Red was the lightning’s ﬂashing,
And down through the driving rain,
We saw the red eyes dashing
Of the merciless midnight train;
Soon many crowded together,
Under the lamp’s red glow,
But I saw one ﬁgure only—
Ah! Why did I tremble so?
The eyes that gazed in the darkness
After the midnight train,
Are red with watching and weeping,
For it brings none back again.
Clouds hang in the west like banners,
Red banners of war unfurled,
And the prairie sod is crimson
With the best blood of the world.
White faces are pressed to the window,
Watching the sun go down,
Looking out to the coming darkness,
That covers the noisy town.
White are the hands, too, and quiet,
Over the pulseless breast;
No more will the vision of parting
Disturb the white sleeper’s rest.
Over sleeper, and grave, and tombstone,
Like a pitying mantle spread,
The snow comes down in the night-time,
With a shy and noiseless tread.
Blue smoke rolls away on the north-wind,
Blue skies grow dusk in the din,
Blue waters look dark with the shadow
That gathers the world within.
Rigid and blue are the ﬁngers
That clutch at the fading sky;
Blue lips in their agony mutter:
‘O God! Let this cup pass by,’
Blue eyes grow weary with watching;
Strong hands with waiting to do;
While brave hearts echo the watchword:
‘Hurrah! for the Red, White, and Blue.’
There are white faces in each sunny street,
And signs of trouble meet us everywhere;
The nation’s pulse hath an unsteady beat,
For scents of battle foul the summer air.
A thrill goes through the city’s busy life,
And then—as when a strong man stints his breath—
A stillness comes; and each one in his place
Waits for the news of triumph, loss, and death.
The “Extras” fall like rain upon a drought,
And startled people crowd around the board
Whereon the nation’s sum of loss or gain
In rude and hurried characters is scored.
Perhaps it is a glorious triumph-gleam—
An earnest of our Future’s recompense;
Perhaps it is a story of defeat,
Which smiteth like a fatal pestilence.
But whether Failure darkens all the land,
Or whether Victory sets its blood ablaze,
An awful cry, a mighty throb of pain,
Shall scare the sweetness from these summer days.
Young hearts shall bleed, and older hearts shall break,
A sense of loss shall be in many a place;
And oh, the bitter nights! The weary days!
The sharp desire for many a buried face!
God! How this land grows rich in loyal blood,
Poured out upon it to its utmost length!
The incense of a people’s sacriﬁce,—
The wrested offering of a people’s strength!
It is the costliest land beneath the sun!
’Tis priceless, purchaseless! And not a rood
But hath its title written clear and signed
In some slain hero’s consecrated blood.
And not a ﬂower that gems its mellowing soil
But thriveth well beneath the holy dew
Of tears, that ease a nation’s straining heart,
When the lord of battles smites it through and through. (1863)
Oh, my darling! my darling! never to feel
Your hand going over my hair!
Never to lie in your arms again,—
Never to know where you are!
Oh, the weary miles that stretch between
My feet and the battle-ground,
Where all that is left of my dearest hope
Lies under some yellow mound!
It is but little I might have done
To lighten your parting pain;
But ’tis bitter to think that you died alone
Out in the dark and the rain!
Oh, my hero love! — to have kissed the pain
And the mist from your fading eyes!
To have saved one only passionate look
To sweeten these memories!
And thinking of all, I am strangely stunned,
And cannot believe you dead.
You loved me, dear! And I loved you, dear!
And your letter lies there, unread!
You are not dead! You are not dead!
God never could will it so—
To craze my brain and break my heart
And shatter my life—I know!
Dead! Dead! and never a word,
Never a look for me!
Dead! Dead! and our marriage-day
Never on earth to be!
I am left alone, and the world is changed,
So dress me in bridal white,
And lay me away in some quiet place
Out of the hateful light.
If the mist of failure, gray
Cloud the breaking of the day,
For whose coming all the waiting millions pray,—
If misgivings dull and rust
The ﬁrst brightness of their trust,—
Let the earnest thinkers open up the way.
