A WREATH OF VIRGINIA BAY LEAVES.
POEMS OF JAMES BARRON HOPE.
JANEY HOPE MARR (EDITOR)
To the memory of the gallant little lad who bore his grandfather’s name and image–to the dear remembrance of:
_Barron Hope Marr_
His mother dedicates whatsoever there may be of worth in her effort to show James Barron Hope, the Poet, as Virginia’s Laureate, and James Barron Hope, the Man, as he was loved and reverenced by his household and his friends.
It has been claimed for James Barron Hope that he was “Virginia’s Laureate.” He did not deal in “abstractions, or generalized arguments,” or vague mysticisms. He fired the imagination purely, he awoke lofty thoughts and presented, through his noble odes that which is the soul of “every true poem, a living succession of concrete images and pictures.”
James Barron, the elder, organized the Virginia Colonial Navy, of which he was commander-in-chief during the Revolution, and his sons, Samuel and James, served gallantly in the United States Navy. It was from these ancestors that James Barron Hope derived that unswerving devotion to his native state for which he was remarkable, and it was at the residence of his grandfather, Commodore James Barron, the younger, who then commanded the Gosport Navy-yard, that he was born the 23d of March, 1829.
His mother, Jane Barron, was the eldest daughter of the Commodore and most near to his regard. An attractive gentlewoman of the old school, generous, of quick and lively sympathies, she wielded a clever, ready pen, and the brush and embroiderer’s needle in a manner not to be scorned in those days, and was a personage in her family.
Her child was the child not only of her material, but of her spiritual being, and the two were closely knit as the years passed, in mutual affection and confidence, in tastes and aspirations.
His father was Wilton Hope of “Bethel,” Elizabeth City County, a handsome, talented man, a landed proprietor, of a family whose acres bordered the picturesque waters of Hampton River.
He gained his early education at Germantown, Pennsylvania, and at the “Academy” in Hampton, Virginia, under his venerated master, John B. Cary, Esq.,–the master who declares himself proud to say, “I taught him”–the invaluable friend of all his after years.
In 1847 he graduated from William and Mary College with the degree of A.B.
From the “Pennsylvania,” upon which man-of-war he was secretary to his uncle, Captain Samuel Barron, he was transferred to the “Cyane,” and in 1852 made a cruise to the West Indies.
In 1856 he was elected Commonwealth’s attorney to the “game-cock town of Virginia,” historic and picturesque old Hampton, which was the centre of a charming and cultivated society and which had already claimed him as her “bard.” For as Henry Ellen he had contributed to various southern publications, his poems in “The Southern Literary Messenger” attracting much gratifying attention.
In 1857 Lippincott brought out “Leoni di Monota and Other Poems.” The volume was cordially noticed by the southern critics of the time, not only for its central poem, but also for several of its minor ones, notably, “The Charge at Balaklava,” which G.P.R. James–as have others since–declared unsurpassed by Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade.”
Upon the 13th of May, 1857, he stood poet at the 250th anniversary of the English settlement at Jamestown.
As poet, and as the youthful colleague of Henry A. Wise and John R. Thompson, he stood at the base of Crawford’s statue of Washington, in the Capitol Square, Richmond, Virginia, the 22d of February, 1858. That same year these recited poems, together with some miscellaneous ones were published.
Congress chose him as poet for the Yorktown Centennial, 1881, and his “brilliant and masterly poem was a fitting companion piece to the splendid oration delivered upon that occasion by the renowned orator, Robert C. Winthrop.”
This metrical address “Arms and the Man,” with various sonnets was published the next year. As the flower of his genius, its noble measures only revealed their full beauty when they fell from the lips of him who framed them, and it was under this spell that one of those who had thronged about him that 19th of October cried out: “Now I understand the power by which the old Greek poets swayed the men of their generation.”
Again his State called upon him to weave among her annals the laurels of his verse at the laying of the cornerstone of the monument erected in Richmond to Robert E. Lee. The corner-stone was laid October, 1887, but the poet’s voice had been stilled forever. He died September the 15th, as he had often wished to die, “in harness,” and at home, and Death came swift and painless.
His poem, save for the after softening touches, had been finished the previous day, and was recited at the appointed time and place by Captain William Gordon McCabe.
“Memoriæ Sacrum,” the Lee Memorial Ode, has been pronounced by many his masterpiece, and waked this noble echo in a brother poet’s soul:
‘Like those of whom the olden scriptures tell, Who faltered not, but went on dangerous quest, For one cool draught of water from the well With which to cheer their exiled monarch’s breast;’
‘So thou to add one single laurel more To our great chieftain’s fame–heedless of pain Didst gather up thy failing strength and pour Out all thy soul in one last glorious strain.’
* * * * *
“And when the many pilgrims come to gaze Upon the sculptured form of mighty Lee, They’ll not forget the bard who sang his praise With dying breath, but deathless melody.”
“For on the statue which a country rears, Tho’ graven by no hand, we’ll surely see, E’en tho’ it be thro’ blinding mists of tears, Thy name forever linked with that of Lee.”
–_Rev. Beverly D. Tucker_.
His genius had flowered not out of opulence, or congenial occupation, but out of the tread-mill of newspaper life, and under such conditions from 1870-1887 he delivered the poem at Lynchburg’s celebration of its founding; at the unveiling of the monument raised to Annie Lee by the ladies of Warren County, North Carolina; memorial odes in Warrenton, Virginia, in Portsmouth, and Norfolk, and at the Virginia Military Institute. He was the first commander of Norfolk’s Camp of Confederate Veterans, the Pickett-Buchanan, but through all his stirring lines there breaks no discordant note of hate or rancor. He also sent into print, “Little Stories for Little People,” and his novel “Madelon,” and delivered among various masterly addresses, “Virginia–Her Past, Present and Future,” and “The Press and the Printer’s Devil.”
During these years he had suffered a physical agony well-nigh past the bearing, but which he bore with a wonderful patience and fortitude, and not only bore, but hid away from those nearest to him. He had brought both broken health and fortunes out of the war; for when in 1861 the people of Hampton left the town, “Its men to join the Southern army, and its women to go in exile for four long weary years, returning thence to find their homes in ashes, James Barron Hope was among the first who left their household gods behind to take up arms for their native State, and he bore his part nobly in the great conflict.”
When it ended he did not return to Hampton, or to the practice of his profession. Instead of the law he embarked in journalism in Norfolk, Virginia, and, despite its lack of entire congeniality, made therefrom a career as brilliant as it was fearless and unsullied.
[Footnote: A: “They themselves applying the torch to their own homes under the patriotic, but mistaken idea that they would thus arrest the march of the Invaders.” (“Col. Cary’s address at unveiling of monument to Captain Hope.”)]
He was a little under six feet in height, slender, graceful, and finely proportioned, with hands and feet of distinctive beauty. And his fingers were gifted with a woman’s touch in the sick-room, and an artist’s grasp upon the pencil and the brush of the water-colorist.
It was said of him that his manner was as courtly as that of “Sir Roger de Coverly.” Words which though fitly applied are but as the bare outlines of a picture, for he was the embodiment of what was best in the Old South. He was gifted with a rare charm. There was charm in his pale face, which in conversation flashed out of its deep thoughtfulness into vivid animation. His fine head was crowned with soft hair fast whitening before its time. His eyes shone under his broad white forehead, wise and serene, until his dauntless spirit, or his lofty enthusiasm awoke to fire their grey depths. His was a face that women trusted and that little children looked up into with smiles. Those whom he called friend learned the meaning of that name, and he drew and linked men to him from all ranks and conditions of life.
