What is the sound we hear? Never the fall of a tear; For grief repressed In every breast More honors the man we revere. Rising from East and West, There echoes afar or near— From the cool, sad North and the burning South— A sound long since grown dear, When brave ranks faced the cannon's mouth And died for a faith austere: The tread of marching men, A steady tramp of feet That never flinched nor faltered when The drums of duty beat. With sable hats whose shade Falls from the cord of gold On every time-worn face; With tattered flags, in black enrolled, Beneath whose folds they warred of old; Forward, firmly arrayed, With a sombre, martial grace; So the Grand Army moves Commanded by the dead, Following him whose name it loves, Whose voice in life its footsteps led.
Those that in the combat perished,— Hostile shapes and forms of friends,— Those we hated, those we cherished, Meet the pageant where it ends. Flash of steel and tears forgiving Blend in splendor. Hark, the knell! Comrades ghostly join the living— Dreaming, chanting: "All is well." They receive the General sleeping, Him of spirit pure and large: Him they draw into their keeping Evermore, in faithful charge.
Pass on, O steps, with your dead, sad note! For a people's homage is in the sound; And the even tread, in measured rote, As a leader is laid beneath the ground, Rumors the hum of a pilgrim train That shall trample the earth as tramples the rain, Seeking the door of the hero's tomb, Seeking him where he lies low in the gloom, Paying him tribute of worker and mage, Through age on age!
Tall pine-tree on McGregor's height, How didst thou grow to such a lofty bearing, For song of bird or beat of breeze uncaring, There where thy shadow touched the dying brow? Were all thy sinewy fibres shaped aright? Was there no flaw? With what mysterious daring Didst thou put forth each murmuring, odorous bough And trust it to the frail support of air? We only know that thou art now supreme: We know not how thou grewest so tall and fair. So from the unnoticed, humble earth arose The sturdy man whom we, bewailing, deem Worthy the wondrous name fame's far voice blows. And lo! his ancient foes Rise up to praise the plan Of modest grandeur, loyal trust, And generous power from man to man, That lifted him above the formless dust. O heart by kindliness betrayed, O noble spirit snared and strayed— Unmatched, upright thou standest still As that firm pine-tree rooted on the hill!
No paragon was he, But moulded in the rough With every fault and scar Ingrained, and plain for all to see: Even as the rocks and mountains are, Common perhaps, yet wrought of such true stuff That common nature in his essence grew To something which till then it never knew; Ay, common as a vast, refreshing wind That sweeps the continent, or as some star Which, 'mid a million, shines out well-defined: With honest soul on duty bent, A servant-soldier, President; Meekest when crowned with victory, And greatest in adversity!
A silent man whom, strangely, fate Made doubly silent ere he died, His speechless spirit rules us still; And that deep spell of influence mute, The majesty of dauntless will That wielded hosts and saved the State, Seems through the mist our spirits yet to thrill. His heart is with us! From the root Of toil and pain and brave endurance Has sprung at last the perfect fruit, The treasure of a rich assurance That men who nobly work and live A greater gift than life may give; Yielding a promise for all time, Which other men of newer date Surely redeem in deeds sublime. Forerunner of a valiant race, His voiceless spirit still reminds us Of ever-waiting, silent duty: The bond of faith wherewith he binds us Shall hold us ready hour by hour To serve the sacred, guiding power Whene'er it calls, where'er it finds us, With loyalty that, like a folded flower, Blooms at a touch in proud, full-circled beauty.
Like swelling river waves that strain, Onward the people crowd In serried, billowing train. And those so slow to yield, On many a hard fought field, Muster together Like a dark cloud In summer weather, Whose threatening thunders suddenly are stilled,— And all the world is filled With smiling rest. Victory to him was pain, Till he had won his enemies by love; Had leashed the eagle and unloosed the dove; Setting on war's red roll the argent seal of peace. So here they form their solid ranks again, But in no mood of hatred or disdain. They say: "Thou who art fallen at last, Beleaguered stealthily, o'ercome by death, Thy conqueror now shall be magnanimous Even as thou wast to us. But not for thee can we blot out the past: We would not, if we might, forget thy last Great act of war, that with a gentle hand Brought back our hearts unto the mighty mother, For whose defence and honor armed we stand. We hail thee brother, And so salute thy name with holy breath!"
