within yon forest dim Our rigid comrades lay— Some with the cartridge in their mouth, Others with fixed arms lifted South— Invoking so The cypress glades? Ah wilds of woe!
The spires of Richmond, late beheld Through rifts in musket-haze, Were closed from view in clouds of dust On leaf-walled ways, Where streamed our wagons in caravan; And the Seven Nights and Days Of march and fast, retreat and fight, Pinched our grimed faces to ghastly plight— Does the elm wood Recall the haggard beards of blood?
The battle-smoked flag, with stars eclipsed, We followed (it never fell!)— In silence husbanded our strength— Received their yell; Till on this slope we patient turned With cannon ordered well; Reverse we proved was not defeat; But ah, the sod what thousands meet!— Does Malvern Wood Bethink itself, and muse and brood?
We elms of Malvern Hill Remember every thing; But sap the twig will fill: Wag the world how it will, Leaves must be green in Spring.
The Victor of Antietam. (1862.)
When tempest winnowed grain from bran; And men were looking for a man, Authority called you to the van, McClellan: Along the line the plaudit ran, As later when Antietam's cheers began.
Through storm-cloud and eclipse must move Each Cause and Man, dear to the stars and Jove; Nor always can the wisest tell Deferred fulfillment from the hopeless knell— The struggler from the floundering ne'er-do-well. A pall-cloth on the Seven Days fell, Mcclellan— Unprosperously heroical! Who could Antietam's wreath foretell?
Authority called you; then, in mist And loom of jeopardy—dismissed. But staring peril soon appalled; You, the Discarded, she recalled— Recalled you, nor endured delay; And forth you rode upon a blasted way, Arrayed Pope's rout, and routed Lee's array, McClellan: Your tent was choked with captured flags that day, McClellan. Antietam was a telling fray.
Recalled you; and she heard your drum Advancing through the glastly gloom. You manned the wall, you propped the Dome, You stormed the powerful stormer home, McClellan: Antietam's cannon long shall boom.
At Alexandria, left alone, McClellan— Your veterans sent from you, and thrown To fields and fortunes all unknown— What thoughts were yours, revealed to none, While faithful still you labored on— Hearing the far Manassas gun! McClellan, Only Antietam could atone.
You fought in the front (an evil day, McClellan)— The fore-front of the first assay; The Cause went sounding, groped its way; The leadsmen quarrelled in the bay; Quills thwarted swords; divided sway; The rebel flushed in his lusty May: You did your best, as in you lay, McClellan. Antietam's sun-burst sheds a ray.
Your medalled soldiers love you well, McClellan: Name your name, their true hearts swell; With you they shook dread Stonewall's spell, With you they braved the blended yell Of rebel and maligner fell; With you in shame or fame they dwell, McClellan: Antietam-braves a brave can tell.
And when your comrades (now so few, McClellan— Such ravage in deep files they rue) Meet round the board, and sadly view The empty places; tribute due They render to the dead—and you! Absent and silent o'er the blue; The one-armed lift the wine to you, McClellan, And great Antietam's cheers renew.
Battle of Stone River, Tennessee. A View from Oxford Cloisters. (January, 1863.)
With Tewksbury and Barnet heath In days to come the field shall blend, The story dim and date obscure; In legend all shall end. Even now, involved in forest shade A Druid-dream the strife appears, The fray of yesterday assumes The haziness of years. In North and South still beats the vein Of Yorkist and Lancastrian.
Our rival Roses warred for Sway— For Sway, but named the name of Right; And Passion, scorning pain and death, Lent sacred fervor to the fight. Each lifted up a broidered cross, While crossing blades profaned the sign; Monks blessed the fraticidal lance, And sisters scarfs could twine. Do North and South the sin retain Of Yorkist and Lancastrian?
But Rosecrans in the cedarn glade, And, deep in denser cypress gloom, Dark Breckenridge, shall fade away Or thinly loom. The pale throngs who in forest cowed Before the spell of battle's pause, Forefelt the stillness that shall dwell On them and on their wars. North and South shall join the train Of Yorkist and Lancastrian.
But where the sword has plunged so deep, And then been turned within the wound By deadly Hate; where Climes contend On vasty ground— No warning Alps or seas between, And small the curb of creed or law, And blood is quick, and quick the brain; Shall North and South their rage deplore, And reunited thrive amain Like Yorkist and Lancastrian?
Running the Batteries, As observed from the Anchorage above Vicksburgh. (April, 1863.)
A moonless night—a friendly one; A haze dimmed the shadowy shore As the first lampless boat slid silent on; Hist! and we spake no more; We but pointed, and stilly, to what we saw.
We felt the dew, and seemed to feel The secret like a burden laid. The first boat melts; and a second keel Is blent with the foliaged shade— Their midnight rounds have the rebel officers made?
Unspied as yet. A third—a fourth— Gun-boat and transport in Indian file Upon the war-path, smooth from the North; But the watch may they hope to beguile? The manned river-batteries stretch for mile on mile.
A flame leaps out; they are seen; Another and another gun roars; We tell the course of the boats through the screen By each further fort that pours, And we guess how they jump from their beds on those shrouded shores.
Converging fires. We speak, though low: "That blastful furnace can they thread" "Why, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego Came out all right, we read; The Lord, be sure, he helps his people, Ned."
How we strain our gaze. On bluffs they shun A golden growing flame appears— Confirms to a silvery steadfast one: "The town is afire!" crows Hugh: "three cheers" Lot stops his mouth: "Nay, lad, better three tears."
