The Night March
With banners furled and clarions mute,
An army passes in the night;
And beaming spears and helms salute
The dark with bright.
In silence deep the legions stream,
With open ranks, in order true;
Over boundless plains they stream and
No chief in view!
Afar, in twinkling distance lost,
(So legends tell) he lonely wends
And back through all that shining host
His mandate sends.
Ye elms that wave on Malvern Hill
In prime of morn and May,
Recall ye how McClellan's men
Here stood at bay?
While deep within yon forest dim
Our rigid comrades lay -
Some with the cartridge in their mouth,
Others with fixed arms lifted South -
The cypress glades? Ah wilds of woe!
The spires of Richmond, late beheld
Through rifts in musket-haze,
Were closed from view in clouds of dust
On leaf-walled ways,
Where streamed our wagons in caravan;
And the Seven Nights and Days
Of march and fast, retreat and fight,
Pinched our grimed faces to ghastly plight -
Does the elm wood
Recall the haggard beards of blood?
The battle-smoked flag, with stars eclipsed,
We followed (it never fell!) -
In silence husbanded our strength -
Received their yell;
Till on this slope we patient turned
With cannon ordered well;
Reverse we proved was not defeat;
But ah, the sod what thousands meet! -
Does Malvern Wood
Bethink itself, and muse and brood?
We elms of Malvern Hill
Remember every thing;
But sap the twig will fill:
Wag the world how it will,
Leaves must be green in Spring.
The March Into Viriginia
Did all the lets and bars appear
To every just or larger end,
Whence should come the trust and cheer?
Youth must its ignorant impulse lend -
Age finds place in the rear.
All wars are boyish, and are fought by boys,
The champions and enthusiasts of the state:
Turbid adors and vain joys
Not barrenly abate -
Stimulants to the power mature,
Preparatives of fate.
Who here forecasteth the event?
What heart but spurns at precedent
And warnings of the wise,
Contemned foreclosures of surprise?
The banners play, the bugles call,
The air is blue and prodigal.
No berrying party, pleasure-wooed,
No picnic party in the May,
Ever went less loth than they
Into that leafy neighborhood.
In Bacchic glee they file toward Fate,
Expectancy, and glad surmise
Of battle's unknown mysteries,
All they feel is this: 'tis glory,
A rapture sharp, though transitory,
Yet lasting in belaureled story.
So they gayly go to fight,
Chanting left and laughing right.
But some who this blithe mood present,
As on in lightsome files they fare,
Shall die experienced ere three days are spent -
Perish, enlightened by the vollied glare;
Or shame survive, and, like to adamant,
The throe of Second Manassas share.
The March To The Sea
Not Kenesaw high-arching,
Nor Allatoona's glen--
Though there the graves lie parching--
Stayed Sherman's miles of men;
From charred Atlanta marching
They launched the sword again.
The columns streamed like rivers
Which in their course agree,
And they streamed until their flashing
Met the flashing of the sea:
It was glorious glad marching,
That marching to the sea.
The brushed the foe before them
(Shall gnats impede the bull?);
Their own good bridges bore them
Over swamps or torrents full,
And the grand pines waving o'er them
Bowed to axes keen and cool.
The columns grooved their channels.
Enforced their own decree,
And their power met nothing larger
Until it met the sea:
It was glorious glad marching,
A marching glad and free.
Kilpatrick's snare of riders
In zigzags mazed the land,
Perplexed the pale Southsiders
With feints on every hand;
Vague menace awed the hiders
In forts beyond command.
To Sherman's shifting problem
No foeman knew the key;
But onward went the marching
Unpausing to the sea:
It was glorious glad marching,
The swinging step was free.
The flankers ranged like pigeons
In clouds through field or wood;
The flocks of all those regions,
The herds and horses good,
Poured in and swelled the legions,
For they caught the marching mood.
A volley ahead! They hear it;
And they hear the repartee:
Fighting was but frolic
In that marching to the sea:
It was glorious glad marching,
A marching bold and free.
All nature felt their coming,
The birds like couriers flew,
And the banners brightly blooming
The slaves by thousands drew,
And they marched beside the drumming,
And they joined the armies blue.
The cocks crowed from the cannon
(Pets named from Grant and Lee),
Plumed fighters and campaigners
In the marching to the sea:
It was glorious glad marching,
For every man was free.
The foragers through calm lands
Swept in tempest gay,
And they breathed the air of balm-lands
Where rolled savannas lay,
And they helped themselves from farm-lands--
As who should say them nay?
The regiments uproarious
Laughed in Plenty's glee;
And they marched till their broad laughter
Met the laughter of the sea:
It was glorious glad marching,
That marching to the sea.
The grain of endless acres
Was threshed (as in the East)
By the trampling of the Takers,
Strong march of man and beast;
The flails of those earth-shakers
Left a famine where they ceased.
The arsenals were yielded;
The sword (that was to be),
Arrested in the forging,
Rued that marching to the sea:
It was glorious glad marching,
But ah, the stern decree!
For behind they left a wailing,
A terror and a ban,
And blazing cinders sailing,
And houseless households wan,
Wide zones of counties paling,
And towns where maniacs ran.
Was it Treason's retribution--
Necessity the plea?
They will long remember Sherman
And his streaming columns free--
They will long remember Sherman
Marching to the sea.
By chapel bare, with walls sea-beat
The lichened urns in wilds are lost
About a carved memorial stone
That shows, decayed and coral-mossed,
A form recumbent, swords at feet,
Trophies at head, and kelp for a
I invoke thy ghost, neglected fane,
Washed by the waters' long lament;
I adjure the recumbent effigy
To tell the cenotaph's intent--
Reveal why fagotted swords are at feet,
Why trophies appear and weeds are the
By open ports the Admiral sits,
And shares repose with guns that tell
Of power that smote the arm'd Plate Fleet
Whose sinking flag-ship's colors fell;
But over the Admiral floats in light
His squadron's flag, the red-cross Flag
of the White.
The eddying waters whirl astern,
The prow, a seedsman, sows the spray;
With bellying sails and buckling spars
The black hull leaves a Milky Way;
Her timbers thrill, her batteries roll,
She revelling speeds exulting with pennon
But ah, for standards captive trailed
For all their scutcheoned castles' pride--
Castilian towers that dominate Spain,
Naples, and either Ind beside;
Those haughty towers, armorial ones,
Rue the salute from the Admiral's dens
Ensigns and arms in trophy brave,
Braver for many a rent and scar,
The captor's naval hall bedeck,
Spoil that insures an earldom's star--
Toledoes great, grand draperies, too,
Spain's steel and silk, and splendors from
But crippled part in splintering fight,
The vanquished flying the victor's flags,
With prize-crews, under convoy-guns,
Heavy the fleet from Opher drags--
The Admiral crowding sail ahead,
Foremost with news who foremost in conflict
But out from cloistral gallery dim,
In early night his glance is thrown;
He marks the vague reserve of heaven,
He feels the touch of ocean lone;
Then turns, in frame part undermined,
Nor notes the shadowing wings that fan
There, peaked and gray, three haglets fly,
And follow, follow fast in wake
Where slides the cabin-lustre shy,
And sharks from man a glamour take,
Seething along the line of light
In lane that endless rules the war-ship's flight.
The sea-fowl here, whose hearts none know,
They followed late the flag-ship quelled,
(As now the victor one) and long
Above her gurgling grave, shrill held
With screams their wheeling rites--then sped
Direct in silence where the victor led.
Now winds less fleet, but fairer, blow,
A ripple laps the coppered side,
While phosphor sparks make ocean gleam,
Like camps lit up in triumph wide;
With lights and tinkling cymbals meet
Acclaiming seas the advancing conqueror
But who a flattering tide may trust,
Or favoring breeze, or aught in end?--
Careening under startling blasts
The sheeted towers of sails impend;
While, gathering bale, behind is bred
A livid storm-bow, like a rainbow dead.