Land of the hurricane! Land of the avalanche! Land of tempest and rain; Of the Southern sun and of frozen peaks; Stretching from main to main;— Land of the cypress-glooms; Land of devouring looms; Land of the forest and ranch;— Hush every sound to-day Save the burden of swarms that assemble Their reverence dear to pay Unto him who saved us all! Ye masses that mourn with bended head, Beneath whose feet the ground doth tremble With weight of woe and a sacred dread— Lift up the pall That to us shall remain as a warrior's banner! Gaze once more on the fast closed eyes; Mark once the mouth that never speaks; Think of the man and his quiet manner: Weep if you will; then go your way; But remember his face as it looks to the skies, And the dumb appeal wherewith it seeks To lead us on, as one should say, "Arise— Go forth to meet your country's noblest day!"
Ah, who shall sound the hero's funeral march? And what shall be the music of his dirge? Let generations sing, as they emerge And pass beneath the heavens' trumphal arch!
Veteran memories rally to muster Here at the call of the old battle days: Cavalry clatter and cannon's hoarse bluster: All the wild whirl of the fight's broken maze: Clangor of bugle and flashing of sabre, Smoke-stifled flags and the howl of the shell, With earth for a rest place and death for a neighbor, And dreams of a charge and the deep rebel yell. Stern was our task in the field where the reaping Spared the ripe harvest, but laid our men low: Grim was the sorrow that held us from weeping: Awful the rush of the strife's ebb and flow. Swift came the silence—our enemy hiding Sudden retreat in the cloud-muffled night: Swift as a hawk-pounce our hill-and-dale riding; Hundreds on hundreds we caught in their flight! Hard and incessant the danger and trial, Laid on our squadrons, that gladly bore all, Scorning to meet with delay or denial The summons that rang in the battle-days' call!
Wild days that woke to glory or despair, And smote the coward soul with sudden shame, But unto those whose hearts were bold to dare All things for honor brought eternal fame:— Lost days, undying days! With undiminished rays Here now on us look down, Illumining our crown Of leaves memorial, wet with tender dew For those who nobly died In fierce self-sacrifice of service true, Rapt in pure fire of life-disdaining pride; Men of this soil, who stood Firm for their country's good, From night to night, from sun to sun, Till o'er the living and the slain A woful dawn that streamed with rain Wept for their victory dearly won.
Days of the future, prophetic days,— Silence engulfs the roar of war; Yet, through all coming years, repeat the praise Of those leal comrades brave, who come no more! And when our voices cease, Long, long renew the chant, the anthem proud, Which, echoing clear and loud Through templed aisles of peace, Like blended tumults of a joyous chime, Shall tell their valor to a later time. Shine on this field; and in the eyes of men Rekindle, if the need shall come again, That answering light that springs In beaconing splendor from the soul, and brings Promise of faith well kept and deed sublime!
[CHANCELLORSVILLE, MAY, 1863]
The sun had set; The leaves with dew were wet: Down fell a bloody dusk On the woods, that second of May, Where Stonewall's corps, like a beast of prey, Tore through, with angry tusk.
"They've trapped us, boys!"— Rose from our flank a voice. With a rush of steel and smoke On came the rebels straight, Eager as love and wild as hate; And our line reeled and broke;
Broke and fled. No one stayed—but the dead! With curses, shrieks, and cries, Horses and wagons and men Tumbled back through the shuddering glen, And above us the fading skies.
There's one hope, still— Those batteries parked on the hill! "Battery, wheel!" ('mid the roar) "Pass pieces; fix prolonge to fire Retiring. Trot!" In the panic dire A bugle rings "Trot"—and no more.
The horses plunged, The cannon lurched and lunged, To join the hopeless rout. But suddenly rode a form Calmly in front of the human storm, With a stern, commanding shout:
"Align those guns!" (We knew it was Pleasonton's.) The cannoneers bent to obey, And worked with a will at his word: And the black guns moved as if they had heard. But ah, the dread delay!
"To wait is crime; O God, for ten minutes' time!" The General looked around. There Keenan sat, like a stone, With his three hundred horse alone, Less shaken than the ground.