A purposed light; it shows our fleet; Yet a little late in its searching ray, So far and strong, that in phantom cheat Lank on the deck our shadows lay; The shining flag-ship stings their guns to furious play.
How dread to mark her near the glare And glade of death the beacon throws Athwart the racing waters there; One by one each plainer grows, Then speeds a blazoned target to our gladdened foes.
The impartial cresset lights as well The fixed forts to the boats that run; And, plunged from the ports, their answers swell Back to each fortress dun: Ponderous words speaks every monster gun.
Fearless they flash through gates of flame, The salamanders hard to hit, Though vivid shows each bulky frame; And never the batteries intermit, Nor the boats huge guns; they fire and flit.
Anon a lull. The beacon dies: "Are they out of that strait accurst" But other flames now dawning rise, Not mellowly brilliant like the first, But rolled in smoke, whose whitish volumes burst.
A baleful brand, a hurrying torch Whereby anew the boats are seen— A burning transport all alurch! Breathless we gaze; yet still we glean Glimpses of beauty as we eager lean.
The effulgence takes an amber glow Which bathes the hill-side villas far; Affrighted ladies mark the show Painting the pale magnolia— The fair, false, Circe light of cruel War.
The barge drifts doomed, a plague-struck one. Shoreward in yawls the sailors fly. But the gauntlet now is nearly run, The spleenful forts by fits reply, And the burning boat dies down in morning's sky.
All out of range. Adieu, Messieurs! Jeers, as it speeds, our parting gun. So burst we through their barriers And menaces every one: So Porter proves himself a brave man's son.
Stonewall Jackson. Mortally wounded at Chancellorsville. (May, 1863.)
The Man who fiercest charged in fight, Whose sword and prayer were long— Stonewall! Even him who stoutly stood for Wrong, How can we praise? Yet coming days Shall not forget him with this song.
Dead is the Man whose Cause is dead, Vainly he died and set his seal— Stonewall! Earnest in error, as we feel; True to the thing he deemed was due, True as John Brown or steel.
Relentlessly he routed us; But we relent, for he is low— Stonewall! Justly his fame we outlaw; so We drop a tear on the bold Virginian's bier, Because no wreath we owe.
Stonewall Jackson. (Ascribed to a Virginian.)
One man we claim of wrought renown Which not the North shall care to slur; A Modern lived who sleeps in death, Calm as the marble Ancients are: 'Tis he whose life, though a vapor's wreath, Was charged with the lightning's burning breath— Stonewall, stormer of the war.
But who shall hymn the roman heart? A stoic he, but even more: The iron will and lion thew Were strong to inflict as to endure: Who like him could stand, or pursue? His fate the fatalist followed through; In all his great soul found to do Stonewall followed his star.
He followed his star on the Romney march Through the sleet to the wintry war; And he followed it on when he bowed the grain— The Wind of the Shenandoah; At Gaines's Mill in the giant's strain— On the fierce forced stride to Manassas-plain, Where his sword with thunder was clothed again, Stonewall followed his star.
His star he followed athwart the flood To Potomac's Northern shore, When midway wading, his host of braves "My Maryland!" loud did roar— To red Antietam's field of graves, Through mountain-passes, woods and waves, They followed their pagod with hymns and glaives, For Stonewall followed a star.
Back it led him to Marye's slope, Where the shock and the fame he bore; And to green Moss-Neck it guided him— Brief respite from throes of war: To the laurel glade by the Wilderness grim, Through climaxed victory naught shall dim, Even unto death it piloted him— Stonewall followed his star.
Its lead he followed in gentle ways Which never the valiant mar; A cap we sent him, bestarred, to replace The sun-scorched helm of war: A fillet he made of the shining lace Childhood's laughing brow to grace— Not his was a goldsmith's star.
O, much of doubt in after days Shall cling, as now, to the war; Of the right and the wrong they'll still debate, Puzzled by Stonewall's star: "Fortune went with the North elate" "Ay, but the south had Stonewall's weight, And he fell in the South's vain war."
Gettysburg. The Check. (July, 1863.)
O pride of the days in prime of the months Now trebled in great renown, When before the ark of our holy cause Fell Dagon down— Dagon foredoomed, who, armed and targed, Never his impious heart enlarged Beyond that hour; god walled his power, And there the last invader charged.
He charged, and in that charge condensed His all of hate and all of fire; He sought to blast us in his scorn, And wither us in his ire. Before him went the shriek of shells— Aerial screamings, taunts and yells; Then the three waves in flashed advance Surged, but were met, and back they set: Pride was repelled by sterner pride, And Right is a strong-hold yet.
Before our lines it seemed a beach Which wild September gales have strown With havoc on wreck, and dashed therewith Pale crews unknown— Men, arms, and steeds. The evening sun Died on the face of each lifeless one, And died along the winding marge of fight And searching-parties lone.
Sloped on the hill the mounds were green, Our center held that place of graves, And some still hold it in their swoon, And over these a glory waves. The warrior-monument, crashed in fight, Shall soar transfigured in loftier light, A meaning ampler bear; Soldier and priest with hymn and prayer Have laid the stone, and every bone Shall rest in honor there.
The House-top. A Night Piece. (July, 1863.)
