Questions And Answers
WHERE, oh where are the visions of morning,
Fresh as the dews of our prime?
Gone, like tenants that quit without warning,
Down the back entry of time.
Where, oh where are life's lilies and roses,
Nursed in the golden dawn's smile?
Dead as the bulrushes round little Moses,
On the old banks of the Nile.
Where are the Marys, and Anns, and Elizas,
Loving and lovely of yore?
Look in the columns of old Advertisers,--
Married and dead by the score.
Where the gray colts and the ten-year-old fillies,
Saturday's triumph and joy?
Gone, like our friend (--Greek--) Achilles,
Homer's ferocious old boy.
Die-away dreams of ecstatic emotion,
Hopes like young eagles at play,
Vows of unheard-of and endless devotion,
How ye have faded away!
Yet, through the ebbing of Time's mighty river
Leave our young blossoms to die,
Let him roll smooth in his current forever,
Till the last pebble is dry.
WHEN Eve had led her lord away,
And Cain had killed his brother,
The stars and flowers, the poets say,
Agreed with one another.
To cheat the cunning tempter's art,
And teach the race its duty,
By keeping on its wicked heart
Their eyes of light and beauty.
A million sleepless lids, they say,
Will be at least a warning;
And so the flowers would watch by day,
The stars from eve to morning.
On hill and prairie, field and lawn,
Their dewy eyes upturning,
The flowers still watch from reddening dawn
Till western skies are burning.
Alas! each hour of daylight tells
A tale of shame so crushing,
That some turn white as sea-bleached shells,
And some are always blushing.
But when the patient stars look down
On all their light discovers,
The traitor's smile, the murderer's frown,
The lips of lying lovers,
They try to shut their saddening eyes,
And in the vain endeavor
We see them twinkling in the skies,
And so they wink forever.
Ode For Washington’s Birthday
CELEBRATION OF THE MERCANTILE LIBRARY ASSOCIATION,
FEBRUARY 22, 1856
WELCOME to the day returning,
Dearer still as ages flow,
While the torch of Faith is burning,
Long as Freedom's altars glow!
See the hero whom it gave us
Slumbering on a mother's breast;
For the arm he stretched to save us,
Be its morn forever blest!
Hear the tale of youthful glory,
While of Britain's rescued band
Friend and foe repeat the story,
Spread his fame o'er sea and land,
Where the red cross, proudly streaming,
Flaps above the frigate's deck,
Where the golden lilies, gleaming,
Star the watch-towers of Quebec.
Look! The shadow on the dial
Marks the hour of deadlier strife;
Days of terror, years of trial,
Scourge a nation into life.
Lo, the youth, become her leader
All her baffled tyrants yield;
Through his arm the Lord hath freed her;
Crown him on the tented field!
Vain is Empire's mad temptation
Not for him an earthly crown
He whose sword hath freed a nation
Strikes the offered sceptre down.
See the throneless Conqueror seated,
Ruler by a people's choice;
See the Patriot's task completed;
Hear the Father's dying voice!
'By the name that you inherit,
By the sufferings you recall,
Cherish the fraternal spirit;
Love your country first of all!
Listen not to idle questions
If its bands maybe untied;
Doubt the patriot whose suggestions
Strive a nation to divide!'
Father! We, whose ears have tingled
With the discord-notes of shame,--
We, whose sires their blood have mingled
In the battle's thunder-flame,--
Gathering, while this holy morning
Lights the land from sea to sea,
Hear thy counsel, heed thy warning;
Trust us, while we honor thee!
The Last Prophecy Of Cassandra
THE sun is fading in the skies,
And evening shades are gathering fast;
Fair city, ere that sun shall rise,
Thy night hath come,-thy day is past!
Ye know not,-but the hour is nigh;
Ye will not heed the warning breath;
No vision strikes your clouded eye,
To break the sleep that wakes in death.