Show each brave, impatient soul
How the waves of failure roll
Back from brows that sternly front the waiting goal;
How the single-handed right,
In its God-anointed might,
Dares to meet and conquer evil’s legioned whole.
Show them how a brief defeat
Hath its uses pure and sweet,—
How it ﬁres the brain, the soul, with newer heat;
Failure’s lowest depths we sound,
Then, with terrible rebound,
Up the heights of triumph go our conquering feet!
Show them how the Truth is strong
When it battles with the Wrong,
Though the coward quail before the struggle long;
How the soldier of the Right
Dares the ﬁerce, unequal ﬁght,
Leaping fearless into Treason’s armed throng!
Earnest thinkers of the day!
It is yours to clear the way,
While our soldiers ﬁght, our women work and pray;
Send your stirring words abroad
For the Right—for Truth—for God!
With the prophet’s ﬁery spirit seal your say!
After a Defeat.
Ah God! Shall tears poured out like rain,
And deathly pangs, and praying breath,
And faith as deep and strong as death,
Be given—and all in vain?
Thou claimest martyrs,—they are given,—
What shall the stern demand sufﬁce?
From out our darkened homes arise
Strong cries that startle Heaven.
We murmur not, enduring all
With broken hearts but silent lips;
With all our glories in eclipse,
And some beyond recall.
We stand beside our dead, our eyes
In patient sufferance raised to Thee,
And kiss the still brows reverently,—
Behold our sacriﬁce!
Behold our sacriﬁce! We give
The best blood of a suffering land!
A nation’s heart by its own hand
Is stricken—that Right may live!
No failure this! God’s own right hand
A victory shall write it down!
The years shall strengthen its renown;
Be proud of it, O Land!
Thou Christ! The Godhood of thy brow
Paled ’neath the throes of mortal pain;
But all thy glory glows again,
Thrice-haloed, round thee now!
Give us the martyr’s steadfast power,
So, passing our Gethsemane,
Our glory shall but brighter be
For this, our trial hour!
Over sea and over city slowly crept the sullen morn,
All the splendor of its dawning by a growing shadow curst;
And the sunless sky that sphered us nursed a tempest yet unborn,
But we waited on the Battery* for another storm to burst.
Grim, deﬁant, as some olden warrior clad in chilly mail,
Sullen, signless silence brooding o’er its weather-beaten face,
From its brow the vapor rifted by the freshening eastern gale,
Saw we Sumter, as the grayness of the morning waned apace.
Ha! the sluggish day is shaken from its stillness by a growl,
The deﬁance of the Southron—spoken from the cannon’s mouth—
Blazes out the ﬁery ruin from beneath its smoky cowl,
And within the walls of Sumter falls the gauntlet of the South!
No response unto the challenge! Are they powerless to defy?
But what ﬂutters from the ramparts as the vapor parts away?
Still their own insulted colors o’er the dauntless heroes ﬂy,
Flaunting all their braided splendors in the sullen face of day!
Ah! Behind those silent bulwarks, rising grimly from the sea,
Waiting for the stealthy coming of the death-dispensing shell,
There’s a band of fearless spirits; guess how many strong they be, —
They who stood so long and bravely, ere their glorious banner fell!
Seventy men to man the ramparts and to work each giant gun!
Only these to face the Southrons, who are seven thousand strong!
Bravely toiled they from the dawning to the setting of the sun,—
Bursting shell and shot around them in a ceaseless ﬁery throng!
Fast and faster belched the ruin from the sulphurous, yawning jaws
Of the seven Southern batteries, armed and ready for the work;
All the day and all the night long well were plied their greedy maws,
And until the second morning broke disconsolate and murk.
Fire within and foes without them! Yet they struggled long and well,
From beneath their blazing shelter holding out against a host,
Ere the colors of the loyal from the crest of Sumter fell,
And the gallant Seventy slowly left their well-defended post!
Now the tender budding greenery brightens all the earth again,
But the sprouting grass is reddened with the angry bloom of war!
By the hearthstones of the nation only sounds the wail of pain,
While our hero soldiers struggle in the glorious ﬁght afar.
