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The World's Best Poetry, Volume 8 by Various

Part 8 out of 9

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While perched in the tallest tree-tops, the birds
Were carolling Mendelssohn's "Songs without Words."

Far from the haunts of men remote,
The brook brawled on with a liquid note;
And Nature, all tranquil and lovely, wore
The smile of the spring, as in Eden of yore.

Little by little, as daylight increased,
And deepened the roseate flush in the East--
Little by little did morning reveal
Two long glittering lines of steel;

Where two hundred thousand bayonets gleam,
Tipped with the light of the earliest beam,
And the faces are sullen and grim to see
In the hostile armies of Grant and Lee.

All of a sudden, ere rose the sun,
Pealed on the silence the opening gun--
A little white puff of smoke there came,
And anon the valley was wreathed in flame.

Down on the left of the Rebel lines,
Where a breastwork stands in a copse of pines,
Before the Rebels their ranks can form,
The Yankees have carried the place by storm.

Stars and Stripes on the salient wave,
Where many a hero has found a grave,
And the gallant Confederates strive in vain
The ground they have drenched with their blood, to regain.

Yet louder the thunder of battle roared--
Yet a deadlier fire on the columns poured;
Slaughter infernal rode with Despair,
Furies twain, through the murky air.

Not far off, in the saddle there sat
A gray-bearded man in a black slouched hat;
Not much moved by the fire was he,
Calm and resolute Robert Lee.

Quick and watchful he kept his eye
On the bold Rebel brigades close by,--
Reserves that were standing (and dying) at ease,
While the tempest of wrath toppled over the trees.

For still with their loud, deep, bull-dog bay,
The Yankee batteries blazed away,
And with every murderous second that sped
A dozen brave fellows, alas! fell dead.

The grand old graybeard rode to the space
Where Death and his victims stood face to face,
And silently waved his old slouched hat--
A world of meaning there was in that!

"Follow me! Steady! We'll save the day!"
This was what he seemed to say;
And to the light of his glorious eye
The bold brigades thus made reply:

"We'll go forward, but you must go back "--
And they moved not an inch in the perilous track:
"Go to the rear, and we'll send them to hell!"
And the sound of the battle was lost in their yell.

Turning his bridle, Robert Lee
Rode to the rear. Like waves of the sea,
Bursting the dikes in their overflow,
Madly his veterans dashed on the foe.

And backward in terror that foe was driven,
Their banners rent and their columns riven,
Wherever the tide of battle rolled
Over the Wilderness, wood and wold.

Sunset out of a crimson sky
Streamed o'er a field of ruddier dye,
And the brook ran on with a purple stain,
From the blood of ten thousand foemen slain.

Seasons have passed since that day and year--
Again o'er its pebbles the brook runs clear,
And the field in a richer green is drest
Where the dead of a terrible conflict rest.

Hushed is the roll of the Rebel drum,
The sabres are sheathed, and the cannon are dumb;
And Fate, with his pitiless hand, has furled
The flag that once challenged the gaze of the world;

But the fame of the Wilderness fight abides;
And down into history grandly rides,
Calm and unmoved as in battle he sat,
The gray-bearded man in the black slouched hat.


* * * * *


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 their sober pace;
The merry whistle for once was still,
And something shadowed the sunny face.

Only a boy! and his father had 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 stealthily 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 lying 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 for 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 following 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 gloomy 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 the lips are dumb;
And under the silent evening skies
Together they followed the cattle home.


* * * * *


[Footnote A: This song was sung by thousands of Sherman's soldiers
after the march, and had the honor of giving its name to the campaign
it celebrates. Its author had been one of Sherman's army, and was
captured at the battle of Chattanooga. While a prisoner he escaped,
disguised himself in a Confederate uniform, went to the Southern army,
and witnessed some of the fierce fighting about Atlanta. He was
discovered and sent back to prison at Columbia, S.C., where he wrote
the song. He soon escaped again, rejoined Sherman's army, and for a
time served on General Sherman's staff. From Cape Fear River he was
sent North with despatches to Grant and President Lincoln, bringing
the first news of Sherman's successes in the Carolinas.]

[May 4 to December 21, 1864.]

Our camp-fires shone bright on the mountains
That frowned on the river below,
While we stood by our guns in the morning
And eagerly watched for the foe,
When a rider came out of the darkness
That hung over the mountain and tree,
And shouted, "Boys, up and be ready!
For Sherman will march to the sea."

Then cheer upon cheer for bold Sherman
Went up from each valley and glen,
And the bugles re-echoed the music
That came from the lips of the men;
For we knew that the stars in our banner
More bright in their splendor would be,
And that blessings from Northland would greet us
When Sherman marched down to the sea.

Then forward, boys, forward to battle,
We marched on our wearisome way,
We stormed the wild hills of Resaca;
God bless those who fell on that day!
Then Kenesaw, dark in its glory,
Frowned down on the flag of the free,
But the East and the West bore our standards,
And Sherman marched on to the sea.

Still onward we pressed, till our banners
Swept out from Atlanta's grim walls,
And the blood of the patriot dampened
The soil where the traitor flag falls;
Yet we paused not to weep for the fallen,
Who slept by each river and tree;
We twined them a wreath of the laurel
As Sherman marched down to the sea.

Oh! proud was our army that morning,
That stood where the pine darkly towers,
When Sherman said: "Boys, you are weary;
This day fair Savannah is ours!"
Then sang we a song for our chieftain,
That echoed o'er river and lea,
And the stars in our banner shone brighter
When Sherman marched down to the sea.


* * * * *



Ho! pony. Down the lonely road
Strike now your cheeriest pace!
The woods on fire do not burn higher
Than burns my anxious face;
Far have you sped, but all this night
Must feel my nervous spur;
If we be late, the world must wait
The tidings we aver:--
To home and hamlet, town and hearth,
To thrill child, mother, man,
I carry to the waiting North
Great news from Sheridan!