Go, age, and let thy withered cheek
Be wet once more with freezing tears;
And bid thy trembling sorrows speak,
In accents of departed years.
Go, child, and pour thy sinless prayer
Before the everlasting throne;
And He, who sits in glory there,
May stoop to hear thy silver tone.
Go, warrior, in thy glittering steel,
And bow thee at the altar's side;
And bid thy frowning gods reveal
The doom their mystic counsels hide.
Go, maiden, in thy flowing veil,
And bare thy brow, and bend thy knee;
When the last hopes of mercy fail,
Thy God may yet remember thee.
Go, as thou didst in happier hours,
And lay thine incense on the shrine;
And greener leaves, and fairer flowers,
Around the sacred image twine.
I saw them rise, the buried dead,
From marble tomb and grassy mound;
I heard the spirits' printless tread,
And voices not of earthly sound.
I looked upon the quivering stream,
And its cold wave was bright with flame;
And wild, as from a fearful dream,
The wasted forms of battle came.
Ye will not hear, ye will not know,
Ye scorn the maniac's idle song;
Ye care not! but the voice of woe
Shall thunder loud, and echo long.
Blood shall be in your marble halls.
And spears shall glance, and fire shall glow;
Ruin shall sit upon your walls,
But ye shall lie in death below.
Ay, none shall live, to hear the storm
Around their blackened pillars sweep;
To shudder at the reptile's form,
Or scare the wild bird from her sleep.
CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION, SEPTEMBER 14, 1869
BONAPARTE, AUGUST 15, 1769.-HUMBOLDT, SEPTEMBER 14, 1769
ERE yet the warning chimes of midnight sound,
Set back the flaming index of the year,
Track the swift-shifting seasons in their round
Through fivescore circles of the swinging sphere!
Lo, in yon islet of the midland sea
That cleaves the storm-cloud with its snowy crest,
The embryo-heir of Empires yet to be,
A month-old babe upon his mother's breast.
Those little hands that soon shall grow so strong
In their rude grasp great thrones shall rock and fall,
Press her soft bosom, while a nursery song
Holds the world's master in its slender thrall.
Look! a new crescent bends its silver bow;
A new-lit star has fired the eastern sky;
Hark! by the river where the lindens blow
A waiting household hears an infant's cry.
This, too, a conqueror! His the vast domain,
Wider than widest sceptre-shadowed lands;
Earth and the weltering kingdom of the main
Laid their broad charters in his royal hands.
His was no taper lit in cloistered cage,
Its glimmer borrowed from the grove or porch;
He read the record of the planet's page
By Etna's glare and Cotopaxi's torch.
He heard the voices of the pathless woods;
On the salt steppes he saw the starlight shine;
He scaled the mountain's windy solitudes,
And trod the galleries of the breathless mine.
For him no fingering of the love-strung lyre,
No problem vague, by torturing schoolmen vexed;
He fed no broken altar's dying fire,
Nor skulked and scowled behind a Rabbi's text.
For God's new truth he claimed the kingly robe
That priestly shoulders counted all their own,
Unrolled the gospel of the storied globe
And led young Science to her empty throne.
While the round planet on its axle spins
One fruitful year shall boast its double birth,
And show the cradles of its mighty twins,
Master and Servant of the sons of earth.
Which wears the garland that shall never fade,
Sweet with fair memories that can never die?
Ask not the marbles where their bones are laid,
But bow thine ear to hear thy brothers' cry:--
'Tear up the despot's laurels by the root,
Like mandrakes, shrieking as they quit the soil!
Feed us no more upon the blood-red fruit
That sucks its crimson from the heart of Toil!
'We claim the food that fixed our mortal fate,--
Bend to our reach the long-forbidden tree!
The angel frowned at Eden's eastern gate,--
Its western portal is forever free!
'Bring the white blossoms of the waning year,
Heap with full hands the peaceful conqueror's shrine
Whose bloodless triumphs cost no sufferer's tear!