Thy Nemesis, O Sumter! Was the thrill that shook the land;
When the tidings of thy spoiling brought the nation to its feet,
Then was clenched, with stern intention, injured Loyalty’s right hand;
Its insulted front was lifted proudly up the taunt to meet!
Murmur not in doubt, my brothers, at this trial rite of blood,—
At this purging out of error from the arteries of the land!
Never yet the walls of Treason the assault of Right withstood;
Ere another year hath circled ye shall prove it where ye stand!
Did I frighten you, mother,—so white and cold,
And so silently here at your bed?
I could not sleep on this terrible night,
For the battle of which we read.
To think of the dead lying out in this rain,
Not minding its dreary fall,—
Of that mad, mad ﬁght on the side of the hill;
And he—he was in it all!
They say he was foremost in every charge,
Till the hardiest held their breath,
Or paused in the struggle to raise a cheer
For the man who was quits with death!
They say he was quiet and just the same,—
No paler when acting his part;
But I know, I know how he went away,
Stabbed even to the inmost heart.
But the ﬁercest pain for a tender soul
Is doubt and its jealous pride;
Though we do not die when we suffer so,
Till the faithful are justiﬁed.
I tore his ring from my worthless hand,
Denying my name of wife;
But I wear him yet in my heart of hearts,
And I love him with all my life.
I must go to him! I shall never rest
Till I falter before his feet;
And there I shall die if he raise me not,
And cure me with kisses sweet!
I shall die! I shall die if I may not look
Once more in my hero’s eyes,
And see the ﬁre of the olden love
In their passionate deeps arise!
I have wronged his truth, I have wronged his love,
And all for a whispered lie!
I have sent him to wander in search of death.
Ah, mother, if he should die!
I will suffer all; I deserve it all!
But, mother, I’m mad to go,
And beg him to take me back again,
For I love him—I love him so!
What, ho! ye valiant wrestlers!
Ye soldiers of the Right!
Full armed by Truth and Justice
To battle lawless Might.
Ho! I have glorious tidings!
Come, list the tale I tell,
How the cause of UNION triumphed,
And the crest of Treason fell.
Too long this fair young kingdom,
The Empire of the West,
Had borne a blasting stigma
Upon her virgin breast!
Too long the brazen foreheads
Of a many-headed Wrong
Were lifted up in triumph
Above a murmuring throng!
And the leal heart of the patriot
Was heavy for our shame;
And we trembled for the glory
Of our country’s growing fame;
But a noble-hearted pity
Held back the righteous blow,
For, alas! We knew a brother
In the face of every foe,
Our wise men, looking Southward,
Beheld the coming storm;
It had gathered, it had ripened,
While the sounded the alarm.
The pestilence grew fouler,
And no comfort blessed our eyes,
For the ﬁend that sowed this discord
Had ﬂouted all disguise.
We all remember SUMTER,
And the battle’s growing hum,—
How the noise of tinkling cymbals
Was deadened by the drum.
MANASSAS stands a warning
To our Future from our Past;
And these skies that gleam so bluely
At BALL’S BLUFF were overcast.
Oh! then went up to Heaven
A strong and mingled sound:
There were curses, there were pleadings,
And tears falling to the ground.
And twin-born Strife and Treason
Went stalking hand in hand;
And our friends across the ocean
Spied the bareness of the land.
But at last we turned upon them,
And stood in proud array;
In the West and to the Southward
Our thunders shook the day!
On either ﬂank beleaguered,
Two foes our strength divide;
But Disunion, Fraud, and Ruin
Fell down on either side!
Bravely they worked together!
The framers of THE LIE
That teaches we have struggled,
And succeeded—but to die;
That teaches our achievements
And our growing hopes are nought;
That laughs to scorn the maxims
That our patriot fathers taught.
We sought to save the UNION;
They strove to blot the name
Of Freedom’s chosen country
From the royal scroll of fame.
We strove to save the record
Wrought out by sacred hands;
But they to make their birthright
The prey of distant lands.
Ho! planters of the South land!
Ho! yoemen of the North!
Ye who love our glorious Union,
Fling its banner proudly forth!
For the dastard front of Treason
Quails beneath this sturdy blow;
And if we stand together,
We shall lay the curser low!