"Major, your men?" "Are soldiers, General." "Then, Charge, Major! Do your best: Hold the enemy back, at all cost, Till my guns are placed;—else the army is lost. You die to save the rest!"
By the shrouded gleam of the western skies, Brave Keenan looked into Pleasonton's eyes For an instant—clear, and cool, and still; Then, with a smile, he said: "I will."
"Cavalry, charge!" Not a man of them shrank. Their sharp, full cheer, from rank on rank, Rose joyously, with a willing breath—- Rose like a greeting hail to death.
Then forward they sprang, and spurred and clashed; Shouted the officers, crimson-sash'd; Rode well the men, each brave as his fellow, In their faded coats of the blue and yellow; And above in the air, with an instinct true, Like a bird of war their pennon flew.
With clank of scabbards and thunder of steeds, And blades that shine like sunlit reeds, And strong brown faces bravely pale For fear their proud attempt shall fail, Three hundred Pennsylvanians close On twice ten thousand gallant foes.
Line after line the troopers came To the edge of the wood that was ring'd with flame; Rode in and sabred and shot—and fell; Nor came one back his wounds to tell. And full in the midst rose Keenan, tall, In the gloom like a martyr awaiting his fall, While the circle-stroke of his sabre, swung 'Round his head, like a halo there, luminous hung.
Line after line, aye, whole platoons, Struck dead in their saddles, of brave dragoons By the maddened horses were onward borne And into the vortex flung, trampled and torn; As Keenan fought with his men, side by side.
So they rode, till there were no more to ride.
But over them, lying there shattered and mute, What deep echo rolls?—'T is a death-salute, From the cannon in place; for heroes, you braved Your fate not in vain: the army was saved!
Over them now—year following year— Over their graves the pine-cones fall, And the whip-poor-will chants his spectre-call; But they stir not again: they raise no cheer: They have ceased. But their glory shall never cease, Nor their light be quenched in the light of peace. The rush of their charge is resounding still That saved the army at Chancellorsville.
MARTHY VIRGINIA'S HAND
"There, on the left!" said the colonel: the battle had shuddered and faded away, Wraith of a fiery enchantment that left only ashes and blood-sprinkled clay— "Ride to the left and examine that ridge, where the enemy's sharpshooters stood. Lord, how they picked off our men, from the treacherous vantage-ground of the wood! But for their bullets, I'll bet, my batteries sent them something as good. Go and explore, and report to me then, and tell me how many we killed. Never a wink shall I sleep till I know our vengeance was duly fulfilled."
Fiercely the orderly rode down the slope of the corn-field—scarred and forlorn, Rutted by violent wheels, and scathed by the shot that had plowed it in scorn; Fiercely, and burning with wrath for the sight of his comrades crushed at a blow, Flung in broken shapes on the ground like ruined memorials of woe: These were the men whom at daybreak he knew, but never again could know. Thence to the ridge, where roots outthrust, and twisted branches of trees Clutched the hill like clawing lions, firm their prey to seize.
"What's your report?"—and the grim colonel smiled when the orderly came back at last. Strangely the soldier paused: "Well, they were punished." And strange his face, aghast. "Yes, our fire told on them; knocked over fifty— laid out in line of parade. Brave fellows, colonel, to stay as they did! But one I 'most wish had n't stayed. Mortally wounded, he'd torn off his knapsack; and then at the end he prayed— Easy to see, by his hands that were clasped; and the dull, dead fingers yet held This little letter—his wife's—from the knapsack. A pity those woods were shelled!"
Silent the orderly, watching with tears in his eyes as his officer scanned Four short pages of writing. "What's this, about 'Marthy Virginia's hand'?" Swift from his honeymoon he, the dead soldier, had gone from his bride to the strife; Never they met again, but she had written him, telling of that new life, Born in the daughter, that bound her still closer and closer to him as his wife. Laying her baby's hand down on the letter, around it she traced a rude line; "If you would kiss the baby," she wrote, "you must kiss this outline of mine."
There was the shape of the hand on the page, with the small, chubby fingers outspread. "Marthy Virginia's hand, for her pa,"—so the words on the little palm said. Never a wink slept the colonel that night, for the vengeance so blindly fulfilled; Never again woke the old battle-glow when the bullets their death-note shrilled. Long ago ended the struggle, in union of brotherhood happily stilled; Yet from that field of Antietam, in warning and token of love's command, See! there is lifted the hand of a baby—Marthy Virginia's hand!