Hero of knowledge, be our tribute thine!'
'Dumque virent genua
Et decet, obducta solvatur fonte senectus.'
THE muse of boyhood's fervid hour
Grows tame as skies get chill and hazy;
Where once she sought a passion-flower,
She only hopes to find a daisy.
Well, who the changing world bewails?
Who asks to have it stay unaltered?
Shall grown-up kittens chase their tails?
Shall colts be never shod or haltered?
Are we 'The Boys' that used to make
The tables ring with noisy follies?
Whose deep-lunged laughter oft would shake
The ceiling with its thunder-volleys?
Are we the youths with lips unshorn,
At beauty's feet unwrinkled suitors,
Whose memories reach tradition's morn,--
The days of prehistoric tutors?
'The Boys' we knew,--but who are these
Whose heads might serve for Plutarch's sages,
Or Fox's martyrs, if you please,
Or hermits of the dismal ages?
'The Boys' we knew--can these be those?
Their cheeks with morning's blush were painted;--
Where are the Harrys, Jims, and Joes
With whom we once were well acquainted?
If we are they, we're not the same;
If they are we, why then they're masking;
Do tell us, neighbor What 's--your--name,
Who are you?--What's the use of asking?
You once were George, or Bill, or Ben;
There's you, yourself--there 's you, that other--
I know you now--I knew you then--
You used to be your younger brother!
You both are all our own to-day,--
But ah! I hear a warning whisper;
Yon roseate hour that flits away
Repeats the Roman's sad _paulisper_.
Come back! come back! we've need of you
To pay you for your word of warning;
We'll bathe your wings in brighter dew
Than ever wet the lids of morning!
Behold this cup; its mystic wine
No alien's lip has ever tasted;
The blood of friendship's clinging vine,
Still flowing, flowing, yet unwasted
Old Time forgot his running sand
And laid his hour-glass down to fill it,
And Death himself with gentle hand
Has touched the chalice, not to spill it.
Each bubble rounding at the brim
Is rainbowed with its magic story;
The shining days with age grown dim
Are dressed again in robes of glory;
In all its freshness spring returns
With song of birds and blossoms tender;
Once more the torch of passion burns,
And youth is here in all its splendor!
Hope swings her anchor like a toy,
Love laughs and shows the silver arrow
We knew so well as man and boy,--
The shaft that stings through bone and marrow;
Again our kindling pulses beat,
With tangled curls our fingers dally,
And bygone beauties smile as sweet
As fresh-blown lilies of the valley.
O blessed hour! we may forget
Its wreaths, its rhymes, its songs, its laughter,
But not the loving eyes we met,
Whose light shall gild the dim hereafter.
How every heart to each grows warm!
Is one in sunshine's ray? We share it.
Is one in sorrow's blinding storm?
A look, a word, shall help him bear it.
'The Boys' we were, 'The Boys' we 'll be
As long as three, as two, are creeping;
Then here 's to him--ah! which is he?--
Who lives till all the rest are sleeping;
A life with tranquil comfort blest,
The young man's health, the rich man's plenty,
All earth can give that earth has best,
And heaven at fourscore years and twenty.
The Statesman’s Secret
WHO of all statesmen is his country's pride,
Her councils' prompter and her leaders' guide?
He speaks; the nation holds its breath to hear;
He nods, and shakes the sunset hemisphere.
Born where the primal fount of Nature springs
By the rude cradles of her throneless kings,
In his proud eye her royal signet flames,
By his own lips her Monarch she proclaims.
Why name his countless triumphs, whom to meet
Is to be famous, envied in defeat?
The keen debaters, trained to brawls and strife,
Who fire one shot, and finish with the knife,
Tried him but once, and, cowering in their shame,
Ground their hacked blades to strike at meaner game.
The lordly chief, his party's central stay,
Whose lightest word a hundred votes obey,
Found a new listener seated at his side,
Looked in his eye, and felt himself defied,
Flung his rash gauntlet on the startled floor,
Met the all-conquering, fought,--and ruled no more.