No sleep. The sultriness pervades the air And binds the brain—a dense oppression, such As tawny tigers feel in matted shades, Vexing their blood and making apt for ravage. Beneath the stars the roofy desert spreads Vacant as Libya. All is hushed near by. Yet fitfully from far breaks a mixed surf Of muffled sound, the Atheist roar of riot. Yonder, where parching Sirius set in drought, Balefully glares red Arson—there-and there. The Town is taken by its rats—ship-rats. And rats of the wharves. All civil charms And priestly spells which late held hearts in awe— Fear-bound, subjected to a better sway Than sway of self; these like a dream dissolve, And man rebounds whole aeons back in nature. Hail to the low dull rumble, dull and dead, And ponderous drag that shakes the wall. Wise Draco comes, deep in the midnight roll Of black artillery; he comes, though late; In code corroborating Calvin's creed And cynic tyrannies of honest kings; He comes, nor parlies; and the Town redeemed, Give thanks devout; nor, being thankful, heeds The grimy slur on the Republic's faith implied, Which holds that Man is naturally good, And—more—is Nature's Roman, never to be scourged.
Look-out Mountain. The Night Fight. (November, 1863.)
Who inhabiteth the Mountain That it shines in lurid light, And is rolled about with thunders, And terrors, and a blight, Like Kaf the peak of Eblis— Kaf, the evil height? Who has gone up with a shouting And a trumpet in the night?
There is battle in the Mountain— Might assaulteth Might; 'Tis the fastness of the Anarch, Torrent-torn, an ancient height; The crags resound the clangor Of the war of Wrong and Right; And the armies in the valley Watch and pray for dawning light.
Joy, Joy, the day is breaking, And the cloud is rolled from sight; There is triumph in the Morning For the Anarch's plunging flight; God has glorified the Mountain Where a Banner burneth bright, And the armies in the valley They are fortified in right.
Chattanooga. (November, 1863.)
A kindling impulse seized the host Inspired by heaven's elastic air; Their hearts outran their General's plan, Though Grant commanded there— Grant, who without reserve can dare; And, "Well, go on and do your will" He said, and measured the mountain then: So master-riders fling the rein— But you must know your men.
On yester-morn in grayish mist, Armies like ghosts on hills had fought, And rolled from the cloud their thunders loud The Cumberlands far had caught: To-day the sunlit steeps are sought. Grant stood on cliffs whence all was plain, And smoked as one who feels no cares; But mastered nervousness intense Alone such calmness wears.
The summit-cannon plunge their flame Sheer down the primal wall, But up and up each linking troop In stretching festoons crawl— Nor fire a shot. Such men appall The foe, though brave. He, from the brink, Looks far along the breadth of slope, And sees two miles of dark dots creep, And knows they mean the cope.
He sees them creep. Yet here and there Half hid 'mid leafless groves they go; As men who ply through traceries high Of turreted marbles show— So dwindle these to eyes below. But fronting shot and flanking shell Sliver and rive the inwoven ways; High tops of oaks and high hearts fall, But never the climbing stays.
From right to left, from left to right They roll the rallying cheer— Vie with each other, brother with brother, Who shall the first appear— What color-bearer with colors clear In sharp relief, like sky-drawn Grant, Whose cigar must now be near the stump— While in solicitude his back Heap slowly to a hump.
Near and more near; till now the flags Run like a catching flame; And one flares highest, to peril nighest— He means to make a name: Salvos! they give him his fame. The staff is caught, and next the rush, And then the leap where death has led; Flag answered flag along the crest, And swarms of rebels fled.
But some who gained the envied Alp, And—eager, ardent, earnest there— Dropped into Death's wide-open arms, Quelled on the wing like eagles struck in air— Forever they slumber young and fair, The smile upon them as they died; Their end attained, that end a height: Life was to these a dream fulfilled, And death a starry night.
The Armies of the Wilderness. (1683-64.)
Like snows the camps on southern hills Lay all the winter long, Our levies there in patience stood— They stood in patience strong. On fronting slopes gleamed other camps Where faith as firmly clung: Ah, froward king! so brave miss— The zealots of the Wrong.
In this strife of brothers (God, hear their country call), However it be, whatever betide, Let not the just one fall.
Through the pointed glass our soldiers saw The base-ball bounding sent; They could have joined them in their sport But for the vale's deep rent. And others turned the reddish soil, Like diggers of graves they bent: The reddish soil and tranching toil Begat presentiment.
Did the Fathers feel mistrust? Can no final good be wrought? Over and over, again and again Must the fight for the Right be fought?
They lead a Gray-back to the crag: "Your earth-works yonder—tell us, man" "A prisoner—no deserter, I, Nor one of the tell-tale clan" His rags they mark: "True-blue like you Should wear the color—your Country's, man" He grinds his teeth: "However that be, Yon earth-works have their plan."
Such brave ones, foully snared By Belial's wily plea, Were faithful unto the evil end— Feudal fidelity.
"Well, then, your camps—come, tell the names" Freely he leveled his finger then: "Yonder—see—are our Georgians; on the crest, The Carolinians; lower, past the glen, Virginians—Alabamians—Mississippians—Kentuckians (Follow my finger)—Tennesseeans; and the ten Camps there—ask your grave-pits; they'll tell. Halloa! I see the picket-hut, the den Where I last night lay." "Where's Lee" "In the hearts and bayonets of all yon men!"
The tribes swarm up to war As in ages long ago, Ere the palm of promise leaved And the lily of Christ did blow.
Their mounted pickets for miles are spied Dotting the lowland plain, The nearer ones in their veteran-rags— Loutish they loll in lazy disdain. But ours in perilous places bide With rifles ready and eyes that strain Deep through the dim suspected wood Where the Rapidan rolls amain.
The Indian has passed away, But creeping comes another— Deadlier far. Picket, Take heed—take heed of thy brother!