GETTYSBURG: A BATTLE ODE
Victors, living, with laureled brow, And you that sleep beneath the sward! Your song was poured from cannon throats: It rang in deep-tongued bugle-notes: Your triumph came; you won your crown, The grandeur of a world's renown. But, in our later lays, Full freighted with your praise, Fair memory harbors those whose lives, laid down In gallant faith and generous heat, Gained only sharp defeat. All are at peace, who once so fiercely warred: Brother and brother, now, we chant a common chord.
For, if we say God wills, Shall we then idly deny Him Care of each host in the fight? His thunder was here in the hills When the guns were loud in July; And the flash of the musketry's light Was sped by a ray from God's eye. In its good and its evil the scheme Was framed with omnipotent hand, Though the battle of men was a dream That they could but half understand. Can the purpose of God pass by him? Nay; it was sure, and was wrought Under inscrutable powers: Bravely the two armies fought And left the land, that was greater than they, still theirs and ours!
Lucid, pure, and calm and blameless Dawned on Gettysburg the day That should make the spot, once fameless, Known to nations far away. Birds were caroling, and farmers Gladdened o'er their garnered hay, When the clank of gathering armors Broke the morning's peaceful sway; And the living lines of foemen Drawn o'er pasture, brook, and hill, Formed in figures weird of omen That should work with mystic will Measures of a direful magic— Shattering, maiming—and should fill Glades and gorges with a tragic Madness of desire to kill. Skirmishers flung lightly forward Moved like scythemen skilled to sweep Westward o'er the field and nor'ward, Death's first harvest there to reap. You would say the soft, white smoke-puffs Were but languid clouds asleep, Here on meadows, there on oak-bluffs, Fallen foam of Heaven's blue deep. Yet that blossom-white outbreaking Smoke wove soon a martyr's shroud. Reynolds fell, with soul unquaking, Ardent-eyed and open-browed: Noble men in humbler raiment Fell where shot their graves had plowed, Dying not for paltry payment: Proud of home, of honor proud.
Mute Seminary there, Filled once with resonant hymn and prayer, How your meek walls and windows shuddered then! Though Doubleday stemmed the flood, McPherson's Wood and Willoughby's Run Saw ere the set of sun The light of the gospel of blood. And, on the morrow again, Loud the unholy psalm of battle Burst from the tortured Devil's Den, In cries of men and musketry rattle Mixed with the helpless bellow of cattle Torn by artillery, down in the glen; While, hurtling through the branches Of the orchard by the road, Where Sickles and Birney were walled with steel, Shot fiery avalanches That shivered hope and made the sturdiest reel. Yet peach-bloom bright as April saw Blushed there anew, in blood that flowed O'er faces white with death-dealt awe; And ruddy flowers of warfare grew, Though withering winds as of the desert blew, Far at the right while Ewell and Early, Plunging at Slocum and Wadsworth and Greene, Thundered in onslaught consummate and surly; Till trembling nightfall crept between And whispered of rest from the heat of the whelming strife. But unto those forsaken of life What has the night to say? Silent beneath the moony sky, Crushed in a costly dew they lie: Deaf to plaint or paean, they:— Freed from Earth's dull tyranny.
Wordless the night-wind, funereal plumes of the tree-tops swaying— Writhing and nodding anon at the beck of the unseen breeze! Yet its voice ever a murmur resumes, as of multitudes praying: Liturgies lost in a moan like the mourning of far-away seas. May then those spirits, set free, a celestial council obeying, Move in this rustling whisper here thro' the dark, shaken trees?— Souls that are voices alone to us, now, yet linger, returning Thrilled with a sweet reconcilement and fervid with speechless desire? Sundered in warfare, immortal they meet now with wonder and yearning, Dwelling together united, a rapt, invisible choir: Hearken! They wail for the living, whose passion of battle, yet burning, Sears and enfolds them in coils, and consumes, like a serpent of fire!