See where he moves, what eager crowds attend!
What shouts of thronging multitudes ascend!
If this is life,--to mark with every hour
The purple deepening in his robes of power,
To see the painted fruits of honor fall
Thick at his feet, and choose among them all,
To hear the sounds that shape his spreading name
Peal through the myriad organ-stops of fame,
Stamp the lone isle that spots the seaman's chart,
And crown the pillared glory of the mart,
To count as peers the few supremely wise
Who mark their planet in the angels' eyes,--
If this is life--
What savage man is he
Who strides alone beside the sounding sea?
Alone he wanders by the murmuring shore,
His thoughts as restless as the waves that roar;
Looks on the sullen sky as stormy-browed
As on the waves yon tempest-brooding cloud,
Heaves from his aching breast a wailing sigh,
Sad as the gust that sweeps the clouded sky.
Ask him his griefs; what midnight demons plough
The lines of torture on his lofty brow;
Unlock those marble lips, and bid them speak
The mystery freezing in his bloodless cheek.
His secret? Hid beneath a flimsy word;
One foolish whisper that ambition heard;
And thus it spake: 'Behold yon gilded chair,
The world's one vacant throne,--thy plate is there!'
Ah, fatal dream! What warning spectres meet
In ghastly circle round its shadowy seat!
Yet still the Tempter murmurs in his ear
The maddening taunt he cannot choose but hear
'Meanest of slaves, by gods and men accurst,
He who is second when he might be first
Climb with bold front the ladder's topmost round,
Or chain thy creeping footsteps to the ground!'
Illustrious Dupe! Have those majestic eyes
Lost their proud fire for such a vulgar prize?
Art thou the last of all mankind to know
That party-fights are won by aiming low?
Thou, stamped by Nature with her royal sign,
That party-hirelings hate a look like thine?
Shake from thy sense the wild delusive dream
Without the purple, art thou not supreme?
And soothed by love unbought, thy heart shall own
A nation's homage nobler than its throne!
. . . . . . . . . .
Loud rang the plaudits; with them rose the thought,
'Would he had learned the lesson he has taught!'
Used to the tributes of the noisy crowd,
The stately speaker calmly smiled and bowed;
The fire within a flushing cheek betrayed,
And eyes that burned beneath their penthouse shade.
'The clock strikes ten, the hours are flying fast,--
Now, Number Five, we've kept you till the last!'
What music charms like those caressing tones
Whose magic influence every listener owns,--
Where all the woman finds herself expressed,
And Heaven's divinest effluence breathes confessed?
Such was the breath that wooed our ravished ears,
Sweet as the voice a dreaming vestal hears;
Soft as the murmur of a brooding dove,
It told the mystery of a mother's love.
How The Old Horse Won The Bet
DEDICATED BY A CONTRIBUTOR TO THE COLLEGIAN,
1830, TO THE EDITORS OF THE HARVARD ADVOCATE, 1876.
'T WAS on the famous trotting-ground,
The betting men were gathered round
From far and near; the 'cracks' were there
Whose deeds the sporting prints declare
The swift g. m., Old Hiram's nag,
The fleet s. h., Dan Pfeiffer's brag,
With these a third--and who is he
That stands beside his fast b. g.?
Budd Doble, whose catarrhal name
So fills the nasal trump of fame.
There too stood many a noted steed
Of Messenger and Morgan breed;
Green horses also, not a few;
Unknown as yet what they could do;
And all the hacks that know so well
The scourgings of the Sunday swell.
Blue are the skies of opening day;
The bordering turf is green with May;
The sunshine's golden gleam is thrown
On sorrel, chestnut, bay, and roan;
The horses paw and prance and neigh,
Fillies and colts like kittens play,
And dance and toss their rippled manes
Shining and soft as silken skeins;
Wagons and gigs are ranged about,
And fashion flaunts her gay turn-out;
Here stands--each youthful Jehu's dream
The jointed tandem, ticklish team!
