O the clammy cold November,
And the winter white and dead,
And the terror dumb with stupor,
And the sky a sheet of lead;
And events that came resounding
With the cry that All was lost,
Like the thunder-cracks of massy ice
In intensity of frost—
Bursting one upon another
Through the horror of the calm.
The paralysis of arm
In the anguish of the heart;
And the hollowness and dearth.
The appealings of the mother
To brother and to brother
Not in hatred so to part—
And the fissure in the hearth
Growing momently more wide.
Then the glances ’tween the Fates,
And the doubt on every side,
And the patience under gloom
In the stoniness that waits
The finality of doom.
So the winter died despairing,
And the weary weeks of Lent;
And the ice-bound rivers melted,
And the tomb of Faith was rent.
O, the rising of the People
Came with springing of the grass,
They rebounded from dejection
And Easter came to pass.
And the young were all elation
Hearing Sumter’s cannon roar,
And they thought how tame the Nation
In the age that went before.
And Michael seemed gigantical,
The Arch-fiend but a dwarf;
And at the towers of Erebus
Our striplings flung the scoff.
But the elders with foreboding
Mourned the days forever o’er,
And re called the forest proverb,
The Iroquois’ old saw:
Grief to every graybeard
When young Indians lead the war.
The March into Virginia,
Ending in the First Manassas.
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 ardors 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,
Chatting left and laughing right.