Men of New Hampshire, Pennsylvanians, Maine men, firm as the rock's rough ledge! Swift Mississippians, lithe Carolinians Bursting over the battle's edge! Bold Indiana men; gallant Virginians; Jersey and Georgia legions clashing;— Pick of Connecticut; quick Vermonters; Louisianians, madly dashing;— And, swooping still to fresh encounters, New-York myriads, whirlwind-led!— All your furious forces, meeting, Torn, entangled, and shifting place, Blend like wings of eagles beating Airy abysses, in angry embrace. Here in the midmost struggle combining— Flags immingled and weapons crossed— Still in union your States troop shining: Never a star from the lustre is lost!
Once more the sun deploys his rays: Third in the trilogy of battle-days The awful Friday comes: A day of dread, That should have moved with slow, averted head And muffled feet, Knowing what streams of pure blood shed, What broken hearts and wounded lives must meet Its pitiless tread. At dawn, like monster mastiffs baying, Federal cannon, with a din affraying, Roused the old Stonewall brigade, That, eagerly and undismayed, Charged amain, to be repelled After four hours' bitter fighting, Forth and back, with bayonets biting; Where in after years, the wood— Flayed and bullet-riddled—stood A presence ghostly, grim and stark, With trees all withered, wasted, gray, The place of combat night and day Like marshaled skeletons to mark. Anon, a lull: the troops are spelled. No sound of guns or drums Disturbs the air. Only the insect-chorus faintly hums, Chirping around the patient, sleepless dead Scattered, or fallen in heaps all wildly spread; Forgotten fragments left in hurried flight; Forms that, a few hours since, were human creatures, Now blasted of their features, Or stamped with blank despair; Or with dumb faces smiling as for gladness, Though stricken by utter blight Of motionless, inert, and hopeless sadness. Fear you the naked horrors of a war? Then cherish peace, and take up arms no more. For, if you fight, you must Behold your brothers' dust Unpityingly ground down And mixed with blood and powder, To write the annals of renown That make a nation prouder!
All is quiet till one o'clock; Then the hundred and fifty guns, Metal loaded with metal in tons, Massed by Lee, send out their shock. And, with a movement magnificent, Pickett, the golden-haired leader, Thousands and thousands flings onward, as if he sent Merely a meek interceder. Steadily sure his division advances, Gay as the light on its weapons that dances. Agonized screams of the shell The doom that it carries foretell: Rifle-balls whistle, like sea-birds singing; Limbs are severed, and souls set winging; Yet Pickett's warriors never waver. Show me in all the world anything braver Than the bold sweep of his fearless battalions, Three half-miles over ground unsheltered Up to the cannon, where regiments weltered Prone in the batteries' blast that raked Swaths of men and, flame-tongued, drank Their blood with eager thirst unslaked. Armistead, Kemper, and Pettigrew Rush on the Union men, rank against rank, Planting their battle-flags high on the crest. Pause not the soldiers, nor dream they of rest, Till they fall with their enemy's guns at the breast And the shriek in their ears of the wounded artillery stallions. So Pickett charged, a man indued With knightly power to lead a multitude And bring to fame the scarred surviving few.
In vain the mighty endeavor; In vain the immortal valor; In vain the insurgent life outpoured! Faltered the column, spent with shot and sword; Its bright hope blanched with sudden pallor; While Hancock's trefoil bloomed in triple fame. He chose the field; he saved the second day; And, honoring here his glorious name, Again his phalanx held victorious sway. Meade's line stood firm, and volley on volley roared Triumphant Union, soon to be restored, Strong to defy all foes and fears forever. The Ridge was wreathed with angry fire As flames rise round a martyr's stake; For many a hero on that pyre Was offered for our dear land's sake, What time in heaven the gray clouds flew To mingle with the deathless blue; While here, below, the blue and gray Melted minglingly away, Mirroring heaven, to make another day. And we, who are Americans, we pray The splendor of strength that Gettysburg knew May light the long generations with glorious ray, And keep us undyingly true!