The birds are dead among the pines,
Slain by the battle fright,
Prone in the road the steed reclines
That never readied the fight;
Yet on we go,--the wreck below
Of many a tumbled wain,--
By ghastly pools where stranded mules
Die, drinking of the rain;
With but my list of killed and missed
I spur my stumbling nag,
To tell of death at many a tryst,
But victory to the flag!

"Halt! who comes there? The countersign!"--
"A friend."--"Advance! The fight,--
How goes it, say?"--"We won the day!"--
"Huzza! Pass on!"--"Good-night!"--
And parts the darkness on before,
And down the mire we tramp,
And the black sky is painted o'er
With many a pulsing camp;
O'er stumps and ruts, by ruined huts,
Where ghosts look through the gloam,--
Behind my tread I hear the dead
Follow the news toward home!

The hunted souls I see behind,
In swamp and in ravine,
Whose cry for mercy thrills the wind
Till cracks the sure carbine;
The moving lights, which scare the dark,
And show the trampled place
Where, in his blood, some mother's bud
Turns up his young, dead face;
The captives spent, whose standards rent
The conqueror parades,
As at the Five Forks roads arrive
The General's dashing aides.

O wondrous Youth! through this grand ruth
Runs my boy's life its thread;
The General's fame, the battle's name,
The rolls of maimed and dead
I bear, with my thrilled soul astir,
And lonely thoughts and fears;
And am but History's courier
To bind the conquering years;
A battle-ray, through ages gray
To light to deeds sublime,
And flash the lustre of this day
Down all the aisles of Time!

Ho! pony,--'tis the signal gun
The night-assault decreed;
On Petersburg the thunderbolts
Crash from the lines of Meade;
Fade the pale, frightened stars o'erhead,
And shrieks the bursting air;
The forest foliage, tinted red,
Grows ghastlier in the glare;
Though in her towers, reached her last hours,
Rocks proud Rebellion's crest--
The world may sag, if but my nag
Get in before the rest!

With bloody flank, and fetlocks dank,
And goad, and lash, and shout--
Great God! as every hoof-beat falls
A hundred lives beat out!
As weary as this broken steed
Reels down the corduroys,
So, weary, fight for morning light
Our hot and grimy boys;
Through ditches wet, o'er parapet
And guns barbette, they catch
The last, lost breach; and I,--I reach
The mail with my despatch!

Sure it shall speed, the land to read,
As sped the happiest shell!
The shot I send strike the world's end;
_This_ tells my pony's knell;
His long race run, the long war done,
My occupation gone,--
Above his bier, prone on the pier,
The vultures fleck the dawn.
Still, rest his bones where soldiers dwell,
Till the Long Roll they catch.
He fell the day that Richmond fell,
And took the first despatch!


* * * * *


[Footnote A: Sung by negro troops when entering Richmond. George Gary
Eggleston, in his collection of "American War Ballads," says that it
soon found favor among the people and "was sung with applause by young
men and maidens in well-nigh every house in Virginia."]

Say, darkeys, hab you seen de massa,
Wid de muffstash on he face,
Go long de road some time dis mornin',
Like he gwine leabe de place?
He see de smoke way up de ribber
Whar de Lincum gunboats lay;
He took he hat an' leff berry sudden,
And I spose he's runned away.

De massa run, ha, ha!
De darkey stay, ho, ho!
It mus' be now de kingdum comin',
An' de yar ob jubilo.

He six foot one way an' two foot todder,
An' he weigh six hundred poun';
His coat so big he couldn't pay de tailor,
An' it won't reach half way roun';
He drill so much dey calls him cap'n,
An he git so mighty tanned,
I spec he'll try to fool dem Yankees,
For to tink he contraband,
De massa run, ha, ha!
De darkey stay, ho, ho!
It mus' be now de kingdum comin',
An' de yar ob jubilo.

De darkeys got so lonesome libb'n
In de log hut on de lawn,
Dey moved dere tings into massa's parlor
For to keep it while he gone.
Dar's wine an' cider in de kitchin,
An' de darkeys dey hab some,
I spec it will be all fiscated,
When de Lincum sojers come.
De massa run, ha, ha!
De darkey stay, ho, ho!
It mus' be now de kingdum comin',
An' de yar ob jubilo.

De oberseer he makes us trubble,
An' he dribe us roun' a spell,
We lock him up in de smoke-house cellar,
Wid de key flung in de well.
De whip am lost, de han'-cuff broke,
But de massy hab his pay;
He big an' ole enough for to know better
Dan to went an' run away.
De massa run, ha, ha!
De darkey stay, ho, ho!
It mus' be now de kingdum comin',
An' de yar ob jubilo.


* * * * *


Furl that Banner, for 'tis weary;
Round its staff 'tis drooping dreary:
Furl it, fold it,--it is best;
For there's not a man to wave it,
And there's not a sword to save it,
And there's not one left to lave it
In the blood which heroes gave it,
And its foes now scorn and brave it:
Furl it, hide it,--let it rest!

Take that Banner down! 'tis tattered;
Broken is its staff and shattered;
And the valiant hosts are scattered,
Over whom it floated high.
Oh, 'tis hard for us to fold it,
Hard to think there's none to hold it,
Hard that those who once unrolled it
Now must furl it with a sigh!

Furl that Banner--furl it sadly!
Once ten thousands hailed it gladly,
And ten thousands wildly, madly,
Swore it should forever wave;
Swore that foeman's sword should never
Hearts like theirs entwined dissever,
Till that flag should float forever
O'er their freedom or their grave!

Furl it! for the hands that grasped it,
And the hearts that fondly clasped it,
Cold and dead are lying low;
And that Banner--it is trailing,
While around it sounds the wailing
Of its people in their woe.

For, though conquered, they adore it,--
Love the cold, dead hands that bore it,
Weep for those who fell before it,
Pardon those who trailed and tore it;
And oh, wildly they deplore it,
Now to furl and fold it so!

Furl that Banner! True, 'tis gory,
Yet 'tis wreathed around with glory,
And 't will live in song and story
Though its folds are in the dust!
For its fame on brightest pages,
Penned by poets and by sages,
Shall go sounding down the ages--
Furl its folds though now we must.