We won’t give up the Union!
Go shout it far and wide!
Missouri’s head is lifted
Once more in queenly pride;
And Tennessee, unfettered,
At length may proudly stand!
Out with the hand of greeting,
All true hearts in the land!
And farther, farther Southward,
From “the dark and bloody ground,”
From the crimson ﬁelds of Arkansas,
Our triumph-notes resound!
And proudly o’er the waters
Our braided colors ﬂy,—
That ﬂag whose splendors gladdened
Full many a dying eye!
Shout for the glorious UNION!
Shout for the triumph gained!
In the hour that gave it to us
The star of Treason waned!
Well done, stanch hearts and loyal!
We yet shall win the day,
And see this fell disorder
Pass from the land away!
Nerve! Nerve! each good right arm again,
And forward for the RIGHT!
And UNION’s stainless banner
Shall conquer lawless Might.
O pale, pale face! Oh helpless hands!
Sweet eyes by fruitless watching wronged;
Yet turning ever towards the lands
Where War’s red hosts are thronged!
She shudders when they tell the tale
Of some great battle fought and won;
Her sweet child face grows old and pale,
Her heart falls like a stone.
She sees no conquering ﬂag unfurled,
She hears no victory’s brazen roar;
But a dear face, which was her world,
Perchance she’ll kiss no more!
Ever there comes between her sight
And the glory that they rave about,
A boyish brow and eyes whose light
Of splendor hath gone out.
The midnight glory of his hair,
Where late her ﬁngers, like a ﬂood
Of moonlight, wandered,—lingering there,—
Is stiff and dank with blood!
She must not shriek, she must not moan,
She must not wring her quivering hands;
But sitting dumb and white, alone,
Be bound with viewless bands.
Because her suffering life infolds
Another dearer, feebler life,
In death-strong grasp her heart she holds,
And stills its torturing strife.
Yester eve, they say, a ﬁeld was won.
Her eyes ask tidings of the ﬁght;
But tell her of the dead alone
Who lay out in the night.
In mercy tell her that his name
Was not upon that fatal list;
That not among the heaps of slain
Dumb are the lips she’s kissed!
O poor pale child! O woman heart!
Its weakness triumphed o’er by strength!
Love teaching pain discipline’s art,
And conquering at length!
Thou lion-fronted, royal man!
Thou of the swerveless lightning glance,
Whose thunderous eloquence outran,
O’ertopped, the minds it did entrance;—
O man, made regal by thy might,
The many-chorded soul to smite!
The lowly path was not for thee.
Thy mental stature towered above
The wondering eyes, upraised to see
The man whose tone and glance could move
A people’s heart to love or hate;
Whose touch could guide it like a fate.
The glory of his life was set
Unto a measure high and grand;
The lofty anthem lingers yet
In haunting echoes through the land;
And, greeted with a triumph-tone,
He stood, a conqueror—alone!
He fell; —and, lo! a mighty wail,
A cry, sublime in grief and strength,
Proclaimed the giant lying pale,
His mighty power undone at length;
And for that wondrous man and strong
Went up a nation’s funeral song.
For him a high applauding tone
Shall linger in the halls of Time.
Even as he stood, he fell—alone,
A warrior in a strife sublime.
A nation raised his burial-stone,—
He will not sleep unsung, unknown.
The snow is falling abroad,
Over meadow and moor;
Drifting silently, high and white,
O’er the sill of our cottage door.
It falls on a lonely grave
Lying away to the West,
Where a hero heart is mouldering away,—
The heart that loved me best!
I think of the closed blue eyes,
And the beautiful shining hair;
And the fresh snow heaped o’er one beloved,
Alone in the darkness there!
The aster’s heroic bloom
And the maple’s scarlet wreath
Are crushed alike by the cold, white hand
Of this terrible icy death.
Oh, cruel, untimely snow!
You have found him where he lies.
It was too early to fold your shroud
Over my soldier’s eyes.
I could bear to leave him alone
With the sweet south wind and the ﬂowers,
But not with the snow and the blighted leaves
Of these desolate autumn hours!