At trumpet-call the topmen spring;
And, urged by after-call in stress,
Yet other tribes of tars ascend
The rigging's howling wilderness;
But ere yard-ends alert they win,
Hell rules in heaven with hurricane-fire
The spars, athwart at spiry height,
Like quaking Lima's crosses rock;
Like bees the clustering sailors cling
Against the shrouds, or take the shock
Flat on the swept yard-arms aslant,
Dipped like the wheeling condor's pinions
A LULL! and tongues of languid flame
Lick every boom, and lambent show
Electric 'gainst each face aloft;
The herds of clouds with bellowings go:
The black ship rears--beset--harassed,
Then plunges far with luminous antlers vast.
In trim betimes they turn from land,
Some shivered sails and spars they stow;
One watch, dismissed, they troll the can,
While loud the billow thumps the bow--
Vies with the fist that smites the board,
Obstreperous at each reveller's jovial word.
Of royal oak by storms confirmed,
The tested hull her lineage shows:
Vainly the plungings whelm her prow--
She rallies, rears, she sturdier grows:
Each shot-hole plugged, each storm-sail home,
With batteries housed she rams the watery
DIM seen adrift through driving scud,
The wan moon shows in plight forlorn;
Then, pinched in visage, fades and fades
Like to the faces drowned at morn,
When deeps engulfed the flag-ship's crew,
And, shrilling round, the inscrutable haglets
And still they fly, nor now they cry,
But constant fan a second wake,
Unflagging pinions ply and ply,
Abreast their course intent they take;
Their silence marks a stable mood,
They patient keep their eager neighborhood.
Plumed with a smoke, a confluent sea,
Heaved in a combing pyramid full,
Spent at its climax, in collapse
Down headlong thundering stuns the hull:
The trophy drops; but, reared again,
Shows Mars' high-altar and contemns the
REBUILT it stands, the brag of arms,
Transferred in site--no thought of where
The sensitive needle keeps its place,
And starts, disturbed, a quiverer there;
The helmsman rubs the clouded glass--
Peers in, but lets the trembling portent pass.
Let pass as well his shipmates do
(Whose dream of power no tremors jar)
Fears for the fleet convoyed astern:
'Our flag they fly, they share our star;
Spain's galleons great in hull are stout:
Manned by our men--like us they'll ride it
Tonight's the night that ends the week--
Ends day and week and month and year:
A fourfold imminent flickering time,
For now the midnight draws anear:
Eight bells! and passing-bells they be--
The Old year fades, the Old Year dies at sea.
He launched them well. But shall the New
Redeem the pledge the Old Year made,
Or prove a self-asserting heir?
But healthy hearts few qualms invade:
By shot-chests grouped in bays 'tween guns
The gossips chat, the grizzled, sea-beat ones.
And boyish dreams some graybeards blab:
'To sea, my lads, we go no more
Who share the Acapulco prize;
We'll all night in, and bang the door;
Our ingots red shall yield us bliss:
Lads, golden years begin to-night with this!'
Released from deck, yet waiting call,
Glazed caps and coats baptized in storm,
A watch of Laced Sleeves round the board
Draw near in heart to keep them warm:
'Sweethearts and wives!' clink, clink, they
And, quaffing, dip in wine their beards of
'Ay, let the star-light stay withdrawn,
So here her hearth-light memory fling,
So in this wine-light cheer be born,
And honor's fellowship weld our ring--
Honor! our Admiral's aim foretold:
_A tomb or a trophy,_ and lo, 't is a trophy and
But he, a unit, sole in rank,
Apart needs keep his lonely state,
The sentry at his guarded door
Mute as by vault the sculptured Fate;
Belted he sits in drowsy light,
And, hatted, nods--the Admiral of the White.
He dozes, aged with watches passed--
Years, years of pacing to and fro;
He dozes, nor attends the stir
In bullioned standards rustling low,
Nor minds the blades whose secret thrill
Perverts overhead the magnet's Polar will:--
LESS heeds the shadowing three that play
And follow, follow fast in wake,
Untiring wing and lidless eye--
Abreast their course intent they take;
Or sigh or sing, they hold for good
The unvarying flight and fixed inveterate
In dream at last his dozings merge,
In dream he reaps his victor's fruit;
The Flags-o'-the-Blue, the Flags-o'-the-Red,
Dipped flags of his country's fleets salute
His Flag-o'-the-White in harbor proud--
But why should it blench? Why turn to a
The hungry seas they hound the hull,
The sharks they dog the haglets' flight;
With one consent the winds, the waves
In hunt with fins and wings unite,
While drear the harps in cordage sound
Remindful wails for old Armadas drowned.
Ha--yonder! are they Northern Lights?
Or signals flashed to warn or ward?
Yea, signals lanced in breakers high;
But doom on warning follows hard:
While yet they veer in hope to shun,
They strike! and thumps of hull and heart are
But beating hearts a drum-beat calls
And prompt the men to quarters go;
Discipline, curbing nature, rules--
Heroic makes who duty know:
They execute the trump's command,
Or in peremptory places wait and stand.
Yet cast about in blind amaze--
As through their watery shroud they peer:
'We tacked from land: then how betrayed?
Have currents swerved us--snared us here?'
None heed the blades that clash in place
Under lamps dashed down that lit the
Ah, what may live, who mighty swim,
Or boat-crew reach that shore forbid,
Or cable span? Must victors drown--
Perish, even as the vanquished did?
Man keeps from man the stifled moan;
They shouldering stand, yet each in heart
Some heaven invoke; but rings of reefs
Prayer and despair alike deride
In dance of breakers forked or peaked,
Pale maniacs of the maddened tide;
While, strenuous yet some end to earn,
The haglets spin, though now no more astern.
Like shuttles hurrying in the looms
Aloft through rigging frayed they ply--
Cross and recross--weave and inweave,
Then lock the web with clinching cry
Over the seas on seas that clasp
The weltering wreck where gurgling ends the
Ah, for the Plate-Fleet trophy now,
The victor's voucher, flags and arms;
Never they'll hang in Abbey old
And take Time's dust with holier palms;
Nor less content, in liquid night,
Their captor sleeps--the Admiral of the
Imbedded deep with shells
And drifted treasure deep,
Forever he sinks deeper in
His cannon round him thrown,
His sailors at his feet,
The wizard sea enchanting them
Where never haglets beat.
On nights when meteors play
And light the breakers dance,
The Oreads from the caves
With silvery elves advance;
And up from ocean stream,
And down from heaven far,
The rays that blend in dream
The abysm and the star.
Sunning ourselves in October on a day
Balmy as spring, though the year was in decay,
I lading my pipe, she stirring her tea,
My old woman she says to me,
'Feel ye, old man, how the season mellows?'
And why should I not, blessed heart alive,
Here mellowing myself, past sixty-five,
To think o' the May-time o' pennoned young
This stripped old hulk here for years may
Ere yet, long ago, we were spliced, Bonny Blue,
(Silvery it gleams down the moon-glade o' time,
Ah, sugar in the bowl and berries in the prime!)
Coxswain I o' the Commodore's crew,--
Under me the fellows that manned his fine gig,
Spinning him ashore, a king in full fig.
Chirrupy even when crosses rubbed me,
Bridegroom Dick lieutenants dubbed me.
Pleasant at a yarn, Bob o' Linkum in a song,
Diligent in duty and nattily arrayed,
Favored I was, wife, and _fleeted_ right along;
And though but a tot for such a tall grade,
A high quartermaster at last I was made.
All this, old lassie, you have heard before,
But you listen again for the sake e'en o' me;
No babble stales o' the good times o' yore
To Joan, if Darby the babbler be.
Babbler?--O' what? Addled brains, they
O--quartermaster I; yes, the signals set,
Hoisted the ensign, mended it when frayed,
Polished up the binnacle, minded the helm,
And prompt every order blithely obeyed.
To me would the officers say a word cheery--
Break through the starch o' the quarter-deck
His coxswain late, so the Commodore's pet.