From a wood-hung height, an outpost lone, Crowned with a woodman's fort, The sentinel looks on a land of dole, Like Paran, all amort. Black chimneys, gigantic in moor-like wastes, The scowl of the clouded sky retort; The hearth is a houseless stone again— Ah! where shall the people be sought?
Since the venom such blastment deals, The south should have paused, and thrice, Ere with heat of her hate she hatched The egg with the cockatrice.
A path down the mountain winds to the glade Where the dead of the Moonlight Fight lie low; A hand reaches out of the thin-laid mould As begging help which none can bestow. But the field-mouse small and busy ant Heap their hillocks, to hide if they may the woe: By the bubbling spring lies the rusted canteen, And the drum which the drummer-boy dying let go.
Dust to dust, and blood for blood— Passion and pangs! Has Time Gone back? or is this the Age Of the world's great Prime?
The wagon mired and cannon dragged Have trenched their scar; the plain Tramped like the cindery beach of the damned— A site for the city of Cain. And stumps of forests for dreary leagues Like a massacre show. The armies have lain By fires where gums and balms did burn, And the seeds of Summer's reign.
Where are the birds and boys? Who shall go chestnutting when October returns? The nuts— O, long ere they grow again.
They snug their huts with the chapel-pews, In court-houses stable their steeds— Kindle their fires with indentures and bonds, And old Lord Fairfax's parchment deeds; And Virginian gentlemen's libraries old— Books which only the scholar heeds— Are flung to his kennel. It is ravage and range, And gardens are left to weeds.
Turned adrift into war Man runs wild on the plain, Like the jennets let loose On the Pampas—zebras again.
Like the Pleiads dim, see the tents through the storm— Aloft by the hill-side hamlet's graves, On a head-stone used for a hearth-stone there The water is bubbling for punch for our braves. What if the night be drear, and the blast Ghostly shrieks? their rollicking staves Make frolic the heart; beating time with their swords, What care they if Winter raves?
Is life but a dream? and so, In the dream do men laugh aloud? So strange seems mirth in a camp, So like a white tent to a shroud.
The May-weed springs; and comes a Man And mounts our Signal Hill; A quiet Man, and plain in garb— Briefly he looks his fill, Then drops his gray eye on the ground, Like a loaded mortar he is still: Meekness and grimness meet in him— The silent General.
Were men but strong and wise, Honest as Grant, and calm, War would be left to the red and black ants, And the happy world disarm.
That eve a stir was in the camps, Forerunning quiet soon to come Among the streets of beechen huts No more to know the drum. The weed shall choke the lowly door, And foxes peer within the gloom, Till scared perchange by Mosby's prowling men, Who ride in the rear of doom.
Far West, and farther South, Wherever the sword has been, Deserted camps are met, And desert graves are seen.
The livelong night they ford the flood; With guns held high they silent press, Till shimmers the grass in their bayonets' sheen— On Morning's banks their ranks they dress; Then by the forests lightly wind, Whose waving boughs the pennons seem to bless, Borne by the cavalry scouting on— Sounding the Wilderness.
Like shoals of fish in spring That visit Crusoe's isle, The host in the lonesome place— The hundred thousand file.
The foe that held his guarded hills Must speed to woods afar; For the scheme that was nursed by the Culpepper hearth With the slowly-smoked cigar— The scheme that smouldered through winter long Now bursts into act—into waw— The resolute scheme of a heart as calm As the Cyclone's core.
The fight for the city is fought In Nature's old domain; Man goes out to the wilds, And Orpheus' charm is vain.
In glades they meet skull after skull Where pine-cones lay—the rusted gun, Green shoes full of bones, the mouldering coat And cuddled-up skeleton; And scores of such. Some start as in dreams, And comrades lost bemoan: By the edge of those wilds Stonewall had charged— But the Year and the Man were gone.
At the height of their madness The night winds pause, Recollecting themselves; But no lull in these wars.
A gleam!—a volley! And who shall go Storming the swarmers in jungles dread? No cannon-ball answers, no proxies are sent— They rush in the shrapnel's stead. Plume and sash are vanities now— Let them deck the pall of the dead; They go where the shade is, perhaps into Hades, Where the brave of all times have led.
There's a dust of hurrying feet, Bitten lips and bated breath, And drums that challenge to the grave, And faces fixed, forefeeling death.
What husky huzzahs in the hazy groves— What flying encounters fell; Pursuer and pursued like ghosts disappear In gloomed shade—their end who shall tell? The crippled, a ragged-barked stick for a crutch, Limp to some elfin dell— Hobble from the sight of dead faces—white As pebbles in a well.
Few burial rites shall be; No priest with book and band Shall come to the secret place Of the corpse in the foeman's land.
Watch and fast, march and fight—clutch your gun? Day-fights and night-fights; sore is the strees; Look, through the pines what line comes on? Longstreet slants through the hauntedness? 'Tis charge for charge, and shout for yell: Such battles on battles oppress— But Heaven lent strength, the Right strove well, And emerged from the Wilderness.
Emerged, for the way was won; But the Pillar of Smoke that led Was brand-like with ghosts that went up Ashy and red.
None can narrate that strife in the pines, A seal is on it—Sabaean lore! Obscure as the wood, the entangled rhyme But hints at the maze of war— Vivid glimpses or livid through peopled gloom, And fires which creep and char— A riddle of death, of which the slain Sole solvers are.
Long they withhold the roll Of the shroudless dead. It is right; Not yet can we bear the flare Of the funeral light.
On the Photograph of a Corps Commander.
Ay, man is manly. Here you see The warrior-carriage of the head, And brave dilation of the frame; And lighting all, the soul that led In Spottsylvania's charge to victory, Which justifies his fame.