Furl that Banner, softly, slowly!
Treat it gently--it is holy,
For it droops above the dead.
Touch it not--unfold it never;
Let it droop there, furled forever,--
For its people's hopes are fled!


* * * * *


There hangs a sabre, and there a rein,
With a rusty buckle and green curb chain;
A pair of spurs on the old gray wall,
And a mouldy saddle--well, that is all.

Come out to the stable--it is not far;
The moss grown door is hanging ajar.
Look within! There's an empty stall,
Where once stood a charger, and that is all.

The good black horse came riderless home,
Flecked with blood drops as well as foam;
See yonder hillock where dead leaves fall;
The good black horse pined to death--that's all.

All? O, God! it is all I can speak.
Question me not--I am old and weak;
His sabre and his saddle hang on the wall,
And his horse pined to death--I have told you all.


* * * * *


Within the sober realm of leafless trees,
The russet year inhaled the dreamy air;
Like some tanned reaper, in his hour of ease,
When all the fields are lying brown and bare.

The gray barns looking from their hazy hills,
O'er the dun waters widening in the vales,
Sent down the air a greeting to the mills
On the dull thunder of alternate flails.

All sights were mellowed and all sounds subdued,
The hills seemed further and the stream sang low,
As in a dream the distant woodman hewed
His winter log with many a muffled blow.

The embattled forests, erewhile armed with gold,
Their banners bright with every martial hue,
Now stood like some sad, beaten host of old,
Withdrawn afar in Time's remotest blue.

On slumb'rous wings the vulture held his flight;
The dove scarce heard its sighing mate's complaint;
And, like a star slow drowning in the light,
The village church-vane seemed to pale and faint.

The sentinel-cock upon the hillside crew,--
Crew thrice,--and all was stiller than before;
Silent, till some replying warden blew
His alien horn, and then was heard no more.

Where erst the jay, within the elm's tall crest,
Made garrulous trouble round her unfledged young;
And where the oriole hung her swaying nest,
By every light wind like a censer swung;--

Where sang the noisy martens of the eaves,
The busy swallows circling ever near,--
Foreboding, as the rustic mind believes,
An early harvest and a plenteous year;--

Where every bird which charmed the vernal feast
Shook the sweet slumber from its wings at morn,
To warn the reaper of the rosy east:--
All now was sunless, empty, and forlorn.

Alone from out the stubble piped the quail,
And croaked the crow through all the dreamy gloom;
Alone the pheasant, drumming in the vale,
Made echo to the distant cottage-loom.

There was no bud, no bloom upon the bowers;
The spiders moved their thin shrouds night by night,
The thistle-down, the only ghost of flowers,
Sailed slowly by,--passed noiseless out of sight.

Amid all this--in this most cheerless air,
And where the woodbine shed upon the porch
Its crimson leaves, as if the Year stood there
Firing the floor with his inverted torch,--

Amid all this, the centre of the scene,
The white-haired matron with monotonous tread
Plied the swift wheel, and with her joyless mien
Sat, like a fate, and watched the flying thread,

She had known Sorrow,--he had walked with her,
Oft supped, and broke the bitter ashen crust;
And in the dead leaves still she heard the stir
Of his black mantle trailing in the dust.

While yet her cheek was bright with summer bloom,
Her country summoned and she gave her all;
And twice War bowed to her his sable plume,--
Re-gave the swords to rust upon the wall.

Re-gave the swords, but not the hand that drew
And struck for Liberty the dying blow;
Nor him who, to his sire and country true,
Fell mid the ranks of the invading foe.

Long, but not loud, the droning wheel went on,
Like the low murmur of a hive at noon;
Long, but not loud, the memory of the gone
Breathed through her lips a sad and tremulous tune.

At last the thread was snapped; her head was bowed;
Life dropt the distaff through his hands serene;
And loving neighbors smoothed her careful shroud,
While Death and Winter closed the autumn scene.


* * * * *


[The Spanish-American War, 1898.]

A cheer and salute for the Admiral, and here's to the Captain bold,
And never forget the Commodore's debt when the deeds of might are
They stand to the deck through the battle's wreck when the great
shells roar and screech--
And never they fear when the foe is near to practise what they
But off with your hat and three times three for Columbia's true-blue
The men below who batter the foe--the men behind the guns!

Oh, light and merry of heart are they when they swing into port once
When, with more than enough of the "green-backed stuff," they start
for their leave-o'-shore;
And you'd think, perhaps, that the blue-bloused chaps who loll along
the street
Are a tender bit, with salt on it, for some fierce "mustache" to
Some warrior bold, with straps of gold, who dazzles and fairly stuns
The modest worth of the sailor boys--the lads who serve the guns.

But say not a word till the shot is heard that tells the fight is
Till the long, deep roar grows more and more from the ships of
"Yank" and "Don,"
Till over the deep the tempests sweep of fire and bursting shell,
And the very air is a mad Despair in the throes of a living hell;
Then down, deep down, in the mighty ship, unseen by the midday suns,
You'll find the chaps who are giving the raps--the men behind the

Oh, well they know how the cyclones blow that they loose from their
cloud of death,
And they know is heard the thunder-word their fierce ten-incher
The steel decks rock with the lightning shock, and shake with the
great recoil,
And the sea grows red with the blood of the dead and reaches for his
But not till the foe has gone below or turns his prow and runs,
Shall the voice of peace bring sweet release to the men behind the


* * * * *


[May I, 1898.]

By Cavite on the bay
'Twas the Spanish squadron lay;
And the red dawn was creeping
O'er the city that lay sleeping
To the east, like a bride, in the May.
There was peace at Manila,
In the May morn at Manila,--
When ho, the Spanish admiral
Awoke to find our line
Had passed by gray Corregidor,
Had laughed at shoal and mine,
And flung to the sky its banners
With "Remember" for the sign!

With the ships of Spain before
In the shelter of the shore,
And the forts on the right,
They drew forward to the fight,
And the first was the gallant Commodore;
In the bay of Manila,
In the doomed bay of Manila--
With succor half the world away,
No port beneath that sky,
With nothing but their ships and guns
And Yankee pluck to try,
They had left retreat behind them,
They had come to win or die!