Ay, and in night-watches long and weary,
Bored nigh to death with the navy etiquette,
Yearning, too, for fun, some younker, a cadet,
Dropping for time each vain bumptious trick,
Boy-like would unbend to Bridegroom Dick.
But a limit there was--a check, d' ye see:
Those fine young aristocrats knew their degree.
Well, stationed aft where their lordships
Seldom _going_ forward excepting to sleep,--
I, boozing now on by-gone years,
My betters recall along with my peers.
Recall them? Wife, but I see them plain:
Alive, alert, every man stirs again.
Ay, and again on the lee-side pacing,
My spy-glass carrying, a truncheon in show,
Turning at the taffrail, my footsteps retracing,
Proud in my duty, again methinks I go.
And Dave, Dainty Dave, I mark where he
Our trim sailing-master, to time the high-noon,
That thingumbob sextant perplexing eyes and
Squinting at the sun, or twigging o' the moon;
Then, touching his cap to Old Chock-a-Block
Commanding the quarter-deck,--'Sir, twelve
Where sails he now, that trim sailing-master,
Slender, yes, as the ship's sky-s'l pole?
Dimly I mind me of some sad disaster--
Dainty Dave was dropped from the navy-roll!
And ah, for old Lieutenant Chock-a-Block--
Fast, wife, chock-fast to death's black dock!
Buffeted about the obstreperous ocean,
Fleeted his life, if lagged his promotion.
Little girl, they are all, all gone, I think,
Leaving Bridegroom Dick here with lids that
Where is Ap Catesby? The fights fought of
Famed him, and laced him with epaulets, and
But fame is a wake that after-wakes cross,
And the waters wallow all, and laugh
_Where's the loss?_
But John Bull's bullet in his shoulder bearing
Ballasted Ap in his long sea-faring.
The middies they ducked to the man who had
With Decatur in the gun-room, or forward
Fighting beside Perry, Hull, Porter, and the
Humped veteran o' the Heart-o'-Oak war,
Moored long in haven where the old heroes are,
Never on _you_ did the iron-clads jar!
Your open deck when the boarder assailed,
The frank old heroic hand-to-hand then availed.
But where's Guert Gan? Still heads he the van?
As before Vera-Cruz, when he dashed splashing
The blue rollers sunned, in his brave gold-and-
And, ere his cutter in keel took the strand,
Aloft waved his sword on the hostile land!
Went up the cheering, the quick chanticleering;
All hands vying--all colors flying:
'Cock-a-doodle-doo!' and 'Row, boys, row!'
'Hey, Starry Banner!' 'Hi, Santa Anna!'
Old Scott's young dash at Mexico.
Fine forces o' the land, fine forces o' the sea,
Fleet, army, and flotilla--tell, heart o' me,
Tell, if you can, whereaway now they be!
But ah, how to speak of the hurricane
The Union's strands parted in the hawser
Our flag blown to shreds, anchors gone
The dashed fleet o' States in Secession's foul
Lost in the smother o' that wide public stress,
In hearts, private hearts, what ties there were
Tell, Hal--vouch, Will, o' the ward-room mess,
On you how the riving thunder-bolt clapped.
With a bead in your eye and beads in your glass,
And a grip o' the flipper, it was part and pass:
'Hal, must it be: Well, if come indeed the
To North or to South, let the victory cleave,
Vaunt it he may on his dung-hill the cock,
But _Uncle Sam's_ eagle never crow will,
Sentiment: ay, while suspended hung all,
Ere the guns against Sumter opened there
And partners were taken, and the red dance
War's red dance o' death!--Well, we, to a man,
We sailors o' the North, wife, how could we
Strike with your kin, and you stick to the flag!
But to sailors o' the South that easy way was
To some, dame, believe (and I speak o' what I
Wormwood the trial and the Uzzite's black
And the faithfuller the heart, the crueller the
Duty? It pulled with more than one string,
This way and that, and anyhow a sting.
The flag and your kin, how be true unto both?
If either plight ye keep, then ye break the other
But elect here they must, though the casuists
Decide--hurry up--and throttle every doubt.
Of all these thrills thrilled at keelson, and
Little felt the shoddyites a-toasting o' their
In mart and bazar Lucre chuckled the huzza,
Coining the dollars in the bloody mint of war.
But in men, gray knights o' the Order o' Scars,
And brave boys bound by vows unto Mars,
Nature grappled honor, intertwisting in the
But some cut the knot with a thoroughgoing
For how when the drums beat? How in the fray
In Hampton Roads on the fine balmy day?
There a lull, wife, befell--drop o' silent in the
Let us enter that silence ere the belchings
Through a ragged rift aslant in the cannonade's
An iron-clad reveals her repellent broadside
Bodily intact. But a frigate, all oak,
Shows honeycombed by shot, and her deck
And a trumpet from port of the iron-clad hails,
Summoning the other, whose flag never trails:
'Surrender that frigate, Will! Surrender,
Or I will sink her--_ram_, and end her!'
'T was Hal. And Will, from the naked heart-o'-oak,
Will, the old messmate, minus trumpet, spoke,
Informally intrepid,--'Sink her, and be
damned!'* [* Historic.]
Enough. Gathering way, the iron-clad _rammed_.
The frigate, heeling over, on the wave threw a
Not sharing in the slant, the clapper of her bell
The fixed metal struck--uinvoked struck the
Of the _Cumberland_ stillettoed by the
While, broken in the wound underneath the
Like a sword-fish's blade in leviathan waylaid,
The tusk was left infixed in the fast-foundering
There, dungeoned in the cockpit, the wounded
And the chaplain with them. But the surges
The prone dead from deck, and for moment
Washed with the swimmers, and the spent
Nine fathom did she sink,--erect, though hid
Save her colors unsurrendered and spars that
kept the height.
Nay, pardon, old aunty! Wife, never let it fall,
That big started tear that hovers on the brim;
I forgot about your nephew and the _Merrimac's_
No more then of her, since it summons up him.
But talk o' fellows' hearts in the wine's genial
Trap them in the fate, jam them in the strait,
Guns speak their hearts then, and speak
The troublous colic o' intestine war
It sets the bowels o' affection ajar.
But, lord, old dame, so spins the whizzing world,
A humming-top, ay, for the little boy-gods
Flogging it well with their smart little rods,
Tittering at time and the coil uncurled.
Now, now, sweetheart, you sidle away,
No, never you like _that_ kind o' _gay;_
But sour if I get, giving truth her due,
Honey-sweet forever, wife, will Dick be to you!
But avast with the War! 'Why recall racking
Since set up anew are the slip's started stays?
Nor less, though the gale we have left behind,
Well may the heave o' the sea remind.
It irks me now, as it troubled me then,
To think o' the fate in the madness o' men.
If Dick was with Farragut on the night-river,
When the boom-chain we burst in the fire-raft's
That blood-dyed the visage as red as the liver;
In the _Battle for the Bay_ too if Dick had a
And saw one aloft a-piloting the war--
Trumpet in the whirlwind, a Providence in
Our Admiral old whom the captains huzza,
Dick joys in the man nor brags about the race.
But better, wife, I like to booze on the days
Ere the Old Order foundered in these very
And tradition was lost and we learned strange
Often I think on the brave cruises then;
Re-sailing them in memory, I hail the press o'
On the gunned promenade where rolling they
Ere the dog-watch expire and break up the
The Laced Caps I see between forward guns;
Away from the powder-room they puff the
'Three days more, hey, the donnas and the
'Your Zeres widow, will you hunt her up,
The Laced Caps laugh, and the bright waves
Very jolly, very wicked, both sea and crew,
Nor heaven looks sour on either, I guess,
Nor Pecksniff he bosses the gods' high mess.
Wistful ye peer, wife, concerned for my head,
And how best to get me betimes to my bed.
But king o' the club, the gayest golden spark,
Sailor o' sailors, what sailor do I mark?