A cheering picture. It is good To look upon a Chief like this, In whom the spirit moulds the form. Here favoring Nature, oft remiss, With eagle mien expressive has endued A man to kindle strains that warm.
Trace back his lineage, and his sires, Yeoman or noble, you shall find Enrolled with men of Agincourt, Heroes who shared great Harry's mind. Down to us come the knightly Norman fires, And front the Templars bore.
Nothing can lift the heart of man Like manhood in a fellow-man. The thought of heaven's great King afar But humbles us—too weak to scan; But manly greatness men can span, And feel the bonds that draw.
The Swamp Angel.
There is a coal-black Angel With a thick Afric lip, And he dwells (like the hunted and harried) In a swamp where the green frogs dip. But his face is against a City Which is over a bay of the sea, And he breathes with a breath that is blastment, And dooms by a far decree.
By night there is fear in the City, Through the darkness a star soareth on; There's a scream that screams up to the zenith, Then the poise of a meteor lone— Lighting far the pale f right of the fac es, And downward the coming is seen; Then the rush, and the burst, and the havoc, And wails and shrieks between.
It comes like the thief in the gloaming; It comes, and none may foretell The place of the coming—the glaring; They live in a sleepless spell That wizens, and withers, and whitens; It ages the young, and the bloom Of the maiden is ashes of roses— The Swamp Angel broods in his gloom.
Swift is his messengers' going, But slowly he saps their halls, As if by delay deluding. They move from their crumbling walls Farther and farther away; But the Angel sends after and after, By night with the flame of his ray— By night with the voice of his screaming— Sends after them, stone by stone, And farther walls fall, farther portals, And weed follows weed through the Town.
Is this the proud City? the scorner Which never would yield the ground? Which mocked at the coal-black Angel? The cup of despair goes round. Vainly she calls upon Michael (The white man's seraph was he), For Michael has fled from his tower To the Angel over the sea.
Who weeps for the woeful City Let him weep for our guilty kind; Who joys at her wild despairing— Christ, the Forgiver, convert his mind.
The Battle for the Bay. (August, 1864.)
O mystery of noble hearts, To whom mysterious seas have been In midnight watches, lonely calm and storm, A stern, sad disciple, And rooted out the false and vain, And chastened them to aptness for Devotion and the deeds of war, And death which smiles and cheers in spite of pain.
Beyond the bar the land-wind dies, The prows becharmed at anchor swim: A summer night; the stars withdrawn look down— Fair eve of battle grim. The sentries pace, bonetas glide; Below, the sleeping sailor swing, And it their dreams to quarters spring, Or cheer their flag, or breast a stormy tide.
But drums are beat: Up anchor all! The triple lines steam slowly on; Day breaks, and through the sweep of decks each man Stands coldly by his gun— As cold as it. But he shall warm— Warm with the solemn metal there, And all its ordered fury share, In attitude a gladiatorial form.
The Admiral—yielding the the love Which held his life and ship so dear— Sailed second in the long fleet's midmost line; Yet thwarted all their care: He lashed himself aloft, and shone Star of the fight, with influence sent Throughout the dusk embattlement; And so they neared the strait and walls of stone.
No sprintly fife as in the field, The decks were hushed like fanes in prayer; Behind each man a holy angel stood— He stood, though none was 'ware. Out spake the forts on either hand, Back speak the ships when spoken to, And set their flags in concert true, And On and in! is Farragut's command.
But what delays? 'mid wounds above Dim buoys give hint of death below— Sea-ambuscades, where evil art had aped Hecla that hides in snow. The centre-van, entangled, trips; The starboard leader holds straight on: A cheer for the Tecumseh!—nay, Before their eyes the turreted ship goes down!
The fire redoubles, While the fleet Hangs dubious—ere the horror ran— The Admiral rushes to his rightful place— Well met! apt hour and man!— Closes with peril, takes the lead, His action is a stirring call; He strikes his great heart through them all, And is the genius of their daring deed.
The forts are daunted, slack their fire, Confounded by the deadlier aim And rapid broadsides of the speeding fleet, And fierce denouncing flame. Yet shots from four dark hulls embayed Come raking through the loyal crews, Whom now each dying mate endues With his last look, anguished yet undismayed.
A flowering time to guilt is given, And traitors have their glorying hour; O late, but sure, the righteous Paramount comes— Palsy is on their power! So proved it with the rebel keels, The strong-holds past: assailed, they run; The Selma strikes, and the work is done: The dropping anchor the achievement seals.
But no, she turns—the Tennessee! The solid Ram of iron and oak, Strong as Evil, and bold as Wrong, though lone— A pestilence in her smoke. The flag-ship is her singled mark, The wooden Hartford. Let her come; She challenges the planet of Doom, And naught shall save her—not her iron bark.
Slip anchor, all! and at her, all! Bear down with rushing beaks—and now! First the Monongahela struck—and reeled; The Lackawana's prow Next crashed—crashed, but not crashing; then The Admiral rammed, and rasping nigh Sloped in a broadside, which glanced by: The Monitors battered at her adamant den.
The Chickasaw plunged beneath the stern And pounded there; a huge wrought orb From the Manhattan pierced one wall, but dropped; Others the seas absorb. Yet stormed on all sides, narrowed in, Hampered and cramped, the bad one fought— Spat ribald curses from the port Who shutters, jammed, locked up this Man-of-Sin.
No pause or stay. They made a din Like hammers round a boiler forged; Now straining strength tangled itself with strength, Till Hate her will disgorged. The white flag showed, the fight was won— Mad shouts went up that shook the Bay; But pale on the scarred fleet's decks there lay A silent man for every silenced gun.