* * * * *

For we spoke at Manila,
We said it at Manila,
Oh be ye brave, or be ye strong,
Ye build your ships in vain;
The children of the sea queen's brood
Will not give up the main;
We hold the sea against the world
As we held it against Spain.

Be warned by Manila,
Take warning by Manila,
Ye may trade by land, ye may fight by land,
Ye may hold the land in fee;
But not go down to the sea in ships
To battle with the free;
For England and America
Will keep and hold the sea!


* * * * *



* * * * *


Daughter of God! that sitt'st on high
Amid the dances of the sky,
And guidest with thy gentle sway
The planets on their tuneful way;
Sweet Peace! shall ne'er again
The smile of thy most holy face,
From thine ethereal dwelling-place,
Rejoice the wretched, weary race
Of discord-breathing men?
Too long, O gladness-giving Queen!
Thy tarrying in heaven has been;
Too long o'er this fair blooming world
The flag of blood has been unfurled,
Polluting God's pure day;
Whilst, as each maddening people reels,
War onward drives his scythed wheels,
And at his horses' bloody heels
Shriek Murder and Dismay.

Oft have I wept to hear the cry
Of widow wailing bitterly;
To see the parent's silent tear
For children fallen beneath the spear;
And I have felt so sore
The sense of human guilt and woe,
That I, in Virtue's passioned glow,
Have cursed (my soul was wounded so)
The shape of man I bore!
Then come from thy serene abode,
Thou gladness-giving child of God!
And cease the world's ensanguined strife,
And reconcile my soul to life;
For much I long to see,
Ere I shall to the grave descend,
Thy hand its blessed branch extend,
And to the world's remotest end
Wave Love and Harmony!


* * * * *



Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York,
And all the clouds that lowered upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged War hath smoothed his wrinkled front.
And now, instead of mounting barbed steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber,
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.


* * * * *


"Put up the sword!" the voice of Christ once more
Speaks, in the pauses of the cannon's roar,
O'er fields of corn by fiery sickles reaped
And left dry ashes; over trenches heaped
With nameless dead; o'er cities starving slow
Under a rain of fire; through wards of woe
Down which a groaning diapason runs
From tortured brothers, husbands, lovers, sons
Of desolate women in their far-off homes,
Waiting to hear the step that never comes!
O men and brothers! let that voice be heard.
War fails, try peace; put up the useless sword!

Fear not the end. There is a story told
In Eastern tents, when autumn nights grow cold,
And round the fire the Mongol shepherds sit
With grave responses listening unto it:
Once on the errands of his mercy bent,
Buddha, the holy and benevolent,
Met a fell monster, huge and fierce of look,
Whose awful voice the hills and forests shook.

"O son of peace!" the giant cried, "thy fate
Is sealed at last, and love shall yield to hate."
The unarmed Buddha looking, with no trace
Of fear or anger, in the monster's face,
In pity said, "Poor fiend, even thee I love."
Lo! as he spake the sky-tall terror sank
To hand-breadth size; the huge abhorrence shrank
Into the form and fashion of a dove;
And where the thunder of its rage was heard,
Circling above him sweetly sang the bird:
"Hate hath no harm for love," so ran the song,
"And peace unweaponed conquers every wrong!"


* * * * *


Old Tubal Cain was a man of might,
In the days when earth was young;
By the fierce red light of his furnace bright,
The strokes of his hammer rung:
And he lifted high his brawny hand
On the iron glowing clear,
Till the sparks rushed out in scarlet showers,
As he fashioned the sword and the spear.
And he sang: "Hurrah for my handiwork!
Hurrah for the spear and the sword!
Hurrah for the hand that shall wield them well,
For he shall be king and lord."

To Tubal Cain came many a one,
As he wrought by his roaring fire,
And each one prayed for a strong steel blade
As the crown of his desire:
And he made them weapons sharp and strong,
Till they shouted loud for glee,
And gave him gifts of pearl and gold,
And spoils of the forest free.
And they sang: "Hurrah for Tubal Cain,
Who hath given us strength anew!
Hurrah for the smith, hurrah for the fire,
And hurrah for the metal true!"

But a sudden change came o'er his heart,
Ere the setting of the sun,
And Tubal Cain was filled with pain
For the evil he had done;
He saw that men, with rage and hate,
Made war upon their kind,
That the land was red with the blood they shed,
In their lust for carnage blind.
And he said: "Alas! that ever I made,
Or that skill of mine should plan,
The spear and the sword for men whose joy
Is to slay their fellow-man!"

And for many a day old Tubal Cain
Sat brooding o'er his woe;
And his hand forbore to smite the ore,
And his furnace smouldered low.
But he rose at last with a cheerful face,
And a bright courageous eye,
And bared his strong right arm for work,
While the quick flames mounted high.
And he sang: "Hurrah for my handiwork!"
And the red sparks lit the air;
"Not alone for the blade was the bright steel made,"--
And he fashioned the first ploughshare.

And men, taught wisdom from the past,
In friendship joined their hands,
Hung the sword in the hall, the spear on the wall,
And ploughed the willing lands;
And sang: "Hurrah for Tubal Cain!
Our stanch good friend is he;
And for the ploughshare and the plough
To him our praise shall be.
But while oppression lifts its head,
Or a tyrant would be lord,
Though we may thank him for the plough,
We'll not forget the sword!"


* * * * *


Where is the grave of Sir Arthur O'Kellyn?
Where may the grave of that good man be?--
By the side of a spring, on the breast of Helvellyn,
Under the twigs of a young birch-tree!
The oak that in summer was sweet to hear,
And rustled its leaves in the fall of the year,
And whistled and roared in the winter alone,
Is gone,--and the birch in its stead is grown.--
The knight's bones are dust,
And his good sword rust;--
His soul is with the saints, I trust.


* * * * *


"To fall on the battle-field fighting for my dear country,--that would
not be hard."--_The Neighbors_.