Tom Tight, Tom Tight, no fine fellow finer,
A cutwater nose, ay, a spirited soul;
But, bowsing away at the well-brewed bowl,
He never bowled back from that last voyage to
Tom was lieutenant in the brig-o'-war famed
When an officer was hung for an arch-mutineer,
But a mystery cleaved, and the captain was
And a rumpus too raised, though his honor
it was clear.
And Tom he would say, when the mousers
would try him,
And with cup after cup o' Burgundy ply him:
'Gentlemen, in vain with your wassail you
For the more I tipple, the tighter do I get.'
No blabber, no, not even with the can--
True to himself and loyal to his clan.
Tom blessed us starboard and d--d us larboard,
Right down from rail to the streak o' the
Nor less, wife, we liked him.--Tom was a man
In contrast queer with Chaplain Le Fan,
Who blessed us at morn, and at night yet again,
D--ning us only in decorous strain;
Preaching 'tween the guns--each cutlass in its
From text that averred old Adam a hard case.
I see him--Tom--on _horse-block_ standing,
Trumpet at mouth, thrown up all amain,
An elephant's bugle, vociferous demanding
Of topmen aloft in the hurricane of rain,
'Letting that sail there your faces flog?
Manhandle it, men, and you'll get the good
O Tom, but he knew a blue-jacket's ways,
And how a lieutenant may genially haze;
Only a sailor sailors heartily praise.
Wife, where be all these chaps, I wonder?
Trumpets in the tempest, terrors in the fray,
Boomed their commands along the deck like
But silent is the sod, and thunder dies away.
But Captain Turret, _'Old Hemlock'_ tall,
(A leaning tower when his tank brimmed all,)
Manoeuvre out alive from the war did he?
Or, too old for that, drift under the lee?
Kentuckian colossal, who, touching at Madeira,
The huge puncheon shipped o' prime
Then rocked along the deck so solemnly!
No whit the less though judicious was enough
In dealing with the Finn who made the great
Our three-decker's giant, a grand boatswain's
Manliest of men in his own natural senses;
But driven stark mad by the devil's drugged
Storming all aboard from his run-ashore late,
Challenging to battle, vouchsafing no pretenses,
A reeling King Ogg, delirious in power,
The quarter-deck carronades he seemed to
'Put him in _brig_ there!' said Lieutenant
'Put him in _brig!_' back he mocked like a
'Try it, then!' swaying a fist like Thor's
And making the pigmy constables hedge--
Ship's corporals and the master-at-arms.
'In _brig_ there, I say!'--They dally no more;
Like hounds let slip on a desperate boar,
Together they pounce on the formidable Finn,
Pinion and cripple and hustle him in.
Anon, under sentry, between twin guns,
He slides off in drowse, and the long night runs.
Morning brings a summons. Whistling it calls,
Shrilled through the pipes of the boatswain's
Trilled down the hatchways along the dusk
_Muster to the Scourge!_--Dawn of doom and
As from cemeteries raised, sailors swarm before
Tumbling up the ladders from the ship's nether
Keeping in the background and taking small
Lounging at their ease, indifferent in face,
Behold the trim marines uncompromised in
Their Major, buttoned up, near the staff finds
The staff o' lieutenants standing grouped in
All the Laced Caps o' the ward-room come,
The Chaplain among them, disciplined and
The blue-nosed boatswain, complexioned like
Like a blue Monday lours--his implements in
Executioners, his aids, a couple by him stand,
At a nod there the thongs to receive from his hand.
Never venturing a caveat whatever may betide,
Though functionally here on humanity's side,
The grave Surgeon shows, like the formal
Attending the rack o' the Spanish Inquisition.
The angel o' the 'brig' brings his prisoner up;
Then, steadied by his old _Santa-Clara_, a sup,
Heading all erect, the ranged assizes there,
Lo, Captain Turret, and under starred
(A florid full face and fine silvered hair,)
Gigantic the yet greater giant confronting.
Now the culprit he liked, as a tall captain can
A Titan subordinate and true _sailor-man;_
And frequent he'd shown it--no worded
But flattering the Finn with a well-timed glance.
But what of that now? In the martinet-mien
Read the _Articles of War_, heed the naval
While, cut to the heart a dishonor there to win,
Restored to his senses, stood the Anak Finn;
In racked self-control the squeezed tears
Scalding the eye with repressed inkeeping.
Discipline must be; the scourge is deemed due.
But ah for the sickening and strange heart-
Compassionate abasement in shipmates that view;
Such a grand champion shamed there succumbing!
'Brown, tie him up.'--The cord he brooked:
How else?--his arms spread apart--never
No, never he flinched, never sideways he looked,
Peeled to the waistband, the marble flesh
Lashed by the sleet the officious winds urge.
In function his fellows their fellowship merge--
The twain standing nigh--the two boatswain's
Sailors of his grade, ay, and brothers of his
With sharp thongs adroop the junior one
The word to uplift.
Submission is enough, Man, you may go.'
Then, promenading aft, brushing fat Purser
'Flog? Never meant it--hadn't any heart.
Degrade that tall fellow? '--Such, wife, was he,
Old Captain Turret, who the brave wine could
Magnanimous, you think?--But what does
Apron to your eye! Why, never fell a blow;
Cheer up, old wifie, 't was a long time ago.
But where's that sore one, crabbed and-severe,
Lieutenant Lon Lumbago, an arch scrutineer?
Call the roll to-day, would he answer--_Here!_
When the _Blixum's_ fellows to quarters
How he'd lurch along the lane of gun-crews
Testy as touchwood, to pry and to peer.
Jerking his sword underneath larboard arm,
He ground his worn grinders to keep himself
Composed in his nerves, from the fidgets set
Tell, Sweet Wrinkles, alive now is he,
In Paradise a parlor where the even
Where's Commander All-a-Tanto?
Where's Orlop Bob singing up from below?
Where's Rhyming Ned? has he spun his last
Where's Jewsharp Jim? Where's Ringadoon
Ah, for the music over and done,
The band all dismissed save the droned
Where's Glenn o' the gun-room, who loved
Glen, prompt and cool in a perilous watch?
Where's flaxen-haired Phil? a gray lieutenant?
Or rubicund, flying a dignified pennant?
But where sleeps his brother?--the cruise it was
But ah, for death's grip that welcomed him
Where's Sid, the cadet, so frank in his brag,
Whose toast was audacious--'_Here's Sid, and
Like holiday-craft that have sunk unknown,
May a lark of a lad go lonely down?
Who takes the census under the sea?
Can others like old ensigns be,
Bunting I hoisted to flutter at the gaff--
Rags in end that once were flags
Gallant streaming from the staff?
Such scurvy doom could the chances deal
To Top-Gallant Harry and Jack Genteel?
Lo, Genteel Jack in hurricane weather,
Shagged like a bear, like a red lion roaring;
But O, so fine in his chapeau and feather,
In port to the ladies never once _jawing;_
All bland _politesse,_ how urbane was he--
_'Oui, mademoiselle'--'Ma chere amie!'_
'T was Jack got up the ball at Naples,
Gay in the old _Ohio_ glorious;
His hair was curled by the berth-deck barber,
Never you'd deemed him a cub of rude Boreas;
In tight little pumps, with the grand dames in
A-flinging his shapely foot all about;
His watch-chain with love's jeweled tokens
Curls ambrosial shaking out odors,
Waltzing along the batteries, astounding
The gunner glum and the grim-visaged loaders.
Wife, where be all these blades, I wonder,
Pennoned fine fellows, so strong, so gay?
Never their colors with a dip dived under;
Have they hauled them down in a lack-lustre
Or beached their boats in the Far, Far Away?
Hither and thither, blown wide asunder,
Where's this fleet, I wonder and wonder.
Slipt their cables, rattled their adieu,
(Whereaway pointing? to what rendezvous?)
Out of sight, out of mind, like the crack
And many a keel time never shall renew--
_Bon Homme Dick_ o' the buff Revolution,
The _Black Cockade_ and the staunch _True-Blue._
Doff hats to Decatur! But where is his blazon?
Must merited fame endure time's wrong--
Glory's ripe grape wizen up to a raisin?