And quiet far below the wave, Where never cheers shall move their sleep, Some who did boldly, nobly earn them, lie— Charmed children of the deep. But decks that now are in the seed, And cannon yet within the mine, Shall thrill the deeper, gun and pine, Because of the Tecumseh's glorious deed.
Sheridan at Cedar Creek. (October, 1864.)
Shoe the steed with silver That bore him to the fray, When he heard the guns at dawning— Miles away; When he heard them calling, calling— Mount! nor stay: Quick, or all is lost; They've surprised and stormed the post, They push your routed host— Gallop! retrieve the day.
House the horse in ermine— For the foam-flake blew White through the red October; He thundered into view; They cheered him in the looming, Horseman and horse they knew. The turn of the tide began, The rally of bugles ran, He swung his hat in the van; The electric hoof-spark flew.
Wreathe the steed and lead him— For the charge he led Touched and turned the cypress Into amaranths for the head Of Philip, king of riders, Who raised them from the dead. The camp (at dawning lost), By eve, recovered—forced, Rang with laughter of the host At belated Early fled.
Shroud the horse in sable— For the mounds they heap! There is firing in the Valley, And yet no strife they keep; It is the parting volley, It is the pathos deep. There is glory for the brave Who lead, and noblys ave, But no knowledge in the grave Where the nameless followers sleep.
In the Prison Pen. (1864.)
Listless he eyes the palisades And sentries in the glare; 'Tis barren as a pelican-beach— But his world is ended there.
Nothing to do; and vacant hands Bring on the idiot-pain; He tries to think—to recollect, But the blur is on his brain.
Around him swarm the plaining ghosts Like those on Virgil's shore— A wilderness of faces dim, And pale ones gashed and hoar.
A smiting sun. No shed, no tree; He totters to his lair— A den that sick hands dug in earth Ere famine wasted there,
Or, dropping in his place, he swoons, Walled in by throngs that press, Till forth from the throngs they bear him dead— Dead in his meagreness.
The College Colonel.
He rides at their head; A crutch by his saddle just slants in view, One slung arm is in splints, you see, Yet he guides his strong steed—how coldly too.
He brings his regiment home— Not as they filed two years before, But a remnant half-tattered, and battered, and worn, Like castaway sailors, who—stunned By the surf's loud roar, Their mates dragged back and seen no more— Again and again breast the surge, And at last crawl, spent, to shore.
A still rigidity and pale— An Indian aloofness lones his brow; He has lived a thousand years Compressed in battle's pains and prayers, Marches and watches slow.
There are welcoming shouts, and flags; Old men off hat to the Boy, Wreaths from gay balconies fall at his feet, But to him—there comes alloy.
It is not that a leg is lost, It is not that an arm is maimed. It is not that the fever has racked— Self he has long disclaimed.
But all through the Seven Day's Fight, And deep in the wilderness grim, And in the field-hospital tent, And Petersburg crater, and dim Lean brooding in Libby, there came— Ah heaven!—what truth to him.
The Eagle of the Blue.
Aloft he guards the starry folds Who is the brother of the star; The bird whose joy is in the wind Exultleth in the war.
No painted plume—a sober hue, His beauty is his power; That eager calm of gaze intent Foresees the Sibyl's hour.
Austere, he crowns the swaying perch, Flapped by the angry flag; The hurricane from the battery sings, But his claw has known the crag.
Amid the scream of shells, his scream Runs shrilling; and the glare Of eyes that brave the blinding sun The vollied flame can bear.
The pride of quenchless strength is his— Strength which, though chained, avails; The very rebel looks and thrills— The anchored Emblem hails.
Though scarred in many a furious fray, No deadly hurt he knew; Well may we think his years are charmed— The Eagle of the Blue.
A Dirge for McPherson, Killed in front of Atlanta. (July, 1864.)
Arms reversed and banners craped— Muffled drums; Snowy horses sable-draped— McPherson comes.
But, tell us, shall we know him more, Lost-Mountain and lone Kenesaw?
Brave the sword upon the pall— A gleam in gloom; So a bright name lighteth all McPherson's doom.
Bear him through the chapel-door— Let priest in stole Pace before the warrior Who led. Bell—toll!
Lay him down within the nave, The Lesson read— Man is noble, man is brave, But man's—a weed.
Take him up again and wend Graveward, nor weep: There's a trumpet that shall rend This Soldier's sleep.
Pass the ropes the coffin round, And let descend; Prayer and volley—let it sound McPherson's end.
True fame is his, for life is o'er— Sarpedon of the mighty war.
At the Cannon's Mouth. Destruction of the Ram Albermarle by the Torpedo-Launch. (October, 1864.)
Palely intent, he urged his keel Full on the guns, and touched the spring; Himself involved in the bolt he drove Timed with the armed hull's shot that stove His shallop—die or do! Into the flood his life he threw, Yet lives—unscathed—a breathing thing To marvel at.
He has his fame; But that mad dash at death, how name?
Had Earth no charm to stay the Boy From the martyr-passion? Could he dare Disdain the Paradise of opening joy Which beckons the fresh heart every where? Life has more lures than any girl For youth and strength; puts forth a share Of beauty, hinting of yet rarer store; And ever with unfathomable eyes, Which baffingly entice, Still strangely does Adonis draw. And life once over, who shall tell the rest? Life is, of all we know, God's best. What imps these eagles then, that they Fling disrespect on life by that proud way In which they soar above our lower clay.