O no, no,--let me lie
Not on a field of battle when I die!
Let not the iron tread
Of the mad war-horse crush my helmed head;
Nor let the reeking knife,
That I have drawn against a brother's life,
Be in my hand when Death
Thunders along, and tramples me beneath
His heavy squadron's heels,
Or gory felloes of his cannon's wheels.

From such a dying bed,
Though o'er it float the stripes of white and red,
And the bald eagle brings
The clustered stars upon his wide-spread wings
To sparkle in my sight,
O, never let my spirit take her flight!

I know that beauty's eye
Is all the brighter where gay pennants fly,
And brazen helmets dance,
And sunshine flashes on the lifted lance;
I know that bards have sung,
And people shouted till the welkin rung,
In honor of the brave
Who on the battle-field have found a grave;
I know that o'er their bones
How grateful hands piled monumental stones.
Some of those piles I've seen:
The one at Lexington upon the green
Where the first blood was shed,
And to my country's independence led;
And others, on our shore,
The "Battle Monument" at Baltimore,
And that on Bunker's Hill.
Ay, and abroad, a few more famous still;
Thy "tomb," Themistocles,
That looks out yet upon the Grecian seas,
And which the waters kiss
That issue from the gulf of Salamis.
And thine, too, have I seen,
Thy mound of earth, Patroclus, robed in green,
That, like a natural knoll,
Sheep climb and nibble over as they stroll,
Watched by some turbaned boy,
Upon the margin of the plain of Troy.
Such honors grace the bed,
I know, whereon the warrior lays his head,
And hears, as life ebbs out,
The conquered flying, and the conqueror's shout;
But as his eye grows dim,
What is a column or a mound to him?
What, to the parting soul.
The mellow note of bugles? What the roll
Of drums? No, let me die
Where the blue heaven bends o'er me lovingly,
And the soft summer air,
As it goes by me, stirs my thin white hair,
And from my forehead dries
The death-damp as it gathers, and the skies
Seem waiting to receive
My soul to their clear depths! Or let me leave
The world when round my bed
Wife, children, weeping friends are gathered,
And the calm voice of prayer
And holy hymning shall my soul prepare
To go and be at rest
With kindred spirits,--spirits who have blessed
The human brotherhood
By labors, cares, and counsels for their good.


* * * * *


Come hither lads and hearken,
for a tale there is to tell,
Of the wonderful days a-coming,
when all shall be better than well.

And the tale shall be told of a country,
a land in the midst of the sea,
And folk shall call it England
in the days that are going to be.

There more than one in a thousand,
in the days that are yet to come,
Shall have some hope of the morrow,
some joy of the ancient home.

For then--laugh not, but listen
to this strange tale of mine--
All folk that are in England
shall be better lodged than swine.

Then a man shall work and bethink him,
and rejoice in the deeds of his hand;
Nor yet come home in the even
too faint and weary to stand.

Men in that time a-coming
shall work and have no fear
For to-morrow's lack of earning,
and the hunger-Wolf anear.

I tell you this for a wonder,
that no man then shall be glad
Of his fellow's fall and mishap,
to snatch at the work he had.

For that which the worker winneth
shall then be his indeed,
Nor shall half be reaped for nothing
by him that sowed no seed.

Oh, strange new wonderful justice!
But for whom shall we gather the gain?
For ourselves and for each of our fellows,
and no hand shall labor in vain.

Then all Mine and all Thine shall be Ours,
and no more shall any man crave
For riches that serve for nothing
but to fetter a friend for a slave.

And what wealth then shall be left us,
when none shall gather gold
To buy his friend in the market,
and pinch and pine the sold?

Nay, what save the lovely city,
and the little house on the hill,
And the wastes and the woodland beauty,
and the happy fields we till;

And the homes of ancient stories,
the tombs of the mighty dead;
And the wise men seeking out marvels,
and the poet's teeming head;

And the painter's hand of wonder,
and the marvellous fiddle-bow,
And the banded choirs of music:
all those that do and know.

For all these shall be ours and all men's;
nor shall any lack a share
Of the toil and the gain of living,
in the days when the world grows fair.

Ah! such are the days that shall be!
But what are the deeds of to-day,
In the days of the years we dwell in,
that wear our lives away?

Why, then, and for what are we waiting?
There are three words to speak:
_We will it_, and what is the foeman
but the dream-strong wakened and weak?

Oh, why and for what are we waiting,
while our brothers droop and die,
And on every wind of the heavens
a wasted life goes by?

How long shall they reproach us,
where crowd on crowd they dwell,--
Poor ghosts of the wicked city,
the gold-crushed hungry hell?

Through squalid life they labored,
in sordid grief they died,--
Those sons of a mighty mother,
those props of England's pride.

They are gone; there is none can undo it,
nor save our souls from the curse:
But many a million cometh,
and shall they be better or worse?

It is we must answer and hasten,
and open wide the door
For the rich man's hurrying terror,
and the slow-foot hope of the poor.

Yea, the voiceless wrath of the wretched,
and their unlearned discontent,--
We must give it voice and wisdom
till the waiting-tide be spent.

Come then, since all things call us,
the living and the dead,
And o'er the weltering tangle
a glimmering light is shed.

Come then, let us cast off fooling,
and put by ease and rest,
For the Cause alone is worthy
till the good days bring the best.

Come, join in the only battle
wherein no man can fail,
Where whoso fadeth and dieth,
yet his deed shall still prevail.

Ah! come, cast off all fooling,
for this, at least, we know:
That the dawn and the day is coming,
and forth the banners go.


* * * * *


On a lone barren isle, where the wild roaring billows
Assail the stern rock, and the loud tempests rave,
The hero lies still, while the dew-drooping willows,
Like fond weeping mourners, lean over the grave.
The lightnings may flash, and the loud thunders rattle:
He heeds not, he hears not, he's free from all pain;--
He sleeps his last sleep--he has fought his last battle!
No sound can awake him to glory again!