Yes! for Nature teems, and the years are
And who can keep the tally o' the names that
But his frigate, wife, his bride? Would
Into smithereens smite the solid old renown?
Rivetting the bolts in the iron-clad's shell,
Hark to the hammers with _a rat-tat-tat;_
'Handier a _derby_ than a laced cocked hat!
The _Monitor_ was ugly, but she served us right
Better than the _Cumberland,_ a beauty and the
_Better than the Cumberland!_--Heart alive
That battlemented hull, Tantallon o' the sea,
Kicked in, as at Boston the taxed chests o' tea!
Ay, spurned by the _ram,_ once a tall, shapely
But lopped by the Rebs to an iron-beaked
A blacksmith's unicorn in armor _cap-a-pie_.
Under the water-line a _ram's_ blow is dealt:
And foul fall the knuckles that strike below the
Nor brave the inventions that serve to replace
The openness of valor while dismantling the
Aloof from all this and the never-ending game,
Tantamount to teetering, plot and counterplot;
Impenetrable armor--all-perforating shot;
Aloof, bless God, ride the war-ships of old,
A grand fleet moored in the roadstead of fame;
Not submarine sneaks with _them_ are enrolled;
Their long shadows dwarf us, their flags are as
Don't fidget so, wife; an old man's passion
Amounts to no more than this smoke that I
There, there, now, buss me in good old fashion;
A died-down candle will flicker in the snuff.
But one last thing let your old babbler say,
What Decatur's coxswain said who was long
'Take in your flying-kites, for there comes a
When gallant things will go, and the three-
My pipe is smoked out, and the grog runs
But bowse away, wife, at your blessed Bohea;
This empty can here must needs solace me--
Nay, sweetheart, nay; I take that back;
Dick drinks from your eyes and he finds no
The Scout Toward Aldie
The cavalry-camp lies on the slope
Of what was late a vernal hill,
But now like a pavement bare-
An outpost in the perilous wilds
Which ever are lone and still;
But Mosby's men are there -
Of Mosby best beware.
Great trees the troopers felled, and leaned
In antlered walls about their tents;
Strict watch they kept; 'twas Hark! and Mark!
Unarmed none cared to stir abroad
For berries beyond their forest-fence:
As glides in seas the shark,
Rides Mosby through green dark.
All spake of him, but few had seen
Except the maimed ones or the low;
Yet rumor made him every thing-
The man who crossed the field but now;
A spell about his life did cling -
Who to the ground shall Mosby bring?
The morning-bugles lonely play,
Lonely the evening-bugle calls -
Unanswered voices in the wild;
The settled hush of birds in nest
Becharms, and all the wood enthralls:
Memory's self is so beguiled
That Mosby seems a satyr's child.
They lived as in the Eerie Land-
The fire-flies showed with fairy gleam;
And yet from pine-tops one might ken
The Capitol dome-hazy-sublime-
A vision breaking on a dream:
So strange it was that Mosby's men
Should dare to prowl where the Dome was seen.
A scout toward Aldie broke the spell. -
The Leader lies before his tent
Gazing at heaven's all-cheering lamp
Through blandness of a morning rare;
His thoughts on bitter-sweets are bent:
His sunny bride is in the camp -
But Mosby - graves are beds of damp!
The trumpet calls; he goes within;
But none the prayer and sob may know:
Her hero he, but bridegroom too.
Ah, love in a tent is a queenly thing,
And fame, be sure, refines the vow;
But fame fond wives have lived to rue,
And Mosby's men fell deeds can do.
Tan-tara! tan-tara! tan-tara!
Mounted and armed he sits a king;
For pride she smiles if now she peep -
Elate he rides at the head of his men;
He is young, and command is a boyish thing:
They file out into the forest deep -
Do Mosby and his rangers sleep?
The sun is gold, and the world is green,
Opal the vapors of morning roll;
The champing horses lightly prance -
Full of caprice, and the riders too
Curving in many a caricole.
But marshaled soon, by fours advance -
Mosby had checked that airy dance.
By the hospital-tent the cripples stand -
Bandage, and crutch, and cane, and sling,
And palely eye the brave array;
The froth of the cup is gone for them
(Caw! caw! the crows through the blueness wing);
Yet these were late as bold, as gay;
But Mosby - a clip, and grass is hay.
How strong they feel on their horses free,
Tingles the tendoned thigh with life;
Their cavalry-jackets make boys of all -
With golden breasts like the oriole;
The chat, the jest, and laugh are rife.
But word is passed from the front - a call
For order; the wood is Mosby's hall.
To which behest one rider sly
(Spurred, but unarmed) gave little heed -
Of dexterous fun not slow or spare,
He teased his neighbors of touchy mood,
Into plungings he pricked his steed:
A black-eyed man on a coal-black mare,
Alive as Mosby in mountain air.
His limbs were long, and large and round;
He whispered, winked-did all but shout:
A healthy man for the sick to view;
The taste in his mouth was sweet at morn;
Little of care he cared about.
And yet of pains and pangs he knew -
In others, maimed by Mosby's crew.
The Hospital Steward - even he
(Sacred in person as a priest),
And on his coat-sleeve broidered nice
Wore the caduceus, black and green.
No wonder he sat so light on his beast;
This cheery man in suit of price
Not even Mosby dared to slice.
They pass the picket by the pine
And hollow log - a lonesome place;
His horse adroop, and pistol clean;
'Tis cocked - kept leveled toward the wood;
Strained vigilance ages his childish face.
Since midnight has that stripling been
Peering for Mosby through the green.
Splashing they cross the freshet-flood,
And up the muddy bank they strain;
A horse at the spectral white-ash shies -
One of the span of the ambulance,
Black as a hearse. They give the rein:
Silent speed on a scout were wise,
Could cunning baffle Mosby's spies.
Rumor had come that a band was lodged
In green retreats of hills that peer
By Aldie (famed for the swordless charge).
Much store they'd heaped of captured arms
And, per adventure, pilfered cheer;
For Mosby's lads oft hearts enlarge
In revelry by some gorge's marge.
'Don't let your sabres rattle and ring;
To his oat-bag let each man give heed -
There now, that fellow's bag's untied,
Sowing the road with the precious grain.
Your carbines swing at hand - you need!
Look to yourselves, and your nags beside,
Men who after Mosby ride.'
Picked lads and keen went sharp before -
A guard, though scarce against surprise;
And rearmost rode an answering troop,
But flankers none to right or left.
No bugle peals, no pennon flies:
Silent they sweep, and fain would swoop
On Mosby with an Indian whoop.
On, right on through the forest land,
Nor man, nor maid, nor child was seen -
Not even a dog. The air was still;
The blackened hut they turned to see,
And spied charred benches on the green;
A squirrel sprang from the rotting mill
Whence Mosby sallied late, brave blood to spill.
By worn-out fields they cantered on -
Drear fields amid the woodlands wide;
By cross-roads of some olden time,
In which grew groves; by gate-stones down -
Grassed ruins of secluded pride:
A strange lone land, long past the prime,
Fit land for Mosby or for crime.
The brook in the dell they pass. One peers
Between the leaves: 'Ay, there's the place -
There, on the oozy ledge - 'twas there
We found the body (Blake's you know);
Such whirlings, gurglings round the face -
Shot drinking! Well, in war all's fair -
So Mosby says. The bough - take care!'
Hard by, a chapel. Flower-pot mould
Danked and decayed the shaded roof;
The porch was punk; the clapboards spanned
With ruffled lichens gray or green;
Red coral-moss was not aloof;
And mid dry leaves green dead-man's-hand
Groped toward that chapel in Mosby-land.
They leave the road and take the wood,
And mark the trace of ridges there -
A wood where once had slept the farm -
A wood where once tobacco grew
Drowsily in the hazy air,
And wrought in all kind things a calm -
Such influence, Mosby! bids disarm.
To ease even yet the place did woo -
To ease which pines unstirring share,
For ease the weary horses sighed:
Halting, and slackening girths, they feed,
Their pipes they light, they loiter there;
Then up, and urging still the Guide,
On, and after Mosby ride.
