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That and here my General's first battle,
No women looking on nor sunshine to bask in, it did not conclude with applause,
Nobody clapp'd hands here then.
But in darkness in mist on the ground under a chill rain,
Wearied that night we lay foil'd and sullen,
While scornfully laugh'd many an arrogant lord off against us
Quite within hearing, feasting, clinking wineglasses together over their victory.
So dull and damp and another day,
But the night of that, mist lifting, rain ceasing,
Silent as a ghost while they thought they were sure of him, my
I saw him at the river-side,
Down by the ferry lit by torches, hastening the embarcation;
My General waited till the soldiers and wounded were all pass'd
And then, (it was just ere sunrise,) these eyes rested on him for the last time.
Every one else seem'd fill'd with gloom,
Many no doubt thought of capitulation.
But when my General pass'd me,
As he stood in his boat and look'd toward the coming sun,
I saw something different from capitulation.
Enough, the Centenarian's story ends,
The two, the past and present, have interchanged,
I myself as connecter, as chansonnier of a great future, am now speaking.
And is this the ground Washington trod?
And these waters I listlessly daily cross, are these the waters he cross'd,
As resolute in defeat as other generals in their proudest triumphs?
I must copy the story, and send it eastward and westward,
I must preserve that look as it beam'd on you rivers of Brooklyn.
See as the annual round returns the phantoms return,
It is the 27th of August and the British have landed,
The battle begins, and goes against us behold through the smoke Washington's face,
The brigade of Virginia and Maryland have march'd forth to intercept the enemy,
They are cut off, murderous artillery from the hills plays upon them,
Rank after rank falls, while over them silently droops the flag,
Ah, hills and slopes of Brooklyn! I perceive you are more valuable than your owners supposed;
In the midst of you stands an encampment very old,
CAVALRY CROSSING A FORD.
A LINE in long array where they wind betwixt green islands, They take a serpentine course, their arms flash in the sun - hark to the musical clank,
Behold the silvery river, in it the splashing horses loitering stop to
Behold the brown-faced men, each group, each person, a picture, the negligent rest on the saddles,
Some emerge on the opposite bank, others are just entering the ford - while,
Scarlet and blue and snowy white,
The guidon flags flutter gayly in the wind.
BIVOUAC ON A MOUNTAIN SIDE.
I SEE before me now a traveling army halting,
Below a fertile valley spread, with barns and the orchards of
Behind, the terraced sides of a mountain, abrupt, in places rising high,
Broken, with rocks, with clinging cedars, with tall shapes dingily
The numerous camp-fires scatter'd near and far, some away up on the mountain,
The shadowy forms of men and horses, looming, large-sized, flickering,
And over all the sky-the sky! far, far out of reach, studded, breaking out, the eternal stars.
WITH its cloud of skirmishers in advance,
With now the sound of a single shot snapping like a whip, and now an irregular volley,
The swarming ranks press on and on, the dense brigades press
Glittering dimly, toiling under the sun- the dust-cover'd men,
BY THE BIVOUAC'S FITFUL FLAME.
By the bivouac's fitful flame,
A procession winding around me, solemn and sweet and slow-but first I note,
The tents of the sleeping army, the fields' and woods' dim outline,
The darkness lit by spots of kindled fire, the silence,
Like a phantom far or near an occasional figure moving,
The shrubs and trees, (as I lift my eyes they seem to be stealthily watching me,)
While wind in procession thoughts, O tender and wondrous thoughts,
Of life and death, of home and the past and loved, and of those that are far away;
A solemn and slow procession there as I sit on the ground,
COME UP FROM THE FIELDS FATHER.
COME up from the fields father, here's a letter from our Pete,
Lo, 'tis autumn,
Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder,
Cool and sweeten Ohio's villages with leaves fluttering in the moderate wind,
Where apples ripe in the orchards hang and grapes on the trellis'd
(Smell you the smell of the grapes on the vines?
Smell you the buckwheat where the bees were lately buzzing?)
Above all, lo, the sky so calm, so transparent after the rain, and with wondrous clouds,
Below too, all calm, all vital and beautiful, and the farm prospers well.
Down in the fields all prospers well,
But now from the fields come father, come at the daughter's call, And come to the entry mother, to the front door come right away.
Fast as she can she hurries, something ominous, her steps trembling,
She does not tarry to smooth her hair nor adjust her cap.
Open the envelope quickly,
O this is not our son's writing, yet his name is sign'd,
O a strange hand writes for our dear son, O stricken mother's soul! All swims before her eyes, flashes with black, she catches the main
Sentences broken, gunshot wound in the breast, cavalry skirmish, taken to hospital,
At present low, but will soon be better.
Ah now the single figure to me,
Amid all teeming and wealthy Ohio with all its cities and farms,
Grieve not so, dear mother, (the just-grown daughter speaks through her sobs,
The little sisters huddle around speechless and dismay'd,)
Alas poor boy, he will never be better, (nor may-be needs to be better, that brave and simple soul,)
While they stand at home at the door he is dead already,
The only son is dead.
But the mother needs to be better,
She with thin form presently drest in black,
By day her meals untouch'd, then at night fitfully sleeping, often waking,
In the midnight waking, weeping, longing with one deep longing, O that she might withdraw unnoticed, silent from life escape and
To follow, to seek, to be with her dear dead son.
VIGIL STRANGE I KEPT ON THE FIELD ONE NIGHT.
VIGIL strange I kept on the field one night;
When you my son and my comrade dropt at my side that day, One look I but gave which your dear eyes return'd with a look I shall never forget,
One touch of your hand to mine O boy, reach'd up as you lay on the ground,
Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested battle,
Found you in death so cold dear comrade, found your body son of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,) Bared your face in the starlight, curious the scene, cool blew the moderate night-wind,
Long there and then in vigil I stood, dimly around me the battlefield spreading,
Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet there in the fragrant silent night, But not a tear fell, not even a long-drawn sigh, long, long I gazed, Then on the earth partially reclining sat by your side leaning my
chin in my hands,
Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with you dearest comrade- not a tear, not a word,
Vigil of silence, love and death, vigil for you my son and my soldier,
As onward silently stars aloft, eastward new ones upward stole, Vigil final for you brave boy, (I could not save you, swift was your death,
I faithfully loved you and cared for you living, I think we shall surely meet again,)
Til at latest lingering of the night, indeed just as the dawn
My comrade I wrapt in his blanket, envelop'd well his form, Folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully over head and carefully under feet,
And there and then and bathed by the rising sun, my son in his grave, in his rude-dug grave I deposited,
Ending my vigil strange with that, vigil of night and battle-field
Vigil for boy of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)
Vigil for comrade swiftly slain, vigil I never forget, how as day brighten'd,
I rose from the chill ground and folded my soldier well in his blanket,
And buried him where he fell.