Beloved by many, those who guard his memory coin the very fervor of their hearts into the speech with which they link his name. “A very Chevalier Bayard” he was called.
Of him was quoted that noble epitaph on the great Lord Fairfax:
‘Both sexes’ virtues in him combined, He had the fierceness of the manliest mind, And all the meekness too of woman kind.’
‘He never knew what envy was, nor hate, His soul was filled with worth and honesty, And with another thing quite out of date, called modesty.’
No sketch could approach justice toward Captain Hope without at least a brief review of his domestic life.
In 1857 he had married Miss Annie Beverly Whiting of Hampton. Hers were the face and form to take captive his poet’s fancy, and she possessed a character as lovely as her person; a courage and strength of will far out of proportion to her dainty shape, and an intellect of masculine robustness. Often the editor brought his work to the table of his library that he might avail himself of his wife’s judgment, and labor with the faces around him that he loved, for their union was a very congenial one, and when two daughters came to bless it, as husband and father, he poured out the treasures of his heart, his mind and soul. To his children he was a wise teacher, a tender guide, an unfailing friend, the most delightful of companions. His sympathy for and his understanding of young people never aged, and he had a circle of dear and familiar friends of varying ages that gathered about him once a week. There, beside his own hearth, his ready wit, his kindly humor sparkled most brightly, and there flowed forth most evenly that speech accounted by many well worth the hearing. For his was also the art of listening; he not only led the expression of thought, but inspired it in others. His own roof-tree looked down upon James Barron Hope at his best and down upon a home in the sacred sense of the word, for he touched with poetry the prose of daily living, and left to those who loved him the blessed legacy of a memory which death cannot take from them.
I have said that in his early years Old Hampton claimed him. He became the son of the city of his adoption and sleeps among her dead.
Above his ashes rises a shaft, fashioned from the stones of the State he loved so well which proclaims that it is “The tribute of his friends offered to the memory of the Poet, Patriot, Scholar, and Journalist and the Knightly Virginia Gentleman.”
JANEY HOPE MARR,
The Charge at Balaklava
A Short Sermon
A Little Picture
A Reply to a Young Lady
A Story of the Caracas Valley
Three Summer Studies
The Washington Memorial Ode
How it Fell Calm on Summer Night
A Friend of Mine
The Jamestown Anniversary Ode
An Elegiac Ode
The Cadets at New Market
Our Heroic Dead
The Portsmouth Memorial Poem–The Future Historian Arms and The Man
The Dead Statesman
The New England Group
The Southern Colonies
The Old Dominion
The Oaks and the Tempest
The Embattled Colonies
Welcome to France
The Allies at Yorktown
The Ravages of War
The Lines Around Yorktown
The French in the Trenches
Nelson and the Gunners
The Beleaguered Town
Storming the Redoubts
The Two Leaders
The Beginning of the End
The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis
Our Ancient Allies
The Ancient Enemies
The Splendid Three
The War Horse Draws the Plough
Heroes and Statesmen
The Flag of the Republic
The South in the Union
To Alexander Galt, the Sculptor
To the Poet-Priest Ryan
Sir Walter Raleigh
Captain John Smith
Sunset on Hampton Roads
A King’s Gratitude
Under One Blanket
The Lee Memorial Ode
A WREATH OF VIRGINIA BAY LEAVES.
THE CHARGE AT BALAKLAVA.
Nolan halted where the squadrons,
Stood impatient of delay,
Out he drew his brief dispatches,
Which their leader quickly snatches, At a glance their meaning catches;
They are ordered to the fray!
All that morning they had waited–
As their frowning faces showed,
Horses stamping, riders fretting,
And their teeth together setting;
Not a single sword-blade wetting
As the battle ebbed and flowed.
Now the fevered spell is broken,
Every man feels twice as large,
Every heart is fiercely leaping,
As a lion roused from sleeping,
For they know they will be sweeping In a moment to the charge.
Brightly gleam six hundred sabres,
And the brazen trumpets ring;
Steeds are gathered, spurs are driven, And the heavens widely riven
With a mad shout upward given,
Scaring vultures on the wing.
Stern its meaning; was not Gallia
Looking down on Albion’s sons?
In each mind this thought implanted, Undismayed and all undaunted,
By the battle-fiends enchanted,
They ride down upon the guns.
Onward! On! the chargers trample;
Quicker falls each iron heel!
And the headlong pace grows faster; Noble steed and noble master,
Rushing on to red disaster,
Where the heavy cannons peal.
In the van rides Captain Nolan;
Soldier stout he was and brave!
And his shining sabre flashes,
As upon the foe he dashes:
God! his face turns white as ashes, He has ridden to his grave!
Down he fell, prone from his saddle, Without motion, without breath,
Never more a trump to waken–
He the very first one taken,
From the bough so sorely shaken,
In the vintage-time of Death.
In a moment, in a twinkling,
He was gathered to his rest;
In the time for which he’d waited– With his gallant heart elated–
Down went Nolan, decorated
With a death wound on his breast.
Comrades still are onward charging,
He is lying on the sod:
Onward still their steeds are rushing Where the shot and shell are crushing;
From his corpse the blood is gushing, And his soul is with his God.
As they spur on, what strange visions Flit across each rider’s brain!
Thoughts of maidens fair, of mothers, Friends and sisters, wives and brothers, Blent with images of others,
Whom they ne’er shall see again.
Onward still the squadrons thunder– Knightly hearts were their’s and brave, Men and horses without number
All the furrowed ground encumber– Falling fast to their last slumber–
Bloody slumber! bloody grave!
Of that charge at Balaklava–
In its chivalry sublime–
Vivid, grand, historic pages
Shall descend to future ages;
Poets, painters, hoary sages
Shall record it for all time;
Telling how those English horsemen
Rode the Russian gunners down;
How with ranks all torn and shattered; How with helmets hacked and battered;
How with sword arms blood-bespattered; They won honor and renown.
‘Twas “not war,” but it was splendid As a dream of old romance;
Thinking which their Gallic neighbors Thrilled to watch them at their labors, Hewing red graves with their sabres
In that wonderful advance.
Down went many a gallant soldier;
Down went many a stout dragoon;
Lying grim, and stark, and gory,
On the crimson field of glory,
Leaving us a noble story
And their white-cliffed home a boon.
Full of hopes and aspirations
Were their hearts at dawn of day; Now, with forms all rent and broken,
Bearing each some frightful token
Of a scene ne’er to be spoken,
In their silent sleep they lay.
Here a noble charger stiffens,
There his rider grasps the hilt
Of his sabre lying bloody
By his side, upon the muddy,
Trampled ground, which darkly ruddy Shows the blood that he has spilt.
And to-night the moon shall shudder
As she looks down on the moor,
Where the dead of hostile races
Slumber, slaughtered in their places; All their rigid ghastly faces
Spattered hideously with gore.
And the sleepers! ah, the sleepers
Make a Westminster that day;
‘Mid the seething battle’s lava!
And each man who fell shall have a Proud inscription–BALAKLAVA,
Which shall never fade away.
A SHORT SERMON.
“He that giveth to the poor, lendeth to the Lord.”
The night-wind comes in sudden squalls: The ruddy fire-light starts and falls
Fantastically on the walls.
The bare trees all their branches wave; The frantic wind doth howl and rave,
Like prairie-wolf above a grave.
The moon looks out; but cold and pale, And seeming scar’d at this wild gale
Draws o’er her pallid face a veil.
In vain I turn the poet’s page–
In vain consult some ancient sage– I hear alone the tempest rage.
The shutters tug at hinge and bar–
The windows clash with frosty jar– The child creeps closer to “Papa.”