This Guide in frowzy coat of brown,
And beard of ancient growth and mould,
Bestrode a bony steed and strong,
As suited well with bulk he bore -
A wheezy man with depth of hold
Who jouncing went. A staff he swung -
A wight whom Mosby's wasp had stung.
Burnt out and homeless - hunted long!
That wheeze he caught in autumn-wood
Crouching (a fat man) for his life,
And spied his lean son 'mong the crew
That probed the covert. Ah! black blood
Was his 'gainst even child and wife -
Fast friends to Mosby. Such the strife.
A lad, unhorsed by sliding girths,
Strains hard to readjust his seat
Ere the main body show the gap
'Twixt them and the rear-guard; scrub-oaks near
He sidelong eyes, while hands move fleet;
Then mounts and spurs. One drops his cap -
'Let Mosby find!' nor heeds mishap.
A gable time-stained peeps through trees:
'You mind the fight in the haunted house?
That's it; we clenched them in the room -
An ambuscade of ghosts, we thought,
But proved sly rebels on a bouse!
Luke lies in the yard.' The chimneys loom:
Some muse on Mosby - some on doom.
Less nimbly now through brakes they wind,
And ford wild creeks where men have drowned;
They skirt the pool, avoid the fen,
And so till night, when down they lie,
Their steeds still saddled, in wooded ground:
Rein in hand they slumber then,
Dreaming of Mosby's cedarn den.
But Colonel and Major friendly sat
Where boughs deformed low made a seat.
The Young Man talked (all sworded and spurred)
Of the partisan's blade he longed to win,
And frays in which he meant to beat.
The grizzled Major smoked, and heard:
'But what's that - Mosby?' 'No, a bird.'
A contrast here like sire and son,
Hope and Experience sage did meet;
The Youth was brave, the Senior too;
But through the Seven Days one had served,
And gasped with the rear-guard in retreat:
So he smoked and smoked, and the wreath he blew -
'Any sure news of Mosby's crew?'
He smoked and smoked, eyeing the while
A huge tree hydra-like in growth -
Moon-tinged-with crook'd boughs rent or lopped -
Itself a haggard forest. 'Come!'
The Colonel cried, 'to talk you're loath;
D'ye hear? I say he must be stopped,
This Mosby - caged, and hair close cropped.'
'Of course; but what's that dangling there?'
'Where?' 'From the tree - that gallows-bough;
'A bit of frayed bark, is it not?'
'Ay-or a rope; did we hang last? -
Don't like my neckerchief any how;'
He loosened it: 'O ay, we'll stop
This Mosby - but that vile jerk and drop!'
By peep of light they feed and ride,
Gaining a grove's green edge at morn,
And mark the Aldie hills upread
And five gigantic horsemen carved
Clear-cut against the sky withdrawn;
Are more behind? an open snare?
Or Mosby's men but watchmen there?
The ravaged land was miles behind,
And Loudon spread her landscape rare;
Orchards in pleasant lowlands stood,
Cows were feeding, a cock loud crew,
But not a friend at need was there;
The valley-folk were only good
To Mosby and his wandering brood.
What best to do? what mean yon men?
Colonel and Guide their minds compare;
Be sure some looked their Leader through;
Dismounted, on his sword he leaned
As one who feigns an easy air;
And yet perplexed he was they knew -
Perplexed by Mosby's mountain-crew.
The Major hemmed as he would speak,
But checked himself, and left the ring
Of cavalrymen about their Chief -
Young courtiers mute who paid their court
By looking with confidence on their king;
They knew him brave, foresaw no grief -
But Mosby - the time to think is brief.
The Surgeon (sashed in sacred green)
Was glad 'twas not for him to say
What next should be; if a trooper bleeds,
Why he will do his best,as wont,
And his partner in black will aid and pray;
But judgment bides with him who leads,
And Mosby many a problem breeds.
The Surgeon was the kindliest man
That ever a callous trace professed;
He felt for him, that Leader young,
And offered medicine from his flask:
The Colonel took it with marvelous zest.
For such fine medicine good and strong,
Oft Mosby and his foresters long.
A charm of proof. 'Ho, Major, come-
Pounce on yon men! Take half your troop,
Through the thickets wind-pray speedy be-
And gain their read. And, Captain Morn,
Picket these roads-all travelers stop;
The rest to the edge of this crest with me,
That Mosby and his scouts may see.'
Commanded and done. Ere the sun stood steep,
Back came the Blues, with a troop of Grays,
Ten riding double-luckless ten!-
Five horses gone, and looped hats lost,
And love-locks dancing in a maze-
Certes, but sophomores from the glen
Of Mosby-not his veteran men.
'Colonel,' said the Major, touching his cap,
'We've had our ride, and here they are.'
'Well done! How many found you there?'
'As many as I bring you here.'
'And no one hurt?' 'There'll be no scar -
One fool was battered.' 'Find their lair?'
'Why, Mosby's brood camp everywhere.'
He sighed, and slid down from his horse,
And limping went to a spring-head nigh.
'Why, bless me, Major, not hurt, I hope?'
'Battered my knee against a bar
When the rush was made; all right by-and-by. -
Halloa! They gave you too much rope -
Go back to Mosby, eh? elope?'
Just by the low-hanging skirt of wood
The guard, remiss, had given a chance
For a sudden sally into the cover -
But foiled the intent, nor fired a shot,
Though the issue was a deadly trance;
For, hurled 'gainst an oak that humped low over,
Mosby's man fell, pale as a lover.
They pulled some grass his head to ease
(Lined with blue shreds a ground-nest stirred).
The Surgeon came -'Here's a to-do!'
'Ah!' cried the Major, darting a glance,
'This fellow's the one that fired and spurred
Downhill, but met reserves below -
My boys, not Mosby's - so we go!'
The Surgeon - bluff, red, goodly man -
Kneeled by the hurt one; like a bee
He toiled the pale young Chaplain too -
(Who went to the wars for cure of souls,
And his own student-ailments) - he
Bent over likewise; spite the two,
Mosby's poor man more pallid grew.
Meanwhile the mounted captives near
Jested; and yet they anxious showed;
Virginians; some of family-pride,
And young, and full of fire, and fine
In open feature and cheek that glowed;
And here thralled vagabonds now they ride -
But list! one speaks for Mosby's side.
'Why, three to one - your horses strong -
Revolvers, rifles, and a surprise -
Surrender we account no shame!
We live, are gay, and life is hope;
We'll fight again when fight is wise.
There are plenty more from where we came;
But go find Mosby - start the game!'
Yet one there was who looked but glum;
In middle-age, a father he,
And this his first experience too:
'They shot at my heart when my hands were up -
This fighting's crazy work, I see!'
But no one is nigh; what next do?
The woods are mute, and Mosby is the foe.
Save what we've got,' the Major said;
'Bad plan to make a scout too long;
The tide may turn, and drag them back,
And more beside. These rides I've been,
And every time a mine was sprung.
To rescue, mind, they won't be slack -
Look out for Mosby's rifle-crack.'
'We'll welcome it! Give crack for crack!
Peril, old lad, is what I seek.'
'O then, there's plenty to be had -
By all means on, and have our fill!'
With that, grotesque, he writhed his neck,
Showing a scar by buck-shot made -
Kind Mosby's Christmas gift, he said.
'But, Colonel, my prisoners - let a guard
Make sure of them, and lead to camp.
That done, we're free for a dark-room fight
If so you say. 'The other laughed;
'Trust me, Major, nor throw a damp.
But first to try a little sleight -
Sure news of Mosby would suit me quite.'
Herewith he turned - 'Reb, have a dram?'
Holding the Surgeon's flask with a smile
To a young scapegrace from the glen.
'O yes!' he eagerly replied,
'And thank you, Colonel, but - any guile?
For if you think we'll blab - why, then
You don't know Mosby or his men.'
The Leader's genial air relaxed.