And there in ampler breadth expand
The splendors of the four-in-hand;
On faultless ties and glossy tiles
The lovely bonnets beam their smiles;
(The style's the man, so books avow;
The style's the woman, anyhow);
From flounces frothed with creamy lace
Peeps out the pug-dog's smutty face,
Or spaniel rolls his liquid eye,
Or stares the wiry pet of Skye,--
O woman, in your hours of ease
So shy with us, so free with these!
'Come on! I 'll bet you two to one
I 'll make him do it!' 'Will you? Done!'
What was it who was bound to do?
I did not hear and can't tell you,--
Pray listen till my story's through.
Scarce noticed, back behind the rest,
By cart and wagon rudely prest,
The parson's lean and bony bay
Stood harnessed in his one-horse shay--
Lent to his sexton for the day;
(A funeral--so the sexton said;
His mother's uncle's wife was dead.)
Like Lazarus bid to Dives' feast,
So looked the poor forlorn old beast;
His coat was rough, his tail was bare,
The gray was sprinkled in his hair;
Sportsmen and jockeys knew him not,
And yet they say he once could trot
Among the fleetest of the town,
Till something cracked and broke him down,--
The steed's, the statesman's, common lot!
'And are we then so soon forgot?'
Ah me! I doubt if one of you
Has ever heard the name 'Old Blue,'
Whose fame through all this region rung
In those old days when I was young!
'Bring forth the horse!' Alas! he showed
Not like the one Mazeppa rode;
Scant-maned, sharp-backed, and shaky-kneed,
The wreck of what was once a steed,
Lips thin, eyes hollow, stiff in joints;
Yet not without his knowing points.
The sexton laughing in his sleeve,
As if 't were all a make-believe,
Led forth the horse, and as he laughed
Unhitched the breeching from a shaft,
Unclasped the rusty belt beneath,
Drew forth the snaffle from his teeth,
Slipped off his head-stall, set him free
From strap and rein,--a sight to see!
So worn, so lean in every limb,
It can't be they are saddling him!
It is! his back the pig-skin strides
And flaps his lank, rheumatic sides;
With look of mingled scorn and mirth
They buckle round the saddle-girth;
With horsey wink and saucy toss
A youngster throws his leg across,
And so, his rider on his back,
They lead him, limping, to the track,
Far up behind the starting-point,
To limber out each stiffened joint.
As through the jeering crowd he past,
One pitying look Old Hiram cast;
'Go it, ye cripple, while ye can!'
Cried out unsentimental Dan;
'A Fast-Day dinner for the crows!'
Budd Doble's scoffing shout arose.
Slowly, as when the walking-beam
First feels the gathering head of steam,
With warning cough and threatening wheeze
The stiff old charger crooks his knees;
At first with cautious step sedate,
As if he dragged a coach of state
He's not a colt; he knows full well
That time is weight and sure to tell;
No horse so sturdy but he fears
The handicap of twenty years.
As through the throng on either hand
The old horse nears the judges' stand,
Beneath his jockey's feather-weight
He warms a little to his gait,
And now and then a step is tried
That hints of something like a stride.
'Go!'--Through his ear the summons stung
As if a battle-trump had rung;
The slumbering instincts long unstirred
Start at the old familiar word;
It thrills like flame through every limb,--
What mean his twenty years to him?
The savage blow his rider dealt
Fell on his hollow flanks unfelt;
The spur that pricked his staring hide
Unheeded tore his bleeding side;
Alike to him are spur and rein,--
He steps a five-year-old again!
Before the quarter pole was past,
Old Hiram said, 'He's going fast.'
Long ere the quarter was a half,
The chuckling crowd had ceased to laugh;
Tighter his frightened jockey clung
As in a mighty stride he swung,
The gravel flying in his track,
His neck stretched out, his ears laid back,
His tail extended all the while
Behind him like a rat-tail file!