And now, I almost start aghast,
The clamor rises thick and fast,
Surely a troop of fiends drove past!
That last shock shook the oaken door. Sounding like billows on the shore,
On such a night God shield the poor!
God shield the poor to-night, who stay In piteous homes! who, if they pray,
Ask thee, oh God! for bread and day!
Think! think! ye men who daily wear
“Purple and linen”–ye whose hair
Flings perfume on the temper’d air.
Think! think! I say, aye! start and think That many tremble on death’s brink–
Dying for want of meat and drink.
When tatter’d poor folk meet your eyes, Think, friend, like Christian, in this wise, Each one is Christ hid in disguise.
Then when you hear the tempest’s roar That thunders at your carvéd door,
Know that, it knocketh for the poor.
A LITTLE PICTURE.
Oft when pacing thro’ the long and dim Dark gallery of the Past, I pause before A picture of which this is a copy–
Wretched at best.
How fair she look’d, standing a-tiptoe there, Pois’d daintily upon her little feet!
The slanting sunset falling thro’ the leaves In golden glory on her smiling face,
Upturn’d towards the blushing roses; while The breeze that came up from the river’s brink, Shook all their clusters over her fair face; And sported with her robe, until methought, That she stood there clad wondrously indeed! In perfume and in music: for her dress
Made a low, rippling sound, like little waves That break at midnight on the tawny sands– While all the evening air of roses whisper’d. Over her face a rich, warm blush spread slowly, And she laughed, a low, sweet, mellow laugh To see the branches still evade her hands– Her small white hands which seem’d indeed as if Made only thus to gather roses.
Then with face
All flushed and smiling she did nod to me Asking my help to gather them for her:
And so, I bent the heavy clusters down, Show’ring the rose-leaves o’er her neck and face; Then carefully she plucked the very fairest one, And court’seying playfully gave it to me– Show’d me her finger-tip, pricked by a thorn, And when I would have kiss’d it, shook her head, Kiss’d it herself, and mock’d me with a smile! The rose she gave me sleeps between the leaves Of an old poet where its sight oft brings That summer evening back again to me.
A REPLY TO A YOUNG LADY.
“I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done Than to be one of the twenty to follow my own teaching,” –_Merchant of Venice_.
“Do as I tell you, and not as I do.” –_Old Saying_.
You say, a “moral sign-post” I
Point out the road towards the sky; And then with glance so very shy
You archly ask me, lady, why
I hesitate myself to go
In the direction which I show?
To answer is an easy task,
If you allow me but to ask
One little question, sweet, of you:– ‘Tis this: should sign-posts travel too What would bewildered pilgrims do–
Celestial pilgrims, such as you?
A STORY OF THE CARACAS VALLEY.
High-perch’d upon the rocky way,
Stands a Posada stern and grey;
Which from the valley, seems as if, A condor there had paus’d to ‘light
And rest upon that lonely cliff,
From some stupendous flight;
But when the road you gain at length, It seems a ruin’d hold of strength,
With archway dark, and bridge of stone, By waving shrubs all overgrown,
Which clings ’round that ruin’d gate, Making it look less desolate;
For here and there, a wild flower’s bloom With brilliant hue relieves the gloom,
Which clings ’round that Posada’s wall– A sort of misty funeral pall.
The gulf spann’d by that olden arch
Might stop an army’s onward march, For dark and dim–far down below–
‘Tis lost amid a torrent’s flow;
And blending with the eagle’s scream Sounds dismally that mountain-stream,
That rushes foaming down a fall
Which Chamois hunter might appal,
Nor shame his manhood, did he shrink In treading on its dizzy brink.
In years long past, ere bridge or wall Had spann’d that gulf and water-fall,
‘Tis said–perhaps, an idle tale– That on the road above the vale
Occurred as strange and wild a scene, As ever ballad told, I ween.–
Yes, on this road which seems to be Suspended o’er eternity;
So dim–so shadow-like–the vale
O’er which it hangs: but to my tale: Once, ’tis well-known, this sunny land
Was ravag’d by full many a band
Of reckless buccaneers.
Cities were captur’d –old men slain; Trampled the fields of waving cane;
Or scatter’d wide the garner’d grain; An hour wrought wreck of years!
Where’er these stern freebooters trod, In hacienda–church of God–
Or, on the green-enamell’d sod–
They left foot-prints so deep,
That but their simple names would start The blood back to each Spanish heart,
And make the children weep.
E’en to this day, their many crimes
The peasants sing in drowsy rhymes– On mountain, or on plain;
And as they sing, the plaintive song Tells many a deed of guilt and wrong–
Each has a doleful strain!
* * * * *
One glorious morn, it so befell,
I heard the tale which I shall tell, At that Posada dark and grey
Which stands upon the mountain way, Between Caracas and the sea;
So grim–so dark–it seem’d to me
Fit place for deed of guilt or sin– Tho’ peaceful peasants dwelt therein.
At midnight we, (my friends and I,)
Beneath a tranquil tropic sky,
Bestrode our mules and onward rode, Behind the guide who swiftly strode
Up the dark mountain side; while we With many a jest and repartee–
With jingling swords, and spurs, and bits– Made trial of our youthful wits.
Ah! we were gay, for we were young And care had never on us flung–
But, to my tale: the purple sky
Was thick overlaid with burning stars, And oft the breeze that murmur’d by,
Brought dreamy tones from soft guitars, Until we sank in silence deep.
It was a night for thought not sleep– It was a night for song and love–
The burning planets shone above–
The Southern Cross was all ablaze– ‘Tis long since it then met my gaze!–
Above us, whisp’ring in the breeze, Were many strange, gigantic trees,
And in their shadow, deep and dark, Slept many a pile of mould’ring bones;
For tales of murder fell and stark, Are told by monumental stones
Flung by the passer’s hand, until
The place grows to a little hill.
Up through the shade we rode, nor spoke, Till suddenly the morning broke.
Beneath we saw in purple shade
The mighty sea; above display’d,
A thousand gorgeous hues which met In tints that I remember yet;
But which I may not paint, my skill, Alas! would but depict it ill–
E’en Claude has never given hints
On canvas of such splendid tints!
The mountains, which ere dawn of day I’d liken’d unto friars grey–
Gigantic friars clad in grey–
Stood now like kings, wrapp’d in the fold
[Footnote 2: Panama, Carthagena, Maracaibo, and Chagres, were at various times held by the buccaneers.]
_A Story of the Caracas Valley_.
Of gorgeous clouds around them roll’d– Their lofty heads all crown’d with gold; And many a painted bird went by
Strange to my unaccustom’d eye–
Their plumage mimicking the sky.
O’er many a league, and many a mile– Crag–pinnacle–and lone defile–
All Nature woke!–woke with a smile– As tho’ the morning’s golden gleam
Had broken some enchanting dream,
But left its soft impression still, On lofty peak and dancing rill.
With many a halt and many a call,
At last we saw the rugged wall,
And gaz’d upon the ruin’d gate
Which even then look’d desolate,
For that Posada so forlorn
Seem’d sad e’en on so gay a morn!
The heavy gate at length unbarr’d, We rode within the busy yard,
Well scatter’d o’er with many a pack; For on that wild, romantic track,
The long and heavy-laden trains
Toil seaward from the valley’s plains. And often on its silence swells
The distant tinkle of the bells,
While muleteers’ shrill, angry cries From the dim road before you rise;
And such were group’d in circles round Playing at monté on the ground;
Each swarthy face that met my eye
To thought of honesty gave lie.
In each fierce orb there was a spark That few would care to see by dark–
And many a sash I saw gleam thro’
The keen _cuchillo_ into view.