'Best give it up,' a whisperer said.
'By heaven, I'll range their rebel den!'
'They'll treat you well,' the captive cried;
'They're all like us - handsome - well bred:
In wood or town, with sword or pen,
Polite is Mosby, and his men.'
'Where were you, lads, last night? - come, tell!'
'We? - at a wedding in the Vale -
The bridegroom our comrade; by his side
Belisent, my cousin - O, so proud
Of her young love with old wounds pale -
A Virginian girl! God bless her pride -
Of a crippled Mosby-man the bride!'
'Four wall shall mend that saucy mood,
And moping prisons tame him down,'
Said Captain Cloud.' God help that day,'
Cried Captain Morn, 'and he so young.
But hark, he sings - a madcap one!'
'O we multiply merrily in the May,
The birds and Mosby's men, they say!'
While echoes ran, a wagon old,
Under stout guard of Corporal Chew
Came up; a lame horse, dingy white,
With clouted harness; ropes in hand,
Cringed the humped driver, black in hue;
By him (for Mosby's band a sight)
A sister-rebel sat, her veil held tight.
'I picked them up,' the Corporal said,
'Crunching their way over stick and root,
Through yonder wood. The man here - Cuff -
Says they are going to Leesburgtown.'
The Colonel's eye took in the group;
The veiled one's hand he spied - enough!
Not Mosby's. Spite the gown's poor stuff,
Off went his hat: 'Lady, fear not;
We soldiers do what we deplore -
I must detain you till we march,'
The stranger nodded. Nettled now,
He grew politer than before: -
'Tis Mosby's fault, this halt and search:'
The lady stiffened in her starch.
'My duty, madam, bids me now
Ask what may seem a little rude.
Pardon - that veil - withdraw it, please
(Corporal! Make every man fall back);
Pray, now I do but what I should;
Bethink you, 'tis in masks like these
That Mosby haunts the villages.'
Slowly the stranger drew her veil,
And looked the Soldier in the eye -
A glance of mingled foul and fair;
Sad patience in a proud disdain,
And more than quietude. A sigh
She heaved, and if all unaware,
And far seemed Mosby from her care.
She came from Yewton Place, her home,
So ravaged by the war's wild play -
Campings, and foragings, and fires -
That now she sought an aunt's abode.
Her kinsmen? In Lee's army, they.
The black? A servant, late her sire's.
And Mosby? Vainly he inquires.
He gazed, and sad she met his eye;
'In the wood yonder were you lost?'
No; at the forks they left the road
Because of hoof-prints (thick they were -
Thick as the words in notes thrice crossed),
And fearful, made that episode.
In fear of Mosby? None she showed.
Her poor attire again he scanned:
'Lady, once more; I grieve to jar
On all sweet usage, but must plead
To have what peeps there from your dress;
That letter - 'tis justly prize of war.'
She started - gave it - she must need.
'Tis not from Mosby? May I read?'
And straight such matter he perused
That with the Guide he went apart.
The Hospital Steward's turn began:
'Must squeeze this darkey; every tap
Of knowledge we are bound to start.'
'Garry,' she said, 'tell all you can
Of Colonel Mosby - that brave man.'
'Dun know much, sare; and missis here
Know less dan me. But dis I know -'
'Well, what?' 'I dun know what I know.'
'A knowing answer!' The hump-back coughed,
Rubbing his yellowish wool-like tow.
'Come - Mosby - tell!' 'O dun look so!
My gal nursed missis - let we go.'
'Go where?' demanded Captain Cloud;
'Back into bondage? Man, you're free!'
'Well, let we free!' The Captain's brow
Lowered; the Colonel came - had heard:
'Pooh! pooh! His simple heart I see -
A faithful servant. -Lady' (a bow),
'Mosby's abroad - with us you'll go.
'Guard! Look to your prisoners; back to camp!
The man in the grass - can he mount and away?
Why, how he groans!' 'Bad inward bruise-
Might lug him along in the ambulance.'
'Coals to Newcastle! Let him stay.
Boots and saddles! - our pains we lose,
Nor care I if Mosby hear the news!'
But word was sent to a house at hand,
And a flask was left by the hurt one's side.
They seized in that same house a man,
Neutral by day, by night a foe -
So charged his neighbor late, the Guide.
A grudge? Hate will do what it can;
Along he went for a Mosby-man.
No secrets now; the bugle calls;
The open road they take, nor shun
The hill; retrace the weary way.
But one there was who whispered low,
'This is a feint - we'll back anon;
Young Hair-Brains don't retreat, they say;
A brush with Mosby is the play!'
They rode till eve. Then on a farm
That lay along a hill-side green,
Bivouacked. Fires were made, and then
Coffee was boiled; a cow was coaxed
And killed, and savory roasts were seen;
And under the lee of a cattle-pen
The guard supped freely with Mosby's men.
The ball was bandied to and fro;
Hits were given and hits were met;
'Chickamauga, Feds - take off your hat!'
'But the Fight in the Clouds repaid you, Rebs!'
'Forgotten about Manassas yet?'
Chatting and chaffing, and tit for tat,
Mosby's clan with the troopers sat.
'Here comes the moon!' a captive cried;
'A song! What say? Archy, my lad!'
Hailing are still one of the clan
(A boyish face with girlish hair),
'Give us that thing poor Pansy made
Last year.' He brightened, and began;
And this was the song of Mosby's man:
Spring is come; she shows her pass -
Wild violets cool!
South of woods a small close grass -
A vernal wool!
Leaves are a'bud on the sassafras-
They'll soon be full;
Blessings on the friendly screen -
I'm for the South! Says the leafage green.
Robins! fly, and take your fill
Of out-of-doors -
Garden, orchard, meadow, hill,
Barns and bowers;
Take your fill, and have your will -
But, bluebirds! Keep away, and fear
The ambuscade in bushes here.
'A green song that,' a sergeant said;
'But where's poor Pansy? Gone, I fear.'
'Ay, mustered out at Ashby's Gap.'
'I see; now for a live man's song;
Ditty for ditty - prepare to cheer.
My bluebirds, you can fling a cap!
You barehead Mosby-boys - why - clap!'
Nine Blue-coats went a-nutting
Slyly in Tennessee-
Not for chestnuts - better than that-
Hugh, you bumble-bee!
Nutting, nutting -
All through the year there's nutting!
A tree they spied so yellow,
Rustling in motion queer;
In they fired, and down they dropped -
Butternuts, my dear!
Who'll 'list to go a-nutting?
Ah! Why should good fellows foe men be?
And who would dream that foes they were -
Larking and singing so friendly then -
A family likeness in every face.
But Captain Cloud made sour demur:
'Guard! Keep your prisoners in the pen,
And let none talk with Mosby's men.'
That captain was a valorous one
(No irony, but honest truth),
Yet down from his brain cold drops distilled,
Making stalactites in his heart -
A conscientious soul, forsooth;
And with a formal hate was filled
Of Mosby's band; and some he'd killed.
Meantime the lady rueful sat,
Watching the flicker of a fire
Where the Colonel played the outdoor host
In brave old hall of ancient Night.
But ever the dame grew shyer and shyer,
Seeming with private grief engrossed -
Grief far from Mosby, housed or lost.
The ruddy embers showed her pale.
The Soldier did his best devoir:
'Some coffee? -no? - cracker? -one?'
Cared for her servant - sought to cheer:
'I know, I know - a cruel war!
But wait - even Mosby'll eat his bun;
The Old Hearth - back to it anon!'
But cordial words no balm could bring;
She sighed, and kept her inward chafe,
And seemed to hate the voice of glee -
Joyless and tearless. Soon he called
An escort: 'See this lady safe
In yonder house. - Madam, you're free.
And now for Mosby. - Guide! With me.'
('A night-ride, eh?') 'Tighten your girths!
But, buglers! Not a note from you.
Fling more rails on the fires - ablaze!'
('Sergeant, a feint - I told you so -
Toward Aldie again. Bivouac, adieu!')