O shade of the mighty, where now are the legions
That rushed but to conquer when thou led'st them on?
Alas! they have perished in far hilly regions,
And all save the fame of their triumph is gone!
The trumpet may sound, and the loud cannon rattle!
They heed not, they hear not, they're free from all pain:
They sleep their last sleep, they have fought their last battle!
No sound can awake them to glory again!

Yet, spirit immortal, the tomb cannot bind thee,
For, like thine own eagle that soared to the sun,
Thou springest from bondage and leavest behind thee
A name which before thee no mortal had won.
Though nations may combat, and war's thunders rattle,
No more on the steed wilt thou sweep o'er the plain:
Thou sleep'st thy last sleep, thou hast fought thy last battle!
No sound can awake thee to glory again!


* * * * *


[In Bavaria, August 13, 1704, between the English and Austrians on one
side, under the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene, and the French
and Bavarians on the other side, led by Marshal Tallart and the
Elector of Bavaria. The latter party was defeated, and the schemes of
Louis XIV. of France were materially checked.]

It was a summer evening,--
Old Kaspar's work was done,
And he before his cottage door
Was sitting in the sun;
And by him sported on the green
His little grandchild Wilhelmine.

She saw her brother Peterkin
Roll something large and round,
Which he beside the rivulet,
In playing there, had found;
He came to ask what he had found
That was so large and smooth and round.

Old Kaspar took it from the boy,
Who stood expectant by;
And then the old man shook his head,
And, with a natural sigh,--
"'Tis some poor fellow's skull," said he,
"Who fell in the great victory.

"I find them in the garden,
For there's many hereabout;
And often, when I go to plough,
The ploughshare turns them out;
For many thousand men," said he,
"Were slain in the great victory."

"Now tell us what 'twas all about."
Young Peterkin he cries;
And little Wilhelmine looks up
With wonder-waiting eyes,--
"Now tell us all about the war,
And what they fought each other for."

"It was the English," Kaspar cried,
"Who put the French to rout;
But what they fought each other for
I could not well make out;
But everybody said," quoth he,
"That 'twas a famous victory.

"My father lived at Blenheim then,
Yon little stream hard by;
They burnt his dwelling to the ground,
And he was forced to fly;
So with his wife and child he fled,
Nor had he where to rest his head.

"With fire and sword the country round
Was wasted far and wide;
And many a childing mother there,
And new-born baby died;
But things like that, you know, must be
At every famous victory.

"They say it was a shocking sight
After the field was won,--
For many thousand bodies here
Lay rotting in the sun;
But things like that, you know must be
After a famous victory.

"Great praise the Duke of Marlborough won,
And our good Prince Eugene."
"Why, 'twas a very wicked thing!"
Said little Wilhelmine.
"Nay, nay, my little girl!" quoth he,
"It was a famous victory.

"And everybody praised the duke
Who this great fight did win."
"But what good came of it at last?"
Quoth little Peterkin.
"Why, that I cannot tell," said he;
"But 'twas a famous victory."


* * * * *



England, I stand on thy imperial ground
Not all a stranger; as thy bugles blow,
I feel within my blood old battles flow,--
The blood whose ancient founts are in thee found
Still surging dark against the Christian bound
While Islam presses; well its peoples know
Thy heights that watch them wandering below:
I think how Lucknow heard their gathering sound.

I turn and meet the cruel, turbaned face.
England! 'tis sweet to be so much thy son!
I feel the conqueror in my blood and race;
Last night Trafalgar awed me, and to-day
Gibraltar wakened; hark, thy evening gun
Startles the desert over Africa.


Thou art the rock of empire set mid-seas
Between the East and West, that God has built;
Advance thy Roman borders where thou wilt,
While run thy armies true with his decrees;
Law, justice, liberty,--great gifts are these.
Watch that they spread where English blood is spilt,
Lest, mixed and sullied with his country's guilt
The soldier's life-stream flow, and Heaven displease!

Two swords there are: one naked, apt to smite,
Thy blade of war; and, battle-storied, one
Rejoices in the sheath, and hides from light.
American I am; would wars were done!
Now westward, look, my country bids good night,--
Peace to the world, from ports without a gun!


* * * * *


[Dedication of a monument to Kentucky volunteers, killed at Buena
Vista, Mexico.]

The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The soldier's last tattoo;
No more on Life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame's eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.

No rumor of the foe's advance
Now swells upon the wind;
No troubled thought at midnight haunts
Of loved ones left behind;
No vision of the morrow's strife
The warrior's dream alarms;
No braying horn nor screaming fife
At dawn shall call to arms.

Their shivered swords are red with rust,
Their plumed heads are bowed;
Their haughty banner, trailed in dust,
Is now their martial shroud.
And plenteous funeral tears have washed
The red stains from each brow,
And the proud forms, by battle gashed,
Are free from anguish now.

The neighing troop, the flashing blade,
The bugle's stirring blast,
The charge, the dreadful cannonade,
The din and shout, are past;
Nor war's wild note nor glory's peal
Shall thrill with fierce delight
Those breasts that nevermore may feel
The rapture of the fight.

Like the fierce northern hurricane
That sweeps his great plateau,
Flushed with the triumph yet to gain,
Came down the serried foe.
Who heard the thunder of the fray
Break o'er the field beneath,
Knew well the watchword of that day
Was "Victory or Death."

Long had the doubtful conflict raged
O'er all that stricken plain,
For never fiercer fight had waged
The vengeful blood of Spain;
And still the storm of battle blew,
Still swelled the gory tide;
Not long, our stout old chieftain knew,
Such odds his strength could bide.

'Twas in that hour his stern command
Called to a martyr's grave
The flower of his beloved land,
The nation's flag to save.
By rivers of their fathers' gore
His first-born laurels grew,
And well he deemed the sons would pour
Their lives for glory too.

Full many a norther's breath has swept
O'er Angostura's plain,
And long the pitying sky has wept
Above its mouldered slain.
The raven's scream, or eagle's flight,
Or shepherd's pensive lay,
Alone awakes each sullen height
That frowned o'er that dread fray.

Sons of the Dark and Bloody Ground,
Ye must not slumber there,
Where stranger steps and tongues resound
Along the heedless air.
Your own proud land's heroic soil
Shall be your fitter grave:
She claims from war his richest spoil--
The ashes of her brave.