Within; the place was rude enough– The walls of clay–in color buff–
A pictur’d saint–a cross or so–
A hammock swinging to and fro–
A gittern by the window laid
Whereon the morning breezes play’d, And its low tones and broken parts
Seem’d like some thoughtless minstrel’s arts– A rugged table in the floor–
Ran thro’ this homely _comedor_.
Here, weary as you well may think, An hour or so we made abode,
To give our mules both food and drink, Before we took again the road;
And honestly, our own repast
Was that of monks from lenten fast. The meal once o’er; our stores replaced; We gather’d where the window fac’d
Upon the vale, and gaz’d below
Where mists from a mad torrent’s flow Were dimly waving to and fro.
Meanwhile, the old guitar replied
To the swift fingers of our guide: His voice was deep, and rich, and strong, And he himself a child of song.
At first the music’s liquid flow
Was soft and plaintive–rich and low; The murmur of a fountain’s stream
Where sleeping water-lilies dream; Or, like the breathing of love-vows
Beneath the shade of orange-boughs; And then more stirring grew his song–
A strain which swept the blood along! And as he sang, his eyes so sad–
Which lately wore the look of pain, Danc’d with a gleam both proud and glad, Awaken’d by his fervid strain–
His face now flush’d and now grew pale– The song he sang, was this, my tale.
A fort above Laguayra stands,
Which all the town below commands. The damp moss clings upon its walls–
The rotting drawbridge slowly falls– Its dreary silentness appalls!
The iron bars are thick with rust
And slowly moulder into dust;
The roofless turrets show the sky, The moats below are bare and dry–
No captain issues proud behest–
The guard-room echoes to no jest;
As I have said, within those walls The very silentness appalls!
In other days it was not so–
The Spanish banner, long ago,
Above the turrets tall did flow.
And many a gallant soldier there
With musket or with gleaming spear, Pac’d on the battlements that then
Were throng’d with tall and proper men. But this was many a year ago–
A long shot back for mem’ry’s bow! The Governor here made his home
Beneath the great hall’s gilded dome. And here his lady-wife he brought
From Spain, across the sea;
And sumptuous festival was made,
Where now the tangled ivy’s shade
Is hanging drearily.
The lady was both fair and young– Fair as a poet ever sung;
And well they lov’d; so it is told;– Had plighted troth in days gone by,
Ere he had won his spurs of gold,
Or, gain’d his station high.
And often from the martial keep
They’d sail together on the deep;
Or, wander many a weary mile
In lonely valley, or defile.
Well; once upon this road, a pair,
A lady and a cavalier,
Were riding side by side.
And she was young and “passing fair,” With crimson lips and ebon hair–
She was the gallant’s bride!
And he was cast in manly mould,
His port was high, and free, and bold– Fitting a cavalier!
But now bent reverently low
His crest’s unsullied plume of snow Play’d ‘mid the lady’s hair.
This knight with orders on his breast, The Governor, as you have guess’d–
The lady was his wife, and they,
Alone were on the road that day;– Their horses moving at a walk,
And they engaged in earnest talk,
Low words and sweet they spoke;
The lady smil’d, and blush’d, and then, Smiling and blushing, spoke again;
When sleeping echo woke–
Woke with the shouts of a wild band Who urg’d with spur and heavy hand
Their steeds along the way.
Gave but one look the cavalier–
Murmur’d a vow the lady fair–
His right arm is around her thrown Her form close-gather’d to his own;
While his brave steed, white as the snow, Darts like an arrow from the bow;
His hoofs fall fast as tempest rain Spurning the road that rings again.
Onward the race!–now fainter sounds The yell and whoop; but still like hounds The pirate band behind him rush
Breaking the mountains solemn hush. On speeds he now–his steed so white
Far in advance, proclaims his flight; God speed him and his bride!
But ah! that chasm’s fearful gape
Seems to forbid hope of escape,
He _cannot_ turn aside.
He bends his head; is it in pray’r?
Is it to shed a bitter tear?
Or utter craven vow?
No; ’tis to gaze into those eyes
Which are to him love-litten skies– To kiss his lady’s brow.
And must he on? full well he knew
That none were spar’d by that wild crew– Never a lady fair.
And now a shout, a fierce halloo,
Told that they were again in view– Close to his ear a bullet sings,
And then the distant carbine rings.
Why pales the cavalier?
And why does he now set his teeth
And draw his dagger from its sheath? He breasts his charger at the leap–
He pricketh him full sharp and deep: He leaps, and then with heaving flank
Gains footing on the other bank:
A moment–‘mid the pass’s gloom,
Vanish both veil and dancing plume– It seems a dream. No! there is proof,
The clatter of a flying hoof,
And too, the lady’s steed remains, With empty seat, and flying reins;
And then is borne to that wild rout, A long and proud triumphant shout.
And he who led the pirate band,
Urg’d on his horse, with spur and hand; The long locks drifted from his brow,
Like midnight waves from storm-vexed prow; And darkly flashed his eyes of jet
Beneath the brows which almost met. Stern was his face; but war and crime,
–For he had sinn’d in many a clime– Had plough’d it deeper far than time.
He was their chief: will he draw rein? Will he the yawning rift refrain?
And with his halting band remain?
He rais’d up in his stirrups, high, Better the chasm to descry,
And measure with his hawk-like eye, While his dark steed begrim’d with toil, Tried madly, vainly, to recoil!
A mutter’d curse–a sabre goad–
Full at the leap the robber rode:
Great God! his horse near dead and spent, Scarce halfway o’er the chasm went.
That fearful rush, and daring bound, Was followed by a crashing sound–
A sudden, awful knell!
For down, more than a thousand feet, Where mist and mountain torrent meet,
That reckless rider fell.
His band drew up:–they could not speak, For long, and loud his charger’s shriek Was heard in an unearthly scream,
Above that roaring mountain stream– Like fancied sound in fever’d dream,
When the sick brain with crazy skill Weaves fantasies of woe and ill.
Some said: no steed gave forth that yell, And hinted solemnly of–hell!
And others said, that from his vest A miniature with haughty crest
And features like the lady’s ‘pressed, Fell on the rugged bank:
But who he was, none knew or tell;
They simply point out where he fell
When horse and horseman sank.
Like Ravenswood he left no trace– Tradition only points the place.
Rude is my hand, and rude my lay–
Rude as the Inn, time-worn and grey, Where resting, on the mountain-way,
I heard the tale which I have tried To tell to thee; and saw the wide
Deep rift–ten yards from side to side– Great God! it was a fearful ride
The robber took that day.
THREE SUMMER STUDIES.
The cock hath crow’d. I hear the doors unbarr’d; Down to the moss-grown porch my way I take, And hear, beside the well within the yard, Full many an ancient, quacking, splashing drake, And gabbling goose, and noisy brood-hen–all Responding to yon strutting gobbler’s call.
The dew is thick upon the velvet grass– The porch-rails hold it in translucent drops, And as the cattle from th’ enclosure pass, Each one, alternate, slowly halts and crops The tall, green spears, with all their dewy load, Which grow beside the well-known pasture-road.
A lustrous polish is on all the leaves– The birds flit in and out with varied notes– The noisy swallows twitter ‘neath the eaves– A partridge-whistle thro’ the garden floats, While yonder gaudy peacock harshly cries, As red and gold flush all the eastern skies.
Up comes the sun: thro’ the dense leaves a spot Of splendid light drinks up the dew; the breeze Which late made leafy music dies; the day grows hot, And slumbrous sounds come from marauding bees: The burnish’d river like a sword-blade shines, Save where ’tis shadow’d by the solemn pines.