Dear are the dead we weep for; Dear are the strong hearts broken! Proudly their memory we keep for Our help and hope; a token Of sacred thought too deep for Words that leave it unspoken. All that we know of fairest, All that we have of meetest, Here we lay down for the rarest Doers whose souls rose fleetest And in their homes of air rest, Ranked with the truest and sweetest. Days, with fiery-hearted, bold advances; Nights in dim and shadowy, swift retreat; Rains that rush with bright, embattled lances; Thunder, booming round your stirless feet;— Winds that set the orchard with sweet fancies All abloom, or ripple the ripening wheat; Moonlight, starlight, on your mute graves falling; Dew, distilled as tears unbidden flow;— Dust of drought in drifts and layers crawling; Lulling dreams of softly whispering snow; Happy birds, from leafy coverts calling;— These go on, yet none of these you know: Hearing not our human voices Speaking to you all in vain, Nor the psalm of a land that rejoices, Ringing from churches and cities and foundries a mighty refrain! But we, and the sun and the birds, and the breezes that blow When tempests are striving and lightnings of heaven are spent, With one consent Make unto them Who died for us eternal requiem.
Lovely to look on, O South, No longer stately-scornful But beautiful still in pride, Our hearts go out to you as toward a bride! Garmented soft in white, Haughty, and yet how love-imbuing and tender! You stand before us with your gently mournful Memory-haunted eyes and flower-like mouth, Where clinging thoughts—as bees a-cluster Murmur through the leafy gloom, Musical in monotone— Whisper sadly. Yet a lustre As of glowing gold-gray light Shines upon the orient bloom, Sweet with orange-blossoms, thrown Round the jasmine-starred, deep night Crowning with dark hair your brow. Ruthless, once, we came to slay, And you met us then with hate. Rough was the wooing of war: we won you, Won you at last, though late! Dear South, to-day, As our country's altar made us One forever, so we vow Unto yours our love to render: Strength with strength we here endow, And we make your honor ours. Happiness and hope shall sun you: All the wiles that half betrayed us Vanish from us like spent showers.
Two hostile bullets in mid-air Together shocked, And swift were locked Forever in a firm embrace. Then let us men have so much grace To take the bullets' place, And learn that we are held By laws that weld Our hearts together! As once we battled hand to hand, So hand in hand to-day we stand, Sworn to each other, Brother and brother, In storm and mist, or calm, translucent weather: And Gettysburg's guns, with their death-giving roar, Echoed from ocean to ocean, shall pour Quickening life to the nation's core; Filling our minds again With the spirit of those who wrought in the Field of the Flower of Men!
 Bride Brook.—The colony of New London (now part of Connecticut) was founded by John Winthrop, Jr., under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts. One of the boundary lines was a stream flowing into Long Island Sound, between the present city of New London and the Connecticut River. In the snowy winter of 1646, Jonathan Rudd, who dwelt in the settlement of Saybrook Fort, at the mouth of the Connecticut, sent for Winthrop to celebrate a marriage between himself and a certain "Mary" of Saybrook, whose last name has been lost. Winthrop performed the ceremony on the frozen surface of the streamlet, the farthest limit of his magistracy; and thereupon bestowed the name "Bride Brook," which it still bears.
 The Bride of War.—Jemima Warner, a Pennsylvania woman, was the wife of one of Morgan's riflemen. She marched with the expedition; and, when her husband perished of cold and exhaustion, she took his rifle and equipments and herself carried them to Quebec, where she delivered them to Arnold as a token of her husband's sacrifice, and proof that he was not a deserter.
Colonel Enos of Connecticut abandoned the column while it was struggling through the Dead River region, with his whole force, the rear-guard, numbering eight hundred men. But for this defection Arnold might have triumphed in his assault on Quebec. It is a curious circumstance that, with this traitor at the rear, and with Benedict Arnold at its head, the little army also counted in its ranks Aaron Burr, whose treason was to ripen after the war ended.
 The Sword Dham.—Antar, the Bedouin poet-hero, was chief of the tribe of Ghaylib.
 The Name of Washington.—Read before the Sons of the Revolution, New-York, February 22, 1887, and adopted as the poem of the Society.
 Marthy Virginia's Hand.—This was an actual incident in the experience of the late Colonel (formerly Captain) Albert J. Munroe. of the Third Rhode Island Artillery, a gallant officer, gentle and brave as well in peace as in war.
 Gettysburg: A Battle Ode.—Written for the Society of the Army of the Potomac, and read at its re-union with Confederate survivors on the field of Gettysburg, July 3, 1888, the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the Battle.