A WORD FOR THE HOUR
by John Greenleaf Whittier
The firmament breaks up. In black eclipse
Light after light goes out. One evil star,
Luridly glaring through the smoke of war,
As in the dream of the Apocalypse,
Drags others down. Let us not weakly weep
Nor rashly threaten. Give us grace to keep
Our faith and patience; wherefore should we leap
On one hand into fratricidal fight,
Or, on the other, yield eternal right,
Frame lies of laws, and good and ill confound?
What fear we? Safe on freedom's vantage ground
Our feet are planted; let us there remain
In un-revengeful calm, no means untried
Which truth can sanction, no just claim denied,
The sad spectators of a suicide!
They break the lines of Union: shall we light
The fires of hell to weld anew the chain
On that red anvil where each blow is pain?
Draw we not even now a freer breath,
As from our shoulders falls a load of death
Loathsome as that the Tuscan's victim bore
When keen with life to a dead horror bound?
Why take we up the accursed thing again?
Pity, forgive, but urge them back no more
Who, drunk with passion, flaunt disunion's rag
With its vile reptile blazon. Let us press
The golden cluster on our brave old flag
In closer union, and, if numbering less,
Brighter shall shine the stars which still remain.
16th, 1st month, 1861.
THE CROSSING AT FREDERICKSBURG
December 11, 1862
by George Henry Boker(1823-1890)
I lay in my tent at mid-day,
Too full of pain to die,
When I heard the voice of Burnside,
And an answering shout reply.
I heard the voice of the General,--
'T was firm, though low and sad;
But the roar that followed his question
Laughed out till the hills were glad.
"O comrade, open the curtain.
And see where our men are bound,
For my heart is still in my bosom
At that terrible, mirthful sound.
"And hark what the General orders,
For I could not catch his wors;
And what means that hurry and movement,
That clash of muskets and swords?"
"Lie still, lie still, my Captain,
'T is a call for volunteers;
And the noise that vexes your fever
Is only our soldiers' cheers."
"Where go they?" "Across the river."
"O God! and must I lie still,
While that drum and that measured trampling
Move from me far down the hill?"
"How many?" "I judge, four hundred."
"Who are they? I'll know to a man."
"Our own Nineteenth and Twentieth,
And the Seventh Michigan."
"O, to go, but to go with my comrades!
Tear he curtain away from the hook;
For I'll see them march down to their glory,
If I perish by the look!"
They leaped in the rocking shallops,
Ten offered where one could go;
And the breeze was alive with laughter
Till the boatmen began to row.
Then the shore, where the rebels harbored,
Was fringed with a gush of flame,
And buzzing, like bees, o'er the water
The swarms of their bullets came.
In silence, how dread and solmen!
With courage, how grand and true!
Steadily, steadily onward
The line of the shallops drew.
Not a whisper! Each man was conscious
He stood in the sight of death;
So he bowed to the awful presence,
And treasured his living breath.
'Twixt death in the air above them,
And death in the waves below,
Through balls and grape and shrapnel
They moved--my God, how slow!
And many a brave, stout fellow,
Who sprang in the boat with mirth,
Ere they made that fatal crossing
Was a load of lifeless earth.
And many a brave, stout fellow,
Whose limbs with strength were rife,
Was torn and crushed and shattered,--
A helpless wreck for life.
But yet the boats moved onward;
Through fire and lead they drove,
With the dark, still mass within them,
And the floating stars above,
So loud and near it sounded,
I started at the shout,
As the keels ground on the gravel.
And the eager men burst out.
Cheer after cheer we sent them,
As only armies can,--
Cheers for old Massachusetts,
Cheers for young Michigan!
They formed in lines of battle;
Not a man was out of place.
Then with leveled steel they hurled them
Straight in the rebels' face.
"O, help me, help me. comrade!
For tears my eyelids drown,
As I see their starry banners
Stream up the smoking town.
"And see the noisy workmen
O'er the lengthening bridges run,
And the troops that swarm to cross them
When the rapid work be done.
"For the old heat, or a new one,
Flames up in every vein;
And with fever or with passion
I am faint as death again.
"If this is death, I care not!
Hear me, men, from rear to van!--
One more cheer for Massachusetts,
And one more for Michigan!"
by Francis Orray Tickner
Out of the focal and foremost fire,
Out of the hospital walls as dire,
Smitten of grape-shot and gangrene,
(Eighteenth battle, and he sixteen!)