Over the farm is brooding silence now– No reaper’s song–no raven’s clangor harsh– No bleat of sheep–no distant low of cow– No croak of frogs within the spreading marsh– No bragging cock from litter’d farm-yard crows, The scene is steep’d in silence and repose.
A trembling haze hangs over all the fields– The panting cattle in the river stand
Seeking the coolness which its wave scarce yields. It seems a Sabbath thro’ the drowsy land: So hush’d is all beneath the Summer’s spell, I pause and listen for some faint church bell.
The leaves are motionless–the song-bird’s mute– The very air seems somnolent and sick:
The spreading branches with o’er-ripen’d fruit Show in the sunshine all their clusters thick, While now and then a mellow apple falls With a dull sound within the orchard’s walls.
The sky has but one solitary cloud,
Like a dark island in a sea of light; The parching furrows ‘twixt the corn-rows ploughed Seem fairly dancing in my dazzled sight, While over yonder road a dusty haze
Grows reddish purple in the sultry blaze.
That solitary cloud grows dark and wide, While distant thunder rumbles in the air, A fitful ripple breaks the river’s tide– The lazy cattle are no longer there,
But homeward come in long procession slow, With many a bleat and many a plaintive low.
Darker and wider-spreading o’er the west Advancing clouds, each in fantastic form, And mirror’d turrets on the river’s breast Tell in advance the coming of a storm– Closer and brighter glares the lightning’s flash And louder, nearer, sounds the thunder’s crash.
The air of evening is intensely hot, The breeze feels heated as it fans my brows– Now sullen rain-drops patter down like shot– Strike in the grass, or rattle ‘mid the boughs. A sultry lull: and then a gust again,
And now I see the thick-advancing rain.
It fairly hisses as it comes along,
And where it strikes bounds up again in spray As if ’twere dancing to the fitful song Made by the trees, which twist themselves and sway In contest with the wind which rises fast, Until the breeze becomes a furious blast.
And now, the sudden, fitful storm has fled, The clouds lie pil’d up in the splendid west, In massive shadow tipp’d with purplish red, Crimson or gold. The scene is one of rest; And on the bosom of yon still lagoon
I see the crescent of the pallid moon.
THE WASHINGTON MEMORIAL ODE.
Certain events, like architects, build up Viewless cathedrals, in whose aisles the cup Of some impressive sacrament is kist–
Where thankful nations taste the Eucharist. Pressed to their lips by some heroic Past Enthroned like Pontiff in the temple vast– Where incense rises t’wards the dome sublime From golden censers in the hands of Time– Where through the smoke some sculptured saint appears Crowned with the glories of historic years; Before whose shrine whole races tell their beads– From whose pale front each sordid thought recedes, Gliding away like white and stealthy ghost, As Memory rears it’s consecrated Host,
As blood and body of a sacred name Make the last supper of some deathless fame.
This the event! Here springs the temple grand, Whose mighty arches take in all the land! Its twilight aisles stretch far away and reach ‘Mid lights and shadows which defy my speech: And near its portal which Morn opened wide– Grey Janitor!–to let in all this tide
Of prayerful men, most solemnly there stands One recollection, which, for pious hands Is ready like the Minster’s sculptured vase, With holy water for each reverent face. And mystic columns, which my fancy views, Glow in a thousand soft, subduing hues
Flung through the stained windows of the Past in gloom, Of royal purple o’er our warrior’s tomb.
* * * * *
Oh, proud old Commonwealth! thy sacred name Makes frequent music on the lips of Fame! And as the nation, in its onward march, Thunders beneath the Union’s mighty arch, Thine the bold front which every patriot sees The stateliest figure on its massive frieze. Oh, proud old State! well may thy form be grand, ‘Twas thine to give a Savior to the land. For, in the past, when upward rose the cry, “Save or we perish!” thine ’twas to supply The master-spirit of the storm whose will Said to the billows in their wrath: “Be still!” And though a great calm followed, yet the age In which he saw that mad tornado rage
Made in its cares and wild tempestuous strife One solemn Passion of his noble life.
This day, then, Countrymen of all the year, We well may claim to be without a peer: Amid the rest–impalpable and vast–
It stands a Cheops looming through the past, Close to the rushing, patriotic Nile
Which here o’erflows our hearts to make them smile With a rich harvest of devoted zeal,
Men of Virginia, for the Common-weal!
And to our Bethlehem ye who come to-day– Ye who compose this multitude’s array– Ye who are here from mighty Northern marts With frankincense and myrrh within your hearts– Ye who are here from the gigantic West, The offspring nurtured at Virginia’s breast, Which in development by magic seems
Straight to embody all that Progress dreams– Ye who are here from summer-wedded lands– From Carolina’s woods to Tampa’s sands, From Florida to Texas broad and free
Where spreads the prairie, like a dark, green sea– Ye whose bold fathers from Virginia went In wilds to pitch brave enterprise’s tent, Spreading our faith and social system wide, By which we stand peculiarly allied!–
Ye Southern men, whose work is but begun, Whose course is on t’ward regions of the sun, Whose brave battalions moved to tropic sods Solemn and certain as though marching gods Were ordered in their circumstance and state Beneath the banner of resistless Fate!
Ye have been welcomed, Countrymen, by him  Beside whose speech my rhetoric grows dim– Whose thoughts are flint and steel–whose words are flame, For they all stir us like some hero’s name: But once again the Commonwealth extends Her open hand in welcome to her friends; Come ye from North, or South, or West, or East, No bull’s head enters at Virginia’s feast. And ye who’ve journeyed hither from afar, Know that fair Freedom’s liquid morning star Still sheds its glories in a thousand beams, Gilding our forests, fountains, mountains, streams, With light as luminous as on that morn
When the Messiah of the land was born. Then as we here partake the mystic rites To which his memory like a priest invites; Kneeling beside the altars of this day, Let every heart subdued one moment pray,
[Footnote 3: Governor Wise.]
* * * * *
That He who lit our morning star’s pure light Will never blot it from the nation’s sight; That He will banish those portentous clouds Which from so many its effulgence shrouds– Which none will deem me Hamlet-mad when I Say hang like banners on the darkened sky, Suggesting perils in their warlike shape, Which Heavenly Father grant that we escape!
* * * * *
Why touch upon these topics, do you ask? Why blend these themes with my allotted task? My answer’s brief, ’tis, Citizens, because I see fierce warfare made upon the Laws. A people’s poets are that people’s seers, The prophet’s faculty, in part, is theirs, And thus ’tis fit that from this statue’s base, Beneath great Washington’s majestic face, That I should point the dangers which menace Our social temple’s symmetry and grace.
* * * * *
But here I pause, for happier omens look, And playing Flamen turn to Nature’s book: Where late rich Autumn sat on golden throne, A stern usurper makes the crown his own; The courtier woodlands, robbed of all their state, Stripped of their pomp, look grim and desolate; Reluctant conscripts, clad in icy mail, Their captive pleadings rise on every gale. Now mighty oaks stand like bereaved Lears; Pennons are furled on all the sedgy spears Where the sad river glides between its banks, Like beaten general twixt his pompless ranks; And the earth’s bosom, clad in armor now, Bids stern defiance to the iron plough, While o’er the fields so desolate and damp Invading Winter spreads his hostile camp.
And as he shakes his helmet’s snowy plume The landscape saddens into deeper gloom. But yet ere many moons have flung to lea, To begging billows of the hungry sea,
Their generous gold–like oriental queens– A change will pass o’er all these wintry scenes; There’ll come the coronation of glad Spring, Grander than any made for bride of king.
[Footnote 4: The statue was unveiled in a snow-storm.]