Oh! then I could think no more,
And the pent-up grief grew wild.
And I bowed my throbbing, aching head,
And wept like a weary child!
And I said, “The world is cold,
And terribly lone and wide;
How can I walk its dreary way,
With no stay but my woman’s pride!
“I shall pass by cheerful homes
Which Love hath made so bright,
But I may not stay; I must walk alone
In the darkness and the night!
“Moan, moan aloud,
O desolate heart of mine!
But spoken words can never give vent
To an agony like to thine.”
The snow is falling abroad,
Silently, soft and slow,
But the tears that rain from despairing eyes
Fall faster than the snow!
* * * * * * * * *
I watched it through my tears,
Till the grief-throbs grew less sharp;
And I thought of a gleaming, golden crown,
And a sweetly sounding harp!
I thought of the Great White Throne,
And the shining robes they wear;
And the perfect peace of the puriﬁed ones,
And the glory reigning there!
The snow is falling abroad,
Tenderly, soft and slow;
And the quiet throbs of my heart keep time
To the musical fall of the snow!
In Favor of a Grand Mississippi Valley Sanitary Fair.
[Read before the General Assembly of the loyal men and women of St. Louis convened at the Mercantile Library, February 1, 1864, by Professor Amasa McCoy, of Washington D.C.]
Where the Mississippi’s darkly troubled waters
Roll their tawny waves along;
And the South land’s ever warm, but wilful daughters
Change to sighing all their song;
Far away from any help or friendly soothing,
They are dying, day by day,—
Without love or any tender hand for smoothing\
The last frown of death away!
Who are dying? Who are falling in their places,
Stabbed by pestilence and want;
With a ﬁrm resolve upon their pallid faces,
Which Death can never daunt?
Who are tracking from the West land to the South land
A free passage in their blood?
Who have never turned their failing footsteps homeward,
Nor faltered where they stood?
Loyal men, who make the sinews of this nation,
Who keep alive the throbbings of its heart!
Royal heroes! without thought of rank or station,
By the God of battles called and set apart!
The champions of this cruciﬁed Republic,
The ﬂower and the glory of the land!
And shall no help nor any sign of greeting
Go to cheer them where they stand?
In hospitals and in camps, so thickly crowded,
They are suffering life away,
With no blessed touch of Home to balm and soften
The pain which maketh gray!
Oh, ye daughters! Oh, ye sisters! Oh, ye mothers!
Are ye haunted by their eyes?—
The weary, dying looks of sons and brothers,
Who shall never more arise!
Let us help them! We, who sit in careless comfort,
In our happy, cheerful homes,—
Shall we leave our brave defenders pining, dying,
For the help that never comes?
Oh! remember that the quiet of each hearthstone
Is purchased with their blood;
And for us they wear the cross and thorns of Christhood
In their noble martyr mood!
Let us help them! Oh, ye hearts of loyal women!
For your hands is not the sword!
To heal and not to wound, your blessed mission,
Handmaidens of the Lord!
Be the Marys of this suffering Republic;
Take your places at its feet;
Ye are gentle, and your hands have skill in healing,
And your words are pure and sweet!
Ye Loyal men, who love the Nation’s welfare,
Help us freely, without thought;
Strengthen well the hands by which this fearful ransom
For Freedom’s cause is wrought.
Oh, loyal hearts! behold your country’s altar
Awaits your sacriﬁce;
Through your offerings, the pledge of its redemption,
Shall its new-born glory rise!
[ National Cemetery at Gettysburg]
Let us lay them where they fell,
When their work was done so well!
Dumb and stricken,—leaving others
All the glorious news to tell.
All the yellow harvest ﬁeld,
Cursed with a crimson yield,
’Neath the thrusting in of sickles,
As the battle waxed or reeled!
They, with faces to the foe,
Lost to pain, and peace, and woe,
Armored in the inspiration
Of the old heroic glow,
Rushing grandly unto death!
Eyes ablaze and ’bated breath,—
Second-sighted for the future—
Here they piled the trampled heath!
Here for Liberty they stood,
Writ their records in their blood,
On the forehead of the epoch,
In a grand historic mood!