Pretense of wonderment and doubt unblest: In Cushing's eager deed was shown A spirit which brave poets own— That scorn of life which earns life's crown; Earns, but not always wins; but he— The star ascended in his nativity.
The March to the Sea. (December, 1864.)
Not Kenesaw high-arching, Nor Allatoona's glen— Though there the graves lie parching— Stayed Sherman's miles of men; From charred Atlanta marching They launched the sword again. The columns streamed like rivers Which in their course agree, And they streamed until their flashing Met the flashing of the sea: It was glorious glad marching, That marching to the sea.
The brushed the foe before them (Shall gnats impede the bull?); Their own good bridges bore them Over swamps or torrents full, And the grand pines waving o'er them Bowed to axes keen and cool. The columns grooved their channels. Enforced their own decree, And their power met nothing larger Until it met the sea: It was glorious glad marching, A marching glad and free.
Kilpatrick's snare of riders In zigzags mazed the land, Perplexed the pale Southsiders With feints on every hand; Vague menace awed the hiders In forts beyond command. To Sherman's shifting problem No foeman knew the key; But onward went the marching Unpausing to the sea: It was glorious glad marching, The swinging step was free.
The flankers ranged like pigeons In clouds through field or wood; The flocks of all those regions, The herds and horses good, Poured in and swelled the legions, For they caught the marching mood. A volley ahead! They hear it; And they hear the repartee: Fighting was but frolic In that marching to the sea: It was glorious glad marching, A marching bold and free.
All nature felt their coming, The birds like couriers flew, And the banners brightly blooming The slaves by thousands drew, And they marched beside the drumming, And they joined the armies blue. The cocks crowed from the cannon (Pets named from Grant and Lee), Plumed fighters and campaigners In the marching to the sea: It was glorious glad marching, For every man was free.
The foragers through calm lands Swept in tempest gay, And they breathed the air of balm-lands Where rolled savannas lay, And they helped themselves from farm-lands— As who should say them nay? The regiments uproarious Laughed in Plenty's glee; And they marched till their broad laughter Met the laughter of the sea: It was glorious glad marching, That marching to the sea.
The grain of endless acres Was threshed (as in the East) By the trampling of the Takers, Strong march of man and beast; The flails of those earth-shakers Left a famine where they ceased. The arsenals were yielded; The sword (that was to be), Arrested in the forging, Rued that marching to the sea: It was glorious glad marching, But ah, the stern decree!
For behind they left a wailing, A terror and a ban, And blazing cinders sailing, And houseless households wan, Wide zones of counties paling, And towns where maniacs ran. Was it Treason's retribution— Necessity the plea? They will long remember Sherman And his streaming columns free— They will long remember Sherman Marching to the sea.
The Frenzy in the Wake. Sherman's advance through the Carolinas. (February, 1865.)
So strong to suffer, shall we be Weak to contend, and break The sinews of the Oppressor's knee That grinds upon the neck? O, the garments rolled in blood Scorch in cities wrapped in flame, And the African—the imp! He gibbers, imputing shame.
Shall Time, avenging every woe, To us that joy allot Which Israel thrilled when Sisera's brow Showed gaunt and showed the clot? Curse on their foreheads, cheeks, and eyes— The Northern faces—true To the flag we hate, the flag whose stars Like planets strike us through.
From frozen Maine they come, Far Minnesota too; They come to a sun whose rays disown— May it wither them as the dew! The ghosts of our slain appeal: "Vain shall our victories be" But back from its ebb the flood recoils— Back in a whelming sea.
With burning woods our skies are brass, The pillars of dust are seen; The live-long day their cavalry pass— No crossing the road between. We were sore deceived—an awful host! They move like a roaring wind. Have we gamed and lost? but even despair Shall never our hate rescind.
The Fall of Richmond. The tidings received in the Northern Metropolis. (April, 1865.)
What mean these peals from every tower, And crowds like seas that sway? The cannon reply; they speak the heart Of the People impassioned, and say— A city in flags for a city in flames, Richmond goes Babylon's way— Sing and pray.
O weary years and woeful wars, And armies in the grave; But hearts unquelled at last deter The helmed dilated Lucifer— Honor to Grant the brave, Whose three stars now like Orion's rise When wreck is on the wave— Bless his glaive.
Well that the faith we firmly kept, And never our aim forswore For the Terrors that trooped from each recess When fainting we fought in the Wilderness, And Hell made loud hurrah; But God is in Heaven, and Grant in the Town, And Right through might is Law— God's way adore.
The Surrender at Appomattox. (April, 1865.)
As billows upon billows roll, On victory victory breaks; Ere yet seven days from Richmond's fall And crowning triumph wakes The loud joy-gun, whose thunders run By sea-shore, streams, and lakes. The hope and great event agree In the sword that Grant received from Lee.
The warring eagles fold the wing, But not in Caesar's sway; Not Rome o'ercome by Roman arms we sing, As on Pharsalia's day, But Treason thrown, though a giant grown, And Freedom's larger play. All human tribes glad token see In the close of the wars of Grant and Lee.
A Canticle: Significant of the national exaltation of enthusiasm at the close of the War.
O the precipice Titanic Of the congregated Fall, And the angle oceanic Where the deepening thunders call— And the Gorge so grim, And the firmamental rim! Multitudinously thronging The waters all converge, Then they sweep adown in sloping Solidity of surge.
The Nation, in her impulse Mysterious as the Tide, In emotion like an ocean Moves in power, not in pride; And is deep in her devotion As Humanity is wide.
Thou Lord of hosts victorious, The confluence Thou hast twined; By a wondrous way and glorious A passage Thou dost find— A passage Thou dost find: Hosanna to the Lord of hosts, The hosts of human kind.