* * * * *
Earth’s hodden grey will change to livelier hues Enriched with pearl drops of the limpid dews; Plenty will stand with her large tranquil eyes To see her treasures o’er the landscape rise. Thus may the lover of his country hope
To see again the Nation’s spring-tide ope, And freedom’s harvest turn to ripened gold, So that our world may give unto the old Of its great opulence, as Joseph gave
Bread to his brothers when they came to crave.
But from his name I’ve paused too long you think? Yet he who stands beside Niagra’s brink Breaketh not forth at once of its grand strife; ‘Tis thus I stand subdued by his great life–
* * * * *
And with his name a host of others rise, Climbing like planets, Fame’s eternal skies: Great names, my Brothers! with such deeds allied That all Virginians glow with filial pride– That here the multitude shall daily pace Around this statue’s hero-circled base, Thinking on those who, though long sunk in sleep, Still round our camp the guard of sentries keep– Who when a foe encroaches on our line,
Prompt the stern challenge for the countersign– Who with proud memories feed our bright watch-fire Which ne’er has faded, never will expire; Grand benedictions, they in bronze will stand To guard and consecrate our native land! Great names are theirs! But his, like battle song, In quicker current sends our blood along; For at its music hearts throb quick and large, Like those of horsemen thundering in the charge. God’s own Knight-Errant! There his figure stands! Our souls are full–our bonnets in our hands!
When the fierce torrent–lava-like–of bronze To mould this statue burst it furnace bonds, When it out-thundered in its liquid flow, With splendid flame and scintillating glow, ‘Twas in its wild tumultuous throb and storm Type of the age which moulded into form The god-like character of him sublime,
Whose name is reared a statue for all time In the great minster of the whole world’s heart.
* * * * *
I’ve called his name a statue. Stern and vast It rests enthroned upon the mighty past: Fit plinth for him whose image in the mind Looms up as that of one by God designed! Fit plinth in sooth! the mighty past for him Whose simple name is Glory’s synonyme!
E’en Fancy’s self, in her enchanted sleep, Can dream no future which may cease to keep His name in guard, like sentinel and cry From Time’s great bastions: “It shall never die.”
* * * * *
His simple name a statue? Yes, and grand ‘Tis reared in this and every other land. Around its base a group more noble stands Than e’er was carved by human sculptor’s hands, E’en though each form, like that of old should flush With vivid beauty’s animating blush–
Though dusky bronze, or pallid stone should thrill With sudden life at some Pygmalion’s will– For these great figures, with his own enshrined, Are seen, my Countrymen, by men, though blind.
There Valor fronts us with her storied shield, Brave in devices won on many a field;
A splendid wreath snatched from the carnage grim Is twined around that buckler’s burnished rim, And as we gaze, the brazen trumpets blare With shrill vibration shakes the frightened air– The roll of musketry–the clash of steel– The clang of hoofs as charging squadrons wheel– The hoarse command–the imprecative cry– Swell loud and long, while Fancy’s eager eye Sees the stern van move on with crimson strides Where Freedom’s warrior on his war-horse rides, Sees the great cannon flash out red and fast Through battle mists which canopy the past.
And solemn-fronted Truth with earnest eyes, Stands there serenely beautiful and wise; Her stately form in undisturbed repose, Rests by her well, where limpid crystal flows While on her face, which can severely frown, A smile is breaking as she gazes down;
For clearly marked upon that tranquil wave Slumbers his image in a picture brave,
And leaning on the fountain’s coping stone, She scarce can tell his shadow from her own.
And Wisdom, with her meditative gaze, Beside its base her mighty chart displays; There with her solemn and impressive hand Writes as she stoops–as Christ wrote on the sand– But what she traces all may read–’tis this: An invocation by our dreams of bliss–
By hopes to do and by our great deeds done, The war of sections thro’ all time to shun– She writes the words which almost seem divine, “Our deadliest foe’s a geographic line!” And Justice, with her face severely grand, Stands ‘mid the group, her balances in hand: Faultless in judging trivial deeds, or great, Unmoved by love and unimpressed by hate. Beside her gleams undimmed by spot, or rust, A mighty blade to strike when strike she must; And this bright falchion like that which defends The guarded gate where earth in Eden ends, With flame terrific and with ponderous sway Frightens each Brennus from her scales away.
And there we see pale, pleading Mercy bow, A troubled shadow on her saintly brow;
Her fringed lashes tremulous with tears, Which glitter still through all the change of years: And as we see those tear drops slowly rise, Giving new softness to her tender eyes, Away the mists which o’er the dark past drift Are rent and scattered, while the sudden rift Shows, like some distant headland vast and dim Seen through the tempest, the great soul of him Who guarding against the native traitor, could Turn from her pleadings for his country’s good.
And Honor last completes the stately group, With eye like eagle’s in descending swoop, Fronted like goddess beautiful and proud When sailing on the “lazy-pacing cloud”: Prouder her port than that of all the rest, With radiant forehead and translucent breast, She needs no gesture of supreme command For us to know her foremost of the band: They were his counsellors, she as the mind By which their promptings were in deeds combined– In deeds which Fame, like fasces bears before The noblest consul that earth ever bore.
* * * * *
Why are we here? It were a bitter shame To pay this homage to a hero’s name,
And yet forget the principles which gave His true defiance to oblivion’s wave!
Aye! Sirs, remember when the day is spent, In Freedom’s camp our soldier pitched his tent! Maintain your own–respect your brother’s right– Thus will you praise Jehovah’s belted Knight.
Are we Pompeians gathered here to-day, Gazing upon our last superb display?
Crowning the hours with many a festal wreath, While red Vesuvius bubbles underneath?
Oh! no, my Countrymen! This cloud must be The smoke of incense floating o’er the free! No lava-flood can e’er o’erwhelm this land, Held as ’tis holden, in God’s mighty hand.
And when the garlands of to-day are pale, Shall clang of armorers riveting our mail Rise in harsh dissonance where now the song In surging music sweeps the land along? No, Brothers, no! The Providence on high Stretches above us like the arching sky; As o’er the world that broad empyrean field, So o’er the nation God’s protecting shield!
* * * * *
His the great will which sways the tide of earth– His the great will which giveth empires birth– And this grand truth through every age and clime Is written out in characters sublime;
But most we see the traces of His hand In the great Epic of our native land.
This new world had its Adam and he fled– God’s was the voice and God’s the mighty tread Which scared the red man from his Eden bowers God’s the decree which made the garden ours! And Eden ’twas and such it still remains: Oh, Brothers! shall we prove a race of Cains? Shall impious hands be armed with deadly things, Because we bring up different offerings Unto our altars? To the Nation’s shrine I take my gift; my brother, take thou thine! Again I ask: While this proud bronze remains, Shall this great people prove a race of Cains? Here make your answer at this statue’s base, Beneath this warrior’s calm, majestic face; And here remember that your best applause To him is shown in standing by the Laws! But if our rights shall ever be denied, I call upon you, by your race’s pride,
To seek some “West Augusta” and unfurl Our banner where the mountain vapors curl: Lowland and valley then will swell the cry, He left us free: thus will we live, or die! One other word, Virginia, hear thy son, Whose filial service now is nearly done– Hear me old State! Thou art supremely blest: A hero’s ashes slumber in thy breast!
Oh, Mother! if the ashes of a king Could nerve to deeds with which Fame’s trumpets ring, What glove of challenger shall make thee start, When thy great son lies sleeping on thy heart!
HOW IT FELL CALM ON SUMMER NIGHT.
My Lady’s rest was calm and deep:
She had been gazing at the moon;
And thus it chanced she fell asleep One balmy night in June.