Let us lay them side by side,
In their awful martyr pride;
They slumber well and sweetly,
Spite of wailings far and wide.
And their story shall be told
When this Present, gray and old,
Loses each distinctive feature
In the Future’s ample fold.
Well, the work was ﬁtly done!
Well, the day was proudly won!
But,— this nook that bloomed with battle,
There’s no rarer ’neath the sun!
Let us lay them where they fell,
When their work was done so well!
In the martyr’s noble silence,
Leaving us the tale to tell.
Drift over the slopes of the sunrise land,
O wonderful, wonderful snow!
Oh, pure as the breast of a virgin saint!
Drift tenderly, soft, and slow,
Over the slopes of the sunrise land,
And into the haunted dells
Of the forests of pine, where the sobbing winds
Are tuning their memory bells; —
Into the forests of sighing pines,
And over those yellow slopes
That seem but the work of the cleaving plough,
But cover so many hopes!
They are many indeed, and straightly made,
Not shapen with loving care;
But the souls let out and the broken blades
May never be counted here!
Fall over those lonely hero graves,
O delicate-dropping snow!
Like the blessing of God’s unfaltering love
On the warrior heads below;
Like the tender sigh of a mother’s soul,
As she waiteth and watcheth for one
Who will never come back from the sunrise land
When this terrible war is done.
And here, where lieth the high of heart,
Drift, white as the bridal veil
That will never be worn by the drooping girl
Who sitteth afar, so pale.
Fall, fast as the tears of the suffering wife,
Who stretcheth despairing hands
Out to the blood-rich battle-ﬁelds
That crimson the eastern sands.
Fall in thy virgin tenderness,
O delicate snow! and cover
The graves of our heroes, sanctiﬁed,
Husband, and son, and lover.
Drift tenderly over those yellow slopes,
And mellow our deep distress,
And put us in mind of the shriven souls,
And their mantles of righteousness.
Authorizing the Mustering into Service of Colored Regiments
Lift up the bowed, desponding head,
O long-enduring race!
Let the meek sufferance of your eyes
Abash the tyrant’s face.
Take courage, O despairing race!
The tides of fortune turn,
When white men take in kindly clasp
The hand they used to spurn!
Go into battle side by side
With men of fairer hue;
We will not hinder by our scorn
The work you have to do!
Despised, rejected, cast away,
Ye are God’s children yet!
And on the foreheads of your race
His mercy-seal is set!
Come in! come in!
Thou shining messenger of God!
Untroubled yet by grief or sin,
Thy weary pilgrimage untrod.
Thy unsunned brow is beautiﬁed,
And crowned with glory by His grace;
He breathes the blessing of His love
Upon thy young, unwritten face.
Come in! come in!
For millions of impatient hands
Are stretched to draw the stranger in,
From sunrise unto sunset lands.
The dusky children of the South,
With fair-haired Northmen, wait to press
Upon thy rich unsullied mouth
The greeting of their happiness!
Come in! come in!
And let thy brows be olive bound,
A hazel wand thy hand within,
And time thy footsteps to the sound
Of breathing lyre, in measure sweet;
So shall these notes of rufﬁan war
Die out abashed, in silence meet,
And LOVE become our guiding star.
Come in! come in!
And let thy song be sweet and mild;
So, haply, hearing thou shalt win,
And calm this storm of passion wild,
And bid this jarring discord cease,
To the grand chorus of our song
Restore the missing voice of Peace,
And crush the many-headed Wrong!
Come in! come in!
We crown thee with our holiest prayers,
Almost to suffering akin,
For they are breathed through suppliant tears.
We crown thee with a reverent hand,
That gives its nearest, dearest gift,—
A wish—that from our troubled land
Thy coming may the shadows lift!
Come in! come in!
We’ll pledge thee in a draught divine—
A rarer, costlier ne’er hath been,—
And Hope shall bear the blushing wine.
It mantles with the high resolve
Of many a noble patriot heart,
No matter who may traitor prove,
We trust in God and do our part!
Ah! You’re come back too late, darling!