Thus 'neath their parent turf they rest,
Far from the gory field,
Borne to a Spartan mother's breast
On many a bloody shield;
The sunshine of their native sky
Smiles sadly on them here,
And kindred eyes and hearts watch by
The heroes' sepulchre.

Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead!
Dear as the blood ye gave;
No impious footstep here shall tread
The herbage of your grave;
Nor shall your glory be forgot
While Fame her record keeps,
Or Honor points the hallowed spot
Where Valor proudly sleeps.

Yon marble minstrel's voiceless stone
In deathless song shall tell,
When many a vanished age hath flown,
The story how ye fell;
Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter's blight,
Nor Time's remorseless doom.
Shall dim one ray of glory's light
That gilds your deathless tomb.


* * * * *


This is the arsenal. From floor to ceiling,
Like a huge organ, rise the burnished arms;
But from their silent pipes no anthem pealing
Startles the villages with strange alarms.

Ah! what a sound will rise--how wild and dreary--
When the death-angel touches those swift keys!
What loud lament and dismal miserere
Will mingle with their awful symphonies!

I hear even now the infinite fierce chorus--
The cries of agony, the endless groan,
Which, through the ages that have gone before us,
In long reverberations reach our own.

On helm and harness rings the Saxon hammer;
Through Cimbric forest roars the Norseman's song;
And loud amid the universal clamor,
O'er distant deserts sounds the Tartar gong.

I hear the Florentine, who from his palace
Wheels out his battle-bell with dreadful din;
And Aztec priests upon their teocallis
Beat the wild war-drums made of serpents' skin;

The tumult of each sacked and burning village;
The shout that every prayer for mercy drowns;
The soldiers' revels in the midst of pillage;
The wail of famine in beleaguered towns;

The bursting shell, the gateway wrenched asunder,
The rattling musketry, the clashing blade--
And ever and anon, in tones of thunder,
The diapason of the cannonade.

Is it, O man, with such discordant noises,
With such accursed instruments as these,
Thou drownest nature's sweet and kindly voices,
And jarrest the celestial harmonies?

Were half the power that fills the world with terror,
Were half the wealth bestowed on camps and courts,
Given to redeem the human mind from error,
There were no need of arsenals nor forts;

The warrior's name would be a name abhorred;
And every nation that should lift again
Its hand against a brother, on its forehead
Would wear forevermore the curse of Cain!

Down the dark future, through long generations,
The echoing sounds grow fainter and then cease;
And like a bell, with solemn, sweet vibrations,
I hear once more the voice of Christ say, "Peace!"

Peace!--and no longer from its brazen portals
The blast of war's great organ shakes the skies;
But, beautiful as songs of the immortals,
The holy melodies of love arise.


* * * * *


The softest whisperings of the scented South,
And rust and roses in the cannon's mouth;

And, where the thunders of the fight were born,
The wind's sweet tenor in the standing corn;

With song of larks, low-lingering in the loam,
And blue skies bending over love and home.

But still the thought: Somewhere,--upon the hills,
Or where the vales ring with the whip-poor-wills,

Sad wistful eyes and broken hearts that beat
For the loved sound of unreturning feet,

And, when the oaks their leafy banners wave,
Dream of the battle and an unmarked grave!


* * * * *


Once this soft turf, this rivulet's sands,
Were trampled by a hurrying crowd,
And fiery hearts and armed hands
Encountered in the battle-cloud.

Ah! never shall the land forget
How gushed the life-blood of her brave,--
Gushed, warm with hope and courage yet,
Upon the soil they fought to save.

Now all is calm and fresh and still;
Alone the chirp of flitting bird,
And talk of children on the hill,
And bell of wandering kine, are heard.

No solemn host goes trailing by
The black-mouthed gun and staggering wain;
Men start not at the battle-cry,--
O, be it never heard again!

Soon rested those who fought; but thou
Who minglest in the harder strife
For truths which men receive not now,
Thy warfare only ends with life.

A friendless warfare! lingering long
Through weary day and weary year;
A wild and many-weaponed throng
Hang on thy front and flank and rear.

Yet nerve thy spirit to the proof,
And blench not at thy chosen lot;
The timid good may stand aloof,
The sage may frown,--yet faint thou not.

Nor heed the shaft too surely cast,
The foul and hissing bolt of scorn;
For with thy side shall dwell, at last,
The victory of endurance born.

Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again,--
The eternal years of God are hers;
But Error, wounded, writhes in pain,
And dies among his worshippers.

Yea, though thou lie upon the dust,
When they who helped thee flee in fear,
Die full of hope and manly trust,
Like those who fell in battle here!

Another hand thy sword shall wield,
Another hand the standard wave,
Till from the trumpet's mouth is pealed
The blast of triumph o'er thy grave.


* * * * *


How sleep the brave who sink to rest
By all their country's wishes blest!
When Spring, with dewy fingers cold,
Returns to deck their hallowed mould,
She there shall dress a sweeter sod
Than Fancy's feet have ever trod.

By fairy hands their knell is rung
By forms unseen their dirge is sung;
There Honor comes, a pilgrim gray,
To bless the turf that wraps their clay;
And Freedom shall awhile repair,
To dwell a weeping hermit there!


* * * * *


The angel of the nation's peace
Has wreathed with flowers the battle-drum;
We see the fruiting fields increase
Where sound of war no more shall come.

The swallow skims the Tennessee,
Soft winds play o'er the Rapidan;
There only echo notes of glee,
Where gleamed a mighty army's van!

Fair Chattanooga's wooded slope
With summer airs is lightly stirred,
And many a heart is warm with hope
Where once the deep-mouthed gun was heard.

The blue Potomac stainless rolls,
And Mission Ridge is gemmed with fern;
On many a height sleep gallant souls,
And still the blooming years return.

Thank God! unseen to outward eye,
But felt in every freeman's breast,
From graves where fallen comrades lie
Ascends at Nature's wise behest,

With springing grass and blossoms new,
A prayer to bless the nation's life,
To freedom's flower give brighter hue,
And hide the awful stains of strife.