Freebooter winds stole richest smells From roses bursting in the gloom,
And rifled half-blown daffodils,
And lilies of perfume.
These dainty robbers of the South
Found “beauty” sunk in deep repose, And seized upon her crimson mouth,
Thinking her lips a rose.
The wooing winds made love full fast– To rouse her up in vain they tried–
They kist and kist her, till, at last, In ecstasy they died.
A FRIEND OF MINE.
We sat beneath tall waving trees that flung Their heavy shadows o’er the dewy grass. Over the waters, breaking at our feet,
Quivered the moon, and lighted solemnly The scene before us.
He with whom I talked
Was in the noble vigor of his youth: Tall, much beyond the standard, and well knit, With a dark, Norman face, from which the breeze Flung back his locks of ebon darkness which In rare luxuriance fell around his brow, That, in its massive beauty, brought me up Pictures by ancient masters; or the sharp And perfect features carved by Grecian hands, In days when Gods, in forms worthy of Gods, Started from marble to bewitch the world– A brow so beautiful was his, that one
Might well conceive it always bound with dreams; His eyes were luminous and full of gleams, That made me think of waves wherein I’ve seen The moon-hued lightning breaking in the dark With sudden flashes of phosphoric light: His cheeks were bronze, his firm lips scarlet-hued. The Roman’s valor, the Assyrian’s love
Of ease and pomp sat on his crimson lips, Uneasy rulers on the self-same throne,
Spoiling the empire of the soul within: Such was his face.
* * * * *
His thoughts went forth like emperors, and all His words arrayed themselves around them like Imperial guards.
* * * * *
Opinions which I had been taught to hold As full of pith and gravity, he took
As ’twere, ‘twixt thumb and finger of his wit– Rubbed off their gloss, until they seemed to me, All, as he said, varnished hypocrisies.
* * * * *
Most wise for one so young! and strangely read In books of quaint philosophy–although His mind’s strange alchemy could find some Rich thought hidden in the basest thing, Which he transmuted into golden words,
So that in hearing him I often thought Upon the story of that Saint whose mouth Was radiant with the angel’s blessed touch, Which gave him superhuman eloquence;
And though he was thus gifted, yet–ah me!
* * * * *
Still earnest with my theme, I bade him think Of Auerbach’s cellar, and that wassail night Whole centuries ago: and then in phrase, Better than that which cometh to me now I likened it–the necromancy which
Drew richest vintage from the rugged boards– Unto the spell wherewith he’d bound himself– The spell by which he drew from simplest things Conceptions beautiful, as Faust drew wine From the rude table; for this friend of mine Was a true poet, though he seldom wrote: The wealth which might have royally endowed Some noble charity for coming time
Was idly wasted–pearls dissolved in wine–
* * * * *
Still on my theme I hung and pointed out, Full eagerly, how Mephistopheles
Ordered the gimlet wherewith it was drawn:
* * * * *
But he who went his way that summer night, Beneath the shadow of those stately trees Comes back to me–to earth–ah! nevermore.
* * * * *
He fell obscurely in the common ranks– His keen sword rusted in its splendid sheath. God pardon him his faults! for faults he had; But oh! so blent with goodness, that the while The lip of every theory of his
Curved with a sneer, each action smiled With Christian charity.
Like Manfred he had summoned to his aid Forbidden ministers–but unlike his–
Of the earth, earthy, which did slowly clutch Upon his lofty faculties until
They summoned him from the lone tow’r of thought And false philosophy wherein he dwelt.
God pardon him! Amen.
* * * * *
I turn aside; and, in the pause, might start As Mem’ry’s elbow leans upon Time’s Chart, Which shows, alas! how soon all men must glide Over meridians on life’s ocean tide–
Meridians showing how both youth and sage Are sailing northward to the zone of age: On to an atmosphere of gloom I wist,
Where mariners are lost in melancholy mist. But gayer thoughts, like spring-tide swallows, dart Through youth’s brave mind and animate its heart.
* * * * *
But Indolence is seen a pallid Ruth– A timid gleaner in the fields of youth– A wretched gath’rer of the scattered grain Left by the reapers who have swept the plain; But with no Boaz standing by the while, To watch its figure with approving smile.
[Footnote 5: (From a Poem pronounced before the Phi Beta Kappa Society and graduating classes of William and Mary College, July 4th, 1858.)]
THE JAMESTOWN ANNIVERSARY ODE.
* * * * *
In those vast forests dwelt a race of kings, Free as the eagle when he spreads his wings– His wings which never in their wild flight lag– In mists which fly the fierce tornado’s flag; Their flight the eagle’s! and their name, alas! The eagle’s shadow swooping o’er the grass, Or, as it fades, it well may seem to be The shade of tempest driven o’er the sea.
Fierce, too, this race, as mountain torrent wild, With haughty hearts, where Mercy rarely smiled– All their traditions–histories imbued
With tales of war and sanguinary feud, Yet though they never couched the knightly lance, The glowing songs of Europe’s old romance Can find their parallels amid the race, Which, on this spot, met England face to face. And when they met the white man, hand to hand, Twilight and sunrise stood upon the strand– Twilight and sunrise? Saxon sunshine gleams To-day o’er prairies and those distant streams, Which hurry onward through far Western plains, Where the last Indian, for a season, reigns. Here, the red CANUTE on this spot, sat down, His splendid forehead stormy with a frown, To quell, with the wild lightning of his glance The swift encroachment of the wave’s advance; To meet and check the ruthless tide which rose, Crest after crest of energetic foes,
While high and strong poured on each cruel wave, Until they left his royalty–a grave;
But, o’er this wild, tumultuous deluge glows A vision fair as Heaven to saint e’er shows; A dove of mercy o’er the billows dark
Fluttered awhile then fled within God’s ark. Had I the power, I’d reverently describe That peerless maid–the “pearl of all her tribe,” As evening fair, when coming night and day Contend together which shall wield its sway. But, here abashed, my paltry fancy stays; For her, too humble its most stately lays. A shade of twilight’s softest, sweetest gloom– The dusk of morning–found a splendid tomb In England’s glare; so strange, so vast, so bright, The dusk of morning burst in splendid light, Which falleth through the Past’s cathedral aisles, Till sculptured Mercy like a seraph smiles. And though Fame’s grand and consecrated fane No kingly statue may, in time, retain,
_Her_ name shall linger, nor with age grow faint; Its simple sound–the image of a saint.
Sad is the story of that maiden’s race, Long driven from each legendary place.
All their expansive hunting-grounds are now Torn by the iron of the Saxon’s plough, Which turns up skulls and arrow-heads and bones– Their places nameless and unmarked by stones. Now freighted vessels toil along the view, Where once was seen the Indian’s bark canoe; And to the woods the shrill escaping steam Proclaims our triumph in discordant scream. Where rose the wigwam in its sylvan shade, Where the bold hunter in his freedom strayed, And met his foe or chased the bounding stag, The lazy horses at the harrow lag.
Where the rude dance was held or war-song rose, The scene is one of plenty and repose.
The quiver of her race is empty now, Its bow lies broken underneath the plough; And where the wheat-fields ripple in the gale, The vanished hunter scarcely leaves a trail. ‘Twas where yon river musically flows,
The European’s nomenclature rose;
A keen-edged axe, which since, alas! has swept Away their names–those boughs, which blossoms kept, Leaving so few, that when their story’s drowned, ‘Twill sink, alas! with no fair garland crowned. What strange vicissitudes and perils fell On the first settlers ’tis not mine to tell; I scarce may pause to syllable the name Which the great Captain left behind to fame; A name which echoes through the tented past Like sound of charge rung in a bugle’s blast. His age, although it still put faith in stars, No longer glanced through feudal helmet’s bars, But stood in its half armor; thus stands he An image half of antique chivalry,
And half presented to our eager eyes, The brilliant type of modern enterprise. A knightly blade, without one spot of rust, Undimmed by time and undefaced by dust, His name hangs up in that past age’s hall, Where many hang, the brightest of them all.