’T is but to see me die;
Trust not this strange, delusive glow,
This brightness in my eye;
For see how lightly lies my hand,
How thin within your clasp,—
So quick and strong its pulses were
When last it felt your grasp!
This poor, unworthy face, darling,
Ah! hide it in your breast;
’Tis long since last my weary head
To its true home was pressed.
I only want to lie and look
Into your blessed eyes;
’Tis weary months since thus they shone
So free from all disguise.
And when I saw you march away,
Without one parting word,
While the brave hearts of your regiment,
By martial notes were stirred,
I felt the ice within my heart,
The ﬁre within my brain;
And all my life since then has been
One long-enduring pain!
Ah, God! if I could live, darling!
Live but for your dear sake;
To think that I must leave you now,
My heart is like to break!
And yet ’tis not such weary pain
As when you went away;
Oh, I suffered and I missed you so,
Through every dreary day!
And then ’twas dreadful, when the night
Brought back your darling face,
And gave me in a mocking dream
Its dear, remembered grace,
To start and stretch my yearning arms
And clasp the empty air,—
To waken in the cold and dark
And feel you were not there!
To know that you were lost, darling,
To me forevermore,—
To know my soul’s young life had shed
The freshness that it wore
When we walked together hand in hand,
And I looked up to you,
To read within your eyes your thought
Of all that I might do!
Too late, too late I found, darling,
You were the world to me!
My highest pride, no matter what
The careless eye might see.
But I never wronged you, even in thought,—
My pulse’s lightest beat
Was yours, even as the faithful heart
You trampled ’neath your feet.
But now you know it all, darling,
You know that I was true,—
They could not stir one bitter thought
For all that they could do;
Within your strong and tender arms
This last time let me lie,
And tell that you love me, dear,
Once more before I die!
I do not mind it now, darling;
Here, take my hand in thine,—
You may ﬁnd a brighter, fairer face,
But ne’er a heart like mine!
Oh, hold me closer, closer yet!
And kiss me ere we part!
I’d rather die and keep your love,
Than live and lose your heart!
Evening shades are falling, dearest,
Night is drawing on,
And the sweet stars look out shyly,
Slowly, one by one;
And I count them, with my forehead
Pressed against the pane;
We did it once together, dearest,
Now I do so once again.
When I fold my hands, dearest,
To breathe a “good-night” prayer,
Whose name is it lingers longest
On the evening air?
Yours. And then I slumber softly;
For I know our Lord
Through the night’s long hours of darkness
Hath you in His ward!
How much I think of you, dearest!
I know that very oft
My features rise before you,
And then your voice grows soft;
They do not know the reason
It thrills and trembles so;
’Tis the beautiful heart-music
That makes it sweet and low!
God bless you! my own darling,
And keep you pure and fair;
May the calm glory of your eyes
Be darkened by no care;
Your love, the dearest next to God’s,—
Your worth, my highest pride;
Sweet angels guard your homeward path,
And haste you to my side!
But if —ah, God! the bitter thought!—
You should not come again,—
If you should lie out, cold and still,
Among the battle’s slain,—
I could not bear such anguish, love,
For all that I could do;
I know my widowed heart would break,
And I should perish too!
So they will not ﬁght! those branded men,
Whose crime is a dusky skin;
They are dark without, so ’tis fair to think
The blood must be pale within!
They will not ﬁght? You have crushed them long,
They’ve forgotten the way to turn!
They have brains, and yet they remember not;
And hearts, but they never burn!
So, they will not ﬁght? You remember how
They cowered in last July? *
They had done no wrong, but their skins were black,
’Twas ﬁtting that they should die!
They did not ﬁght, but they stand to-day,
As stanchly as fairer men;
They are helping you on to your triumph now,
Who were hunted and tortured then!
Oh, ye will not take in a kindly clasp,
The hand that is darker than yours!
And ye will not walk in a plainer light,
Nor bury these ancient scores!
Oh, shame for your senseless and narrow creed!
And shame for your savage hate!
And shame for the dulness that does not know,
Like ever will seek its mate!
“Free,” not “equal,” for Mind must rule,
And Mind must decide the caste;
And the largest brain, though the lowest down,
Must go highest up, at the last.
