A Dirge for McPherson,
Killed in front of Atlanta.
Arms reversed and banners craped—
Snowy horses sable-draped—
But, tell us,
shall we know him more,
Lost-Mountain and lone Kenesaw?
Brave the sword upon the pall—
A gleam in gloom;
So a bright name lighteth all
Bear him through the chapel-door—
Let priest in stole
Pace before the warrior
Who led. Bell—toll!
Lay him down within the nave,
The Lesson read—
Man is noble, man is brave,
But man’s—a weed.
Take him up again and wend
Graveward, nor weep:
There’s a trumpet that shall rend
This Soldier’s sleep.
Pass the ropes the coffin round,
And let descend;
Prayer and volley—let it sound
True fame is
his, for life is o’er—
Sarpedon of the mighty war.
At the Cannon’s Mouth.
Destruction of the Ram Albermarle by the Torpedo-Launch.
Palely intent, he urged his keel
Full on the guns, and touched the spring;
Himself involved in the bolt he drove
Timed with the armed hull’s shot that stove
His shallop—die or do!
Into the flood his life he threw,
Yet lives—unscathed—a breathing thing
To marvel at.
He has his fame;
But that mad dash at death, how name?
Had Earth no charm to stay the Boy
From the martyr-passion? Could he dare
Disdain the Paradise of opening joy
Which beckons the fresh heart every where?
Life has more lures than any girl
For youth and strength; puts forth a share
Of beauty, hinting of yet rarer store;
And ever with unfathomable eyes,
Which baffingly entice,
Still strangely does Adonis draw.
And life once over, who shall tell the rest?
Life is, of all we know, God’s best.
What imps these eagles then, that they
Fling disrespect on life by that proud way
In which they soar above our lower clay.
Pretense of wonderment and doubt unblest:
In Cushing’s eager deed was shown
A spirit which brave poets own—
That scorn of life which earns life’s crown;
Earns, but not always wins; but he—
The star ascended in his nativity.
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.