AN ELEGIAC ODE.
* * * * *
He chastens us as nations and as men, He smites us sore until our pride doth yield, And hence our heroes, each with hearts for ten, Were vanquished in the field;
And stand to-day beneath our Southern sun O’erthrown in battle and despoiled of hope, Their drums all silent and their cause undone, And they all left to grope
In darkness till God’s own appointed time In His own manner passeth fully by.
Our Penance this. His Parable sublime Means we must learn to die.
Not as our soldiers died beneath their flags, Not as in tumult and in blood they fell, When from their columns, clad in homely rags, Rose the Confederate yell.
Not as they died, though never mortal men Since Tubal Cain first forged his cruel blade Fought as they fought, nor ever shall agen Such Leader be obeyed!
No, not as died our knightly, soldier dead, Though they, I trust, have found above surcease For all life’s troubles, but on Christian bed Should we depart in peace,
Falling asleep like those whose gentle deeds Are governed through time’s passions and its strife, So justly that we might erect new creeds From each well ordered life,
Whose saintly lessons are so framed that we May learn that pain is but a text sublime, Teaching us how to learn at Sorrow’s knee To value things of time.
Thus thinking o’er life’s promise-breaking dreams, Its lights and shadows made of hopes and fears, I say that Death is kinder than he seems, And not the King of Tears.
[Footnote: 6: It may not be out of place to state that this ode was written at the express and urgent request of the ladies of Warren county, North Carolina, and recited by the author, August 8th, 1866, on the occasion of the completion of the monument, erected by the ladies of Warren county, over the ashes of Miss Annie Carter Lee, who was the daughter of General Robert E. Lee and Mary Custis Lee; born at Arlington, Va., June 18th, 1839, and died at the White Sulphur Springs, Warren county, North Carolina, October 20th, 1862. The monument was unveiled in the presence of a great concourse of people, and with Major-Generals G.W.C. Lee and W.H.F. Lee, in attendance, as representatives of their family.]
THE CADETS AT NEW MARKET.
* * * * *
Their sleep is made glorious,
And dead they’re victorious
Never Lethean billows
Shall roll o’er their pillows,
Red with the feet
Of Mars from the wine press
So bitterly sweet!
Sleeping, but glorious,
Dead in Fame’s portal,
Dead, but victorious,
Dead, but immortal!
They gave us great glory,
What more could they give?
They have left us a story,
A story to live–
And blaze on the brows of the State like a crown, While from these grand mountains the rivers run down, While grass grows in graveyards, or the Ocean’s deep calls, Their deeds and their glory shall fresco these walls.
[Footnote 7: Delivered at Virginia Military Institute, 1870.]
OUR HEROIC DEAD.
A King once said of a Prince struck down, “Taller he seems in death.”
And this speech holds truth, for now as then ‘Tis after death that we measure men,
And as mists of the past are rolled away Our heroes, who died in their tattered grey, Grow “taller” and greater in all their parts Till they fill our minds as they fill our hearts. And for those who lament them there’s this relief– That Glory sits by the side of Grief,
Yes, they grow “taller” as the years pass by And the World learns how they could do and die.
A Nation respects them. The East and West, The far-off slope of the Golden Coast,
The stricken South and the North agree That the heroes who died for you and me– Each valiant man, in his own degree,
Whether he fell on the shore or sea, Did deeds of which
This Land, though rich
In histories may boast,
And the Sage’s Book and the Poet’s Lay Are full of the deeds of the Men in Grey.
No lion cleft from the rock is ours, Such as Lucerne displays,
Our only wealth is in tears and flowers, And words of reverent praise.
And the Roses brought to this silent Yard Are Red and White. Behold!
They tell how wars for a kingly crown, In the blood of England’s best writ down, Left Britain a story whose moral old
Is fit to be graven in text of gold: The moral is, that when battles cease
The ramparts smile in the blooms of peace.
And flowers to-day were hither brought From the gallant men who against us fought; York and Lancaster!–Grey and Blue!
Each to itself and the other true– And so I say
Our Men in Grey
Have left to the South and North a tale Which none of the glories of Earth can pale.
Norfolk has names in the sleeping host Which fill us with mournful pride–
Taylor and Newton, we well may boast, McPhail, and Walke, and Selden, too,
Brave as the bravest, as truest true! And Grandy struck down ere his May became June, A battle-flag folded away too soon,
And Williams, than whom not a man stood higher, ‘Mid the host of heroes baptized in fire. And Mallory, whose sires aforetime died, When Freedom and Danger stood side by side. McIntosh, too, with his boarders slain, Saunders and Jackson, the unripe grain, And Taliaferro, stately as knight of old, A blade of steel with a sheath of gold. And Wright, who fell on the Crater’s red sod, Giving life to the Cause, his soul to GOD. And there is another, whose portrait at length Should blend graces of Sidney with great Raleigh’s strength. Ah, John Randolph Tucker! To match me this name You must climb to the top of the Temple of Fame!
These are random shots o’er the men at rest, But each rings out on a warrior’s crest. Yes, names like bayonet points, when massed, Blaze out as we gaze on the splendid past.
That past is now like an Arctic Sea
Where the living currents have ceased to run, But over that past the fame of Lee
Shines out as the “Midnight Sun:”
And that glorious Orb, in its march sublime, Shall gild our graves till the end of time!
[Footnote 8: That splendid seaman, Admiral Tucker.]
A METRICAL ADDRESS.
“In pace decus, in bello praesidium.”–_Tacitus_.
Your arms are stacked, your splendid colors furled, Your drums are still, aside your trumpets laid, But your dumb muskets once spoke to the world– And the world listened to Mahone’s Brigade.
Like waving plume upon Bellona’s crest, Or comet in red majesty arrayed,
Or Persia’s flame transported to the West, Shall shine the glory of Mahone’s Brigade.
Not once, in all those years so dark and grim, Your columns from the path of duty strayed; No craven act made your escutcheon dim– ‘Twas burnished with your blood, Mahone’s Brigade.
Not once on post, on march, in camp, or field, Was your brave leader’s trust in you betrayed, And never yet has old Virginia’s shield Suffered dishonor through Mahone’s Brigade.
Who has forgotten at the deadly Mine, How our great Captain of great Captains bade Your General to retake the captured line? How it was done, you know, Mahone’s Brigade.
Who has forgotten how th’ undying dead, And you, yourselves, won that for which Lee prayed? Who has forgotten how th’ Immortal said: That “heroes” swept that field, Mahone’s Brigade?
From the far right, beneath the “stars and bars,” You marched amain to Bushrod Johnson’s aid, And when you charged–an arrow shot by Mars Went forward in your rush, Mahone’s Brigade.
In front stood death. Such task as yours before By mortal man has rarely been essayed,
There you defeated Burnside’s boasted corps, And did an army’s work, Mahone’s Brigade.
And those who led you, field, or line, or staff, Showed they were fit for more than mere parade; Their motto: “Victory or an epitaph,”
And well they did their part, Mahone’s Brigade.
Were mine the gift to coin my heart of hearts In living words, fit tribute should be paid To all the heroes whose enacted parts
Gave fame immortal to Mahone’s Brigade.
But he who bore the musket is the man Whose figure should for future time be made–