After the cheery flames they gaze,
Then back for Mosby through the maze.
The moon looked through the trees, and tipped
The scabbards with her elfin beam;
The Leader backward cast his glance,
Proud of the cavalcade that came-
A hundred horses, bay and cream:
'Major! Look how the lads advance -
Mosby we'll have in the ambulance!'
'No doubt, no doubt: - was that a hare? -
First catch, then cook; and cook him brown.'
'Trust me to catch,' the other cried-
'The lady's letter! - A dance, man, dance
This night is given in Leesburgtown!'
'He'll be there too!' wheezed out the Guide;
'That Mosby loves a dance and ride!'
'The lady, ah! - the lady's letter -
A lady, then, is in the case,'
Muttered the Major. 'Ay, her aunt
Writes her to come by Friday eve
(To-night), for people of the place,
At Mosby's last fight jubilant,
A party give, thought able-cheer be scant.'
The Major hemmed. 'Then this night-ride
We owe to her? - One lighted house
In a town else dark .- The moths, begar!
Are not quite yet all dead!' 'How? how?'
'A mute, meek mournful little mouse! -
Mosby has wiles which subtle are -
But woman's wiles in wiles of war!'
'Tut, Major! By what craft or guile -'
'Can't tell! but he'll be found in wait.
Softly we enter, say, the town -
Good! Pickets post, and all so sure -
When - crack! The rifles from every gate,
The Gray-backs fire - dashes up and down -
Each alley unto Mosby known!'
'Now, Major, now - you take dark views
Of a moonlight night.' 'Well, well, we'll see,'
And smoked as if each whiff were gain.
The other mused; then sudden asked,
'What would you doing rand decree?'
I'd beat, if I could, Lee's armies - then
Send constables after Mosby's men.'
'Ay! ay! - you're odd.' The moon sailed up;
On through the shadowy land they went.
'Names must be made and printed be!'
Hummed the blithe Colonel. 'Doc, your flask!
Major, I drink to your good content.
My pipe is out - enough for me!
One's buttons shine - does Mosby see?
'But what comes here?' A man from the front
Reported a tree athwart the road.
'Go round it, then; no time to bide;
All right - go on! Were one to stay
For each distrust of a nervous mood,
Long miles we'd make in this our ride
Through Mosby-land. - Oh! with the Guide!'
Then sportful to the Surgeon turned:
'Green sashes hardly serve by night!'
'Nor bullets nor bottles,' the Major sighed,
'Against these moccasin-snakes-such foes
As seldom come to solid fight:
They kill and vanish; through grass they glide;
Devil take Mosby!'-his horse here shied.
'Hold! look-the tree, like a dragged balloon;
A globe of leaves-some trickery here;
My nag is right-best now be shy.'
A movement was made, a hubbub and snarl;
Little was plain-they blindly steer.
The Pleiades, as from ambush sly,
Peep out-Mosby's men in the sky!
As restive they turn, how sore they feel,
And cross, and sleepy, and full of spleen,
And curse the war. 'Fools, North and South!'
Said one right out. 'O for a bed!
O now to drop in this woodland green!'
He drops as the syllables leave his mouth-
Mosby speaks from the undergrowth-
Speaks in a volley! Out jets the flame!
Men fall from their saddles like plums from trees;
Horses take fright, reins tangle and bind;
'Steady - Dismount - form - and into the wood!'
They go, but find what scarce can please:
Their steeds have been tied in the field behind,
And Mosby's men are off like the wind.
Sound the recall! Vain to pursue -
The enemy scatters in wilds he knows,
To reunite in his own good time;
And, to follow, they need divide-
To come lone and lost on crouching foes:
Maple and hemlock, beech and lime,
Are Mosby's confederates, share the crime.
'Major,' burst in a bugler small,
'The fellow we left in Loudon grass -
Sir slyboots with the inward bruise,
His voice I heard - the very same -
Some watch word in the ambush pass;
Ay, sir, we had him in his shoes -
We caught him - Mosby - but to lose!'
'Go, go! - these saddle-dreamers! Well,
And here's another. - Cool, sir, cool!'
'Major, I saw them mount and sweep,
And one was humped, or I mistake,
And in the skurry dropped his wool.'
'A wig! go fetch it: - the lads need sleep;
They'll next see Mosby in a sheep!
'Come, come, fall back! Reform your ranks -
All's jackstraws here! Where's Captain Morn?-
We've parted like boats in a raging tide!
But stay - the Colonel - did he charge?
And comes he there? 'Tis streak of dawn;
Mosby is off, the woods are wide-
Hist! there's a groan - this crazy ride!'
As they searched for the fallen, the dawn grew chill;
They lay in the dew: 'Ah! Hurt much, Mink?
And - yes - the Colonel! 'Dead! but so calm
That death seemed nothing - even death,
The thing we deem everything heart can think;
Amid wilding roses that shed their balm,
Careless of Mosby he lay - in a charm!
The Major took him by the Hand -
Into the friendly clasp it bled
(A ball through heart and hand he rued):
'Good-bye' and gazed with humid glance;
Then in a hollow reverie said
'The weakness thing is lustihood;
But Mosby' - and he checked his mood.
'Where's the advance? - cut off, by heaven!
Come, Surgeon, how with your wounded there?'
'The ambulance will carry all.'
'Well, get them in; we go to camp.
Seven prisoners gone? For the rest have care.'
Then to himself, 'This grief is gall;
That Mosby! - I'll cast a silver ball!'
'Ho!' turning -'Captain Cloud, you mind
The place where the escort went - so shady?
Go search every closet low and high,
And barn, and bin, and hidden bower -
Every covert - find that lady!
And yet I may misjudge her - ay,
Women (like Mosby) mystify.
'We'll see. Ay, Captain, go - with speed!
Surround and search; each living thing
Secure; that done, await us where
We last turned off. Stay! fire the cage
If the birds be flown. 'By the cross-road spring
The bands rejoined; no words; the glare
Told all. Had Mosby plotted there?
The weary troop that wended now -
Hardly it seemed the same that pricked
Forth to the forest from the camp:
Foot-sore horses, jaded men;
Every backbone felt as nicked,
Each eye dim as a sick-room lamp,
All faces stamped with Mosby's stamp.
In order due the Major rode -
Chaplain and Surgeon on either hand;
A riderless horse a negro led;
In a wagon the blanketed sleeper went;
Then the ambulance with the bleeding band;
And, an emptied oat-bag on each head,
Went Mosby's men, and marked the dead.
What gloomed them? What so cast them down,
And changed the cheer that late they took,
As double-guarded now they rode
Between the files of moody men?
Some sudden consciousness they brook,
Or dread the sequel. That night's blood
Disturbed even Mosby's brotherhood.
The flagging horses stumbled at roots,
Floundered in mires, or clinked the stones;
No rider spake except aside;
But the wounded cramped in the ambulance,
It was horror to hear their groans -
Jerked along in the woodland ride,
While Mosby's clan their reverie hide.
The Hospital Steward - even he -
Who on the sleeper kept this glance,
Was changed; late bright-black beard and eye
Looked now hearse-black; his heavy heart,
Like his fagged mare, no more could dance;
His grape was now a raisin dry:
'Tis Mosby's homily - Man must die.
The amber sunset flushed the camp
As on the hill their eyes they fed;
The picket dumb looks at the wagon dart;
A handkerchief waves from the bannered tent -
As white, alas! The face of the dead:
Who shall the withering news impart?
The bullet of Mosby goes through heart to heart!
They buried him where the lone ones lie
(Lone sentries shot on midnight post) -
A green-wood grave-yard hid from ken,
Where sweet-fern flings an odor nigh -
Yet held in fear for the gleaming ghost!
Though the bride should see threescore and ten,
She will dream of Mosby and his men.
Now halt the verse, and turn aside -
The cypress falls athwart the way;
No joy remains for bard to sing;
And heaviest dole of all is this,
That other hearts shall be as gay
As hers that now no more shall spring:
To Mosby-land the dirges cling.