Spectre! such as you seldom see,
Little Giffen, of Tennessee
"Take him - and welcome!" the surgeons said;
"Little the doctor can help the dead!"
So we took him and brought him where
The balm was sweet in the summer air;
And we laid him down on a wholesome bed -
Utter Lazarus, heel to head!
And we watched the war with abated breath -
Skeleton boy against skeleton death.
Months of torture, how many such!
Weary weeks of the stick and crutch;
And still a glint of the steel-blue eye
Told of a spirit that wouldn't die,
And didn't. Nay, more! in death's despite
The crippled skeleton learned to write.
"Dear Mother," at first, of course; and then
"Dear Captain," inquiring about the men.
Captain's answer: "Of eighty and five,
Giffen and I are left alive."
Word of gloom from the war, one day;
"Johnston pressed at the front, they say."
Little Giffen was up and away;
A tear - his first - as he bade good-by,
Dimmed the glint of his steel-blue eye.
"I'll write, if spared!" There was news of the fight;
But none of Giffen. He did not write.
I sometimes fancy that, were I king
Of the princely knights of the Golden Ring,
With the song of the minstrel in mine ear,
And the tender legend that trembles here,
I'd give the best on his bended knee,
The whitest soul of my chivalry,
For Little Giffen, of Tennessee.
DRIVING HOME THE COWS
Kate Putnam Osgood
Out of the clover and blue-eyed grass
He turned them into the river-lane;
One after another he let them pass,
Then fastened the meadow-bars again.
Under the willows, and over the hill,
He patiently followed the sober pace;
The merry whistle for once was still,
And something shadowed the sunny face.
Only a boy! and his father said
He never could let his youngest go:
Two already were lying dead
Under the feet of the trampling foe.
But after the evening work was done,
and the frogs were loud in the meadow-swamp,
Over his shoulder he slung his gun,
And steadily followed the foot-path damp.
Across the clover, and through the wheat,
With resolute heart and purpose grim,
Though cold was the dew on his hurrying feet,
And the blind bat's flitting startled him.
Thrice since then had the lanes been white,
And the orchards sweet with apple-bloom;
And now, when the cows came back at night,
The feeble father drove them home.
For news had come to the lonely farm
That three were laying where two had lain;
And the old man's tremulous, palsied arm
Could never lean on a son's again.
The summer day grew cool and late.
He went of the cows when the work was done;
But down the lane, as he opened the gate,
He saw them coming one by one, -
Brindle, Ebony, Speckle, and Bess,
Shaking their horns in the evening wind;
Cropping the buttercups out of the grass, -
But who was it followed close behind?
Loosely swung in the idle air
The empty sleeve of army blue;
And worn and pale, from the crisping hair,
Looked out a face that the father knew.
For Southern prisons will sometimes yawn,
And yield their dead unto life again;
And the day that comes with a cloudy dawn
In golden glory at last may wane.
The great tears sprang to their meeting eyes;
For the heart must speak when lips are dumb:
And under the silent evening skies
Together they follow the cattle home.
This is a poem written by Gideon Luke
the Great, Great Grandfather of Jacquede@aol.com
and was published in the "Confederate Veteran", vol. 34, page 73.
Who Loved the Gray
The gates of time swing wide to-day,
And through them march our men n gray--
Fathers, brothers, young and old--
With loyal minds, with hearts of gold;
And, through the mist of dreams and tears,
Our heroes come across the years.
Again the voice of Lee we hear,
Again his army's answering cheer;
Again a wall of stone we see,
And Jackson stands by General Lee;
And fearless leaders, score on score,
Make up the South's immortal corps.
Another army passes by
Whose name and fame can never die--
Our Southern women, dauntless, brave,
Who gave their lives to cheer to save;
Our Southern women, tried and true,
Who toiled and prayed the long years through.
Their sacrifice, their deeds of worth,
Have made for us a purer earth;
Their victories, unknown to fame,
Have touched their children's hears with flame;
And all the South is glorified
Because for love they lived and died.
The gates of time wide open stand,
And through them streams a deathless band--
Southern women, Southern men,
Who come to thrill our souls again;
And through the mist of tears we pray,
"God keep them all who loved the gray!"
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