What is it ye fear, if Mind must rule,
And the earth is so very wide?
Oh, shame for your shortness of mental sight!
And shame for your shallow pride!
So they will not ﬁght? But the grim old man*
Will tell you another tale,—
Fort Pillow’s their St. Bartholomew!
Sepoys of the South, grow pale!
Perhaps, when they hallow this common cause
With their thousands of nameless graves,
Your selﬁsh hearts will proclaim at last,
They are men, and they are not slaves!
There was no feasting when he marched away,
No patriotic speeches;
His calm belief in Right had placed him where
No egotism reaches.
He was above them all, —that motley crowd,
Enthusiasts and pretenders,
Who make long speeches, and who love to call
Themselves the land’s defenders!
Then he went gravely, earnestly to work,
And lo, a great sensation!
For soon they found he was the only man,
With skill to serve the nation.
And so they said, “Among the men who aspire
To ofﬁce let us rank you;”
But he was neither fool nor knave, and said,
Decidedly, “No, thank you.”
At last they gave up trying to make him talk,
And cheered for him immensely;
But he held quiet, and was not satisﬁed,
Unless he worked intensely.
“One still, strong man!” We’ve waited long for him;
He lives by acts, not speeches.
Legion of talkers! do you heed the truth
His life-endeavor teaches?
February 14, 1864
Brave, generous soul! I grasp the hand
Which instinct teaches me is true;
This were indeed a royal world,
If all were like to you!
You know my story. In my youth
The hand of God fell heavily
Upon me, —and I knew my life
From thence must silent be.
I think my will was broken then,—
The proud, high spirit, tamed by pain;
And so the griefs of later days
Cannot distract my brain.
But my poor life, so silence-bound,
Reached blindly out its helpless hands,
Craving the love and tenderness
Which every soul demands.
I learned to read in every face
The deep emotions of the heart;
For Nature to the stricken one
Had given this simple art.
The world of sound was not for me;
But then I sought in friendly eyes
A soothing for my bitter loss,
When memories would rise.
And I was happy as a child,
If I could read a friendly thought
In the warm sunshine of a face,
The which my trust had wrought.
* * * * * *
But then, at last, they bade me hope,
They told me all might yet be well;
Oh! the wild war of joy and fear,
I have not strength to tell!
* * * * * *
Oh, heavier fell the shadow then!
And thick the darkness on my brain,
When hope forever ﬂed my heart,
And left me only pain.
But when we hope not we are calm,
And I shall learn to bear my cross,
And God, in some mysterious way,
Will recompense this loss.
And every throb of spirit-pain
Shall help to sanctify my soul,—
Shall set a brightness on my brow,
And harmonize my whole!
By suffering weakened, still I stand
In patient waiting for the peace
Which cometh on the Future’s wing, —
I wait for God’s release!
A nation’s tears! A nation’s pains!
The record of a nation’s loss!
My God! forgive me if I groan
Beneath my lighter cross!
Henceforth, thou dear, bereavèd land!
I keep with thee thy vigil-night;
My prayers, my tears, are all for thee, —
God and the deathless Right!
O brave and gentle hero-soul!
O spirit tender, tried, and true!
How could I close my record here,
Without one little word for you?
Whose stronger arm has held me up,
Whose stronger heart has strengthened mine,
Whose eye was always ﬁrst to see
The meaning of God’s deep design!
Whose deeds were noble, ﬁrst and last,
As tale of ancient chivalry;
Whose sweet, exceeding faithfulness,
Made life so beautiful for me!
Whose teachings ﬁlled my spirit with
This strong, unfaltering belief,
That God’s good hand will save the right,
Through failure and bewildering grief.
Ah! no caressing hand is laid
In commendation on my head,
My soul, dividing time and space,
Is leaning toward yours instead!
I cannot think it vainly yearns
To reach you, though bereaved I stand;
Though it is bitter pain to miss
The touch of your protecting hand.
Not lost, but absent! Will you take
These ﬁrst-fruits of a younger soul?
You know how long ago God gave
Its throbbings into your control.
* The battery of Charleston harbor.
* The New York riots, July, 1863.