Stable in its baselessness When calm is in the air, The Iris half in tracelessness Hovers faintly fair. Fitfully assailing it A wind from heaven blows, Shivering and paling it To blankness of the snows; While, incessant in renewal, The Arch rekindled grows, Till again the gem and jewel Whirl in blinding overthrows— Till, prevailing and transcending, Lo, the Glory perfect there, And the contest finds an ending, For repose is in the air.
But the foamy Deep unsounded, And the dim and dizzy ledge, And the booming roar rebounded, And the gull that skims the edge! The Giant of the Pool Heaves his forehead white as wool— Toward the Iris every climbing From the Cataracts that call— Irremovable vast arras Draping all the Wall.
The Generations pouring From times of endless date, In their going, in their flowing Ever form the steadfast State; And Humanity is growing Toward the fullness of her fate.
Thou Lord of hosts victorious, Fulfill the end designed; By a wondrous way and glorious A passage Thou dost find— A passage Thou dost find: Hosanna to the Lord of hosts, The hosts of human kind.
The Martyr. Indicative of the passion of the people on the 15th of April, 1865.
Good Friday was the day Of the prodigy and crime, When they killed him in his pity, When they killed him in his prime Of clemency and calm— When with yearning he was filled To redeem the evil-willed, And, though conqueror, be kind; But they killed him in his kindness, In their madness and their blindness, And they killed him from behind.
There is sobbing of the strong, And a pall upon the land; But the People in their weeping Bare the iron hand: Beware the People weeping When they bare the iron hand.
He lieth in his blood— The father in his face; They have killed him, the Forgiver— The Avenger takes his place,  The Avenger wisely stern, Who in righteousness shall do What the heavens call him to, And the parricides remand; For they killed him in his kindness, In their madness and their blindness, And his blood is on their hand.
There is sobbing of the strong, And a pall upon the land; But the People in their weeping Bare the iron hand: Beware the People weeping When they bare the iron hand.
"The Coming Storm:" A Picture by S.R. Gifford, and owned by E.B. Included in the N.A. Exhibition, April, 1865.
All feeling hearts must feel for him Who felt this picture. Presage dim— Dim inklings from the shadowy sphere Fixed him and fascinated here.
A demon-cloud like the mountain one Burst on a spirit as mild As this urned lake, the home of shades. But Shakspeare's pensive child
Never the lines had lightly scanned, Steeped in fable, steeped in fate; The Hamlet in his heart was 'ware, Such hearts can antedate.
No utter surprise can come to him Who reaches Shakspeare's core; That which we seek and shun is there— Man's final lore.
Rebel Color-bearers at Shiloh: A plea against the vindictive cry raised by civilians shortly after the surrender at Appomattox.
The color-bearers facing death White in the whirling sulphurous wreath, Stand boldly out before the line Right and left their glances go, Proud of each other, glorying in their show; Their battle-flags about them blow, And fold them as in flame divine: Such living robes are only seen Round martyrs burning on the green— And martyrs for the Wrong have been.
Perish their Cause! but mark the men— Mark the planted statues, then Draw trigger on them if you can.
The leader of a patriot-band Even so could view rebels who so could stand; And this when peril pressed him sore, Left aidless in the shivered front of war— Skulkers behind, defiant foes before, And fighting with a broken brand. The challenge in that courage rare— Courage defenseless, proudly bare— Never could tempt him; he could dare Strike up the leveled rifle there.
Sunday at Shiloh, and the day When Stonewall charged—McClellan's crimson May, And Chickamauga's wave of death, And of the Wilderness the cypress wreath— All these have passed away. The life in the veins of Treason lags, Her daring color-bearers drop their flags, And yield. Now shall we fire? Can poor spite be? Shall nobleness in victory less aspire Than in reverse? Spare Spleen her ire, And think how Grant met Lee.
The Muster: Suggested by the Two Days' Review at Washington (May, 1865.)
The Abrahamic river— Patriarch of floods, Calls the roll of all his streams And watery mutitudes: Torrent cries to torrent, The rapids hail the fall; With shouts the inland freshets Gather to the call.
The quotas of the Nation, Like the water-shed of waves, Muster into union— Eastern warriors, Western braves.
Martial strains are mingling, Though distant far the bands, And the wheeling of the squadrons Is like surf upon the sands.
The bladed guns are gleaming— Drift in lengthened trim, Files on files for hazy miles— Nebulously dim.
O Milky Way of armies— Star rising after star, New banners of the Commonwealths, And eagles of the War.
The Abrahamic river To sea-wide fullness fed, Pouring from the thaw-lands By the God of floods is led: His deep enforcing current The streams of ocean own, And Europe's marge is evened By rills from Kansas lone.
Aurora-Borealis. Commemorative of the Dissolution of Armies at the Peace. (May, 1865.)
What power disbands the Northern Lights After their steely play? The lonely watcher feels an awe Of Nature's sway, As when appearing, He marked their flashed uprearing In the cold gloom— Retreatings and advancings, (Like dallyings of doom), Transitions and enhancings, And bloody ray.
The phantom-host has faded quite, Splendor and Terror gone— Portent or promise—and gives way To pale, meek Dawn; The coming, going, Alike in wonder showing— Alike the God, Decreeing and commanding The million blades that glowed, The muster and disbanding— Midnight and Morn.
The Released Rebel Prisoner. (June, 1865.)
Armies he's seen—the herds of war, But never such swarms of men As now in the Nineveh of the North— How mad the Rebellion then!