Off went a shoe,--away it spun,
Shot like a bullet from a gun;
The quaking jockey shapes a prayer
From scraps of oaths he used to swear;
He drops his whip, he drops his rein,
He clutches fiercely for a mane;
He'll lose his hold--he sways and reels--
He'll slide beneath those trampling heels!
The knees of many a horseman quake,
The flowers on many a bonnet shake,
And shouts arise from left and right,
'Stick on! Stick on!' 'Hould tight! Hould tight!'
'Cling round his neck and don't let go--'
'That pace can't hold--there! steady! whoa!'
But like the sable steed that bore
The spectral lover of Lenore,
His nostrils snorting foam and fire,
No stretch his bony limbs can tire;
And now the stand he rushes by,
And 'Stop him!--stop him!' is the cry.
Stand back! he 's only just begun--
He's having out three heats in one!
'Don't rush in front! he'll smash your brains;
But follow up and grab the reins!'
Old Hiram spoke. Dan Pfeiffer heard,
And sprang impatient at the word;
Budd Doble started on his bay,
Old Hiram followed on his gray,
And off they spring, and round they go,
The fast ones doing 'all they know.'
Look! twice they follow at his heels,
As round the circling course he wheels,
And whirls with him that clinging boy
Like Hector round the walls of Troy;
Still on, and on, the third time round
They're tailing off! they're losing ground!
Budd Doble's nag begins to fail!
Dan Pfeiffer's sorrel whisks his tail!
And see! in spite of whip and shout,
Old Hiram's mare is giving out!
Now for the finish! at the turn,
The old horse--all the rest astern--
Comes swinging in, with easy trot;
By Jove! he's distanced all the lot!
That trot no mortal could explain;
Some said, 'Old Dutchman come again!'
Some took his time,--at least they tried,
But what it was could none decide;
One said he couldn't understand
What happened to his second hand;
One said 2.10; that could n't be--
More like two twenty-two or three;
Old Hiram settled it at last;
'The time was two--too dee-vel-ish fast!'
The parson's horse had won the bet;
It cost him something of a sweat;
Back in the one-horse shay he went;
The parson wondered what it meant,
And murmured, with a mild surprise
And pleasant twinkle of the eyes,
That funeral must have been a trick,
Or corpses drive at double-quick;
I should n't wonder, I declare,
If brother--Jehu--made the prayer!
And this is all I have to say
About that tough old trotting bay,
Huddup! Huddup! G'lang! Good day!
Moral for which this tale is told
A horse can trot, for all he 's old.
Grandmother's Story Of Bunker Hill Battle (As She Saw It From The Belfry)
'Tis like stirring living embers when, at eighty, one remembers
All the achings and the quakings of 'the times that tried men's souls';
When I talk of Whig and Tory, when I tell the Rebel story,
To you the words are ashes, but to me they're burning coals.
I had heard the muskets' rattle of the April running battle;
Lord Percy's hunted soldiers, I can see their red coats still;
But a deadly chill comes o'er me, as the day looms up before me,
When a thousand men lay bleeding on the slopes of Bunker's Hill.
'Twas a peaceful summer's morning, when the first thing gave us warning
Was the booming of the cannon from the river and the shore:
'Child,' says grandma, 'what's the matter, what is all this noise and clatter?
Have those scalping Indian devils come to murder us once more?'
Poor old soul! my sides were shaking in the midst of all my quaking
To hear her talk of Indians when the guns began to roar:
She had seen the burning village, and the slaughter and the pillage,
When the Mohawks killed her father, with their bullets through his door.
Then I said, 'Now, dear old granny, don't you fret and worry any,
For I'll soon come back and tell you whether this is work or play;
There can't be mischief in it, so I won't be gone a minute'—
For a minute then I started. I was gone the livelong day.