O, Boys in Blue, we turn to you,
The scarred and mangled who survive;
No more we meet in grand review,
But all the arts of freedom thrive.

Still glows the jewel in its shrine,
Won where the James now tranquil rolls;
Its wealth for all, the glory thine,
O memory of heroic souls!


* * * * *



The fallen cause still waits,--
Its bard has not come yet,
His song--through one of to-morrow's gates
Shall shine--but never set.

But when he comes--he'll sweep
A harp with tears all stringed,
And the very notes he strikes will weep,
As they come, from his hand, woe-winged.

Ah! grand shall be his strain,
And his songs shall fill all climes,
And the Rebels shall rise and march again
Down the lines of his glorious rhymes.

And through his verse shall gleam
The swords that flashed in vain,
And the men who wore the gray shall seem
To be marshalling again.

But hush! between his words
Peer faces sad and pale,
And you hear the sound of broken chords
Beat through the poet's wail.

Through his verse the orphans cry--
The terrible undertone!
And the father's curse and the mother's sigh,
And the desolate young wife's moan.

* * * * *

I sing, with a voice too low
To be heard beyond to-day,
In minor keys of my people's woe;
And my songs pass away.

To-morrow hears them not--
To-morrow belongs to fame:
My songs--like the birds'--will be forgot,
And forgotten shall be my name.

And yet who knows! betimes
The grandest songs depart,
While the gentle, humble, and low-toned rhymes
Will echo from heart to heart.


* * * * *


When falls the soldier brave
Dead--at the feet of wrong,--
The poet sings, and guards his grave
With sentinels of song.

Songs, march! he gives command,
Keep faithful watch and true;
The living and dead of the Conquered Land
Have now no guards save you.

Grave Ballads! mark ye well!
Thrice holy is your trust!
Go! halt! by the fields where warriors fell,
Rest arms! and guard their dust.

List, Songs! your watch is long!
The soldiers' guard was brief,
Whilst right is right, and wrong is wrong,
Ye may not seek relief.

Go! wearing the gray of grief!
Go! watch o'er the Dead in Gray!
Go guard the private and guard the chief,
And sentinel their clay!

And the songs, in stately rhyme,
And with softly sounding tread,
Go forth, to watch for a time--a time,
Where sleep the Deathless Dead.

And the songs, like funeral dirge,
In music soft and low,
Sing round the graves,--whilst not tears surge
From hearts that are homes of woe.

What though no sculptured shaft
Immortalize each brave?
What though no monument epitaphed
Be built above each grave?

When marble wears away,
And monuments are dust,--
The songs that guard our soldiers' clay
Will still fulfil their trust.

With lifted head, and steady tread,
Like stars that guard the skies,
Go watch each bed, where rest the dead,
Brave Songs! with sleepless eyes.


* * * * *


[Sung on the occasion of decorating the graves of the Confederate
dead, at Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, S.C.]

Sleep sweetly in your humble graves,--
Sleep, martyrs of a fallen cause!
Though yet no marble column craves
The pilgrim here to pause,

In seeds of laurel in the earth
The blossom of your fame is blown,
And somewhere, waiting for its birth,
The shaft is in the stone!

Meanwhile, behalf the tardy years
Which keep in trust your storied tombs,
Behold! your sisters bring their tears,
And these memorial blooms.

Small tributes! but your shades will smile
More proudly on these wreaths to-day,
Then when some cannon-moulded pile
Shall overlook this bay.

Stoop, angels, hither from the skies!
There is no holier spot of ground
Than where defeated valor lies,
By mourning beauty crowned!


* * * * *


[The women of Columbus, Mississippi, strewed flowers alike on the
graves of the Confederate and the National soldiers.]

By the flow of the inland river,
Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver
Asleep are the ranks of the dead;--
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;--
Under the one, the Blue;
Under the other, the Gray.

These in the robing of glory,
Those in the gloom of defeat,
All with the battle-blood gory,
In the dusk of eternity meet;--
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;--
Under the laurel, the Blue;
Under the willow, the Gray.

From the silence of sorrowful hours
The desolate mourners go,
Lovingly laden with flowers
Alike for the friend and the foe,--
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;--
Under the roses, the Blue;
Under the lilies, the Gray.

So with an equal splendor
The morning sun-rays fall,
With a touch, impartially tender,
On the blossoms blooming for all;--
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;--
'Broidered with gold, the Blue;
Mellowed with gold, the Gray.

So when the summer calleth,
On forest and field of grain
With an equal murmur falleth
The cooling drip of the rain;--
Under the sod and the dew.
Waiting the judgment-day;--
Wet with the rain, the Blue;
Wet with the rain, the Gray.

Sadly, but not with upbraiding,
The generous deed was done;
In the storm of the years that are fading,
No braver battle was won;--
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;--
Under the blossoms, the Blue;
Under the garlands, the Gray.

No more shall the war-cry sever,
Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever
When they laurel the graves of our dead!
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;--
Love and tears for the Blue,
Tears and love for the Gray.


* * * * *



Our fathers' God! from out whose hand
The centuries fall like grains of sand,
We meet to-day, united, free,
And loyal to our land and Thee,
To thank Thee for the era done,
And trust Thee for the opening one.

Here, where of old, by Thy design,
The fathers spake that word of Thine
Whose echo is the glad refrain
Of rended bolt and falling chain,
To grace our festal time, from all
The zones of earth our guests we call.

Be with us while the New World greets
The Old World thronging all its streets,
Unveiling all the triumphs won
By art or toil beneath the sun;
And unto common good ordain
This rivalship of hand and brain.

Thou, who hast here in concord furled
The war flags of a gathered world,
Beneath our Western skies fulfil
The Orient's mission of good-will,
And, freighted with love's Golden Fleece,
Send back its Argonauts of peace.

For art and labor met in truce,
For beauty made the bride of use,
We thank Thee; but, withal, we crave
The austere virtues strong to save,
The honor proof to place or gold,
The manhood never bought nor sold!

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