No time for bodice-lacing or for looking-glass grimacing;
Down my hair went as I hurried, tumbling half-way to my heels;
God forbid your ever knowing, when there's blood around her flowing,
How the lonely, helpless daughter of a quiet household feels!
In the street I heard a thumping; and I knew it was the stumping
Of the Corporal, our old neighbor, on that wooden leg he wore,
With a knot of women round him,—it was lucky I had found him,—
So I followed with the others, and the Corporal marched before.
They were making for the steeple,—the old soldier and his people;
The pigeons circled round us as we climbed the creaking stair,
Just across the narrow river—O, so close it made me shiver!—
Stood a fortress on the hilltop that but yesterday was bare.
Not slow our eyes to find it; well we knew who stood behind it,
Though the earthwork hid them from us, and the stubborn walls were dumb:
Here were sister, wife, and mother, looking wild upon each other,
And their lips were white with terror as they said, THE HOUR HAS COME!
The morning slowly wasted, not a morsel had we tasted,
And our heads were almost splitting with the cannons' deafening thrill,
When a figure tall and stately round the rampart strode sedately;
It was PRESCOTT, one since told me; he commanded on the hill.
Every woman's heart grew bigger when we saw his manly figure,
With the banyan buckled round it, standing up so straight and tall;
Like a gentleman of leisure who is strolling out for pleasure,
Through the storm of shells and cannon-shot he walked around the wall.
At eleven the streets were swarming, for the red-coats' ranks were forming;
At noon in marching order they were moving to the piers;
How the bayonets gleamed and glistened, as we looked far down and listened
To the trampling and the drum-beat of the belted grenadiers!
At length the men have started, with a cheer (it seemed faint-hearted),
In their scarlet regimentals, with their knapsacks on their backs,
And the reddening, rippling water, as after a sea-fight's slaughter,
Round the barges gliding onward blushed like blood along their tracks.
So they crossed to the other border, and again they formed in order;
And the boats came back for soldiers, came for soldiers, soldiers still:
The time seemed everlasting to us women faint and fasting,—
At last they're moving, marching, marching proudly up the hill.
We can see the bright steel glancing all along the lines advancing—
Now the front rank fires a volley—they have thrown away their shot;
Far behind the earthwork lying, all the balls above them flying,
Our people need not hurry; so they wait and answer not.
Then the Corporal, our old cripple (he would swear sometimes and tipple),—
He had heard the bullets whistle (in the old French war) before,—
Calls out in words of jeering, just as if they all were hearing,—
And his wooden leg thumps fiercely on the dusty belfry floor:—
'Oh! fire away, ye villains, and earn King George's shillin's,
But ye'll waste a ton of powder afore a 'rebel' falls;
You may bang the dirt and welcome, they're as safe as Dan'l Malcolm
Ten foot beneath the gravestone that you've splintered with your balls!'
In the hush of expectation, in the awe and trepidation
Of the dread approaching moment, we are well-nigh breathless all;
Though the rotten bars are failing on the rickety belfry railing,
We are crowding up against them like the waves against a wall.
Just a glimpse (the air is clearer), they are nearer,—nearer,— nearer,
When a flash—a curling smoke-wreath—then a crash—the steeple shakes—
The deadly truce is ended; the tempest's shroud is rended;
Like a morning mist it gathered, like a thunder-cloud it breaks!
O the sight our eyes discover as the blue-black smoke blows over!
The red-coats stretched in windrows as a mower rakes his hay;
Here a scarlet heap is lying, there a headlong crowd is flying
Like a billow that has broken and is shivered into spray.
Then we cried, 'The troops are routed! they are beat—it can't be doubted!
God be thanked, the fight is over!'—Ah! the grim old soldier's smile!
'Tell us, tell us why you look so?' (we could hardly speak, we shook so),—
'Are they beaten? Are they beaten? ARE they beaten?'— 'Wait a while.'
O the trembling and the terror! for too soon we saw our error:
They are baffled, not defeated; we have driven them back in vain;
And the columns that were scattered, round the colors that were tattered,
Toward the sullen silent fortress turn their belted breasts again.
All at once, as we are gazing, lo the roofs of Charlestown blazing!
They have fired the harmless village; in an hour it will be down!
The Lord in heaven confound them, rain his fire and brimstone round them,—
The robbing, murdering red-coats, that would burn a peaceful town!
They are marching, stern and solemn; we can see each massive column
As they near the naked earth-mound with the slanting walls so steep.
Have our soldiers got faint-hearted, and in noiseless haste departed?
Are they panic-struck and helpless? Are they palsied or asleep?
Now! the walls they're almost under! scarce a rod the foes asunder!
Not a firelock flashed against them! up the earthwork they will swarm!
But the words have scarce been spoken, when the ominous calm is broken,
And a bellowing crash has emptied all the vengeance of the storm!
So again, with murderous slaughter, pelted backward to the water,
Fly Pigot's running heroes and the frightened braves of Howe;
And we shout, 'At last they're done for, it's their barges they have run for:
They are beaten, beaten, beaten; and the battle's over now!'
And we looked, poor timid creatures, on the rough old soldier's features,
Our lips afraid to question, but he knew what we would ask:
'Not sure,' he said; 'keep quiet,—once more, I guess, they'll try it—
Here's damnation to the cut-throats!' then he handed me his flask,
Saying, 'Gal, you're looking shaky; have a drop of old Jamaiky:
I'm afraid there'll be more trouble afore this job is done;'
So I took one scorching swallow; dreadful faint I felt and hollow,
Standing there from early morning when the firing was begun.
All through those hours of trial I had watched a calm clock dial,
As the hands kept creeping, creeping,—they were creeping round to four,
When the old man said, 'They're forming with their bayonets fixed for storming:
It's the death grip that's a coming,—they will try the works once more.'
With brazen trumpets blaring, the flames behind them glaring,
The deadly wall before them, in close array they come;
Still onward, upward toiling, like a dragon's fold uncoiling—
Like the rattlesnake's shrill warning the reverberating drum!
Over heaps all torn and gory—shall I tell the fearful story,
How they surged above the breastwork, as a sea breaks over a deck;
How, driven, yet scarce defeated, our worn-out men retreated,
With their powder-horns all emptied, like the swimmers from a wreck?
It has all been told and painted; as for me, they say I fainted,
And the wooden-legged old Corporal stumped with me down the stair:
When I woke from dreams affrighted the evening lamps were lighted,—
On the floor a youth was lying; his bleeding breast was bare.
And I heard through all the flurry, 'Send for WARREN! hurry! hurry!
Tell him here's a soldier bleeding, and he'll come and dress his wound!'
Ah, we knew not till the morrow told its tale of death and sorrow,
How the starlight found him stiffened on the dark and bloody ground.
Who the youth was, what his name was, where the place from which he came was,
Who had brought him from the battle, and had left him at our door,
He could not speak to tell us; but 'twas one of our brave fellows,
As the homespun plainly showed us which the dying soldier wore.
For they all thought he was dying, as they gathered 'round him crying,—
And they said, 'O, how they'll miss him!' and, 'What will his mother do?'
Then, his eyelids just unclosing like a child's that has been dozing,
He faintly murmured, 'Mother!'—and—I saw his eyes were blue.
—'Why, grandma, how you're winking!'—Ah, my child, it sets me thinking
Of a story not like this one. Well, he somehow lived along;
So we came to know each other, and I nursed him like a—mother,
Till at last he stood before me, tall, and rosy-cheeked, and strong.
And we sometimes walked together in the pleasant summer weather;
—'Please to tell us what his name was?'—Just your own, my little dear,—
There's his picture Copley painted: we became so well acquainted,
That—in short, that's why I'm grandma, and you children all are here!