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115. ink, blood, and tears.

the taking of Fort Sumter.

A forty hours bombardment! Great guns throwing
     Their iron hail; shells their mad mines exploding;
Furnaces lighted; shot at red-heat glowing;
     Shore-batt'ries and fort-armament, firing, loading--
War's visible hell let loose for forty hours,
     And all her devils free to use their powers--
And yet not one man hit, her flag when Sumter lowers.

“Oh, here's a theme!” quoth Punch, of brag abhorrent,
     ”'Twixt promise and performance rare proportion!
This show-cloth, of live lions, giving warrant,
     Masking some mangy, stunted, stuffed abortion;
These gorgeous covers hiding empty dishes,
     These whale-like antics among little fishes--
Here is the very stuff to meet my dearest wishes.

” What ringing of each change on brag and bluster!
     These figures huge of speech, summed in a zero;
This war-march, ushering in Bombastes' muster;
     This entry of Tom Thumb, armed like a hero.
Of all great cries e'er raised o'er little wool,
     Of all big bubbles by fools' breath filled full,
Sure here's the greatest yet, and emptiest, for John Bull!

”John always thought Jonathan, his young brother,
     A little of a bully; said he swaggered;
But in all change of chaff with one another,
     Nor John nor Jonathan was e'er called “ laggard.”
But now, if John mayn't Jonathan style, “ Coward,”
     He may hint Stripes and Stars were better lowered
From that tall height to which, till now, their flagstaff towered.“

Punch nibbed his pen, all jubilant, for galling--
     When suddenly a weight weighed down the feather,
And a red liquid, drop by drop, slow falling,
     Came from the nib; and the drops rolled together,
And steamed, and smoked, and sung--“Not ink, but blood;
     Drops now, but soon to swell into a flood,
Perchance e'er Summer's leaf has burst Spring's guarding bud.

“Blood by a brother's hand drawn from a brother--
     And they by whom 'tis ta'en, by whom 'tis given,
Are both the children of an English mother;
     Once with that mother, in her wrath, they've striven;
Was't not enough, that parricidal jar,
     But they must now meet in fraternal war?
If such strife draw no blood, shall England scoff therefore?

“If she will laugh, through thee, her chartered wit,
     Use thou no ink wherewith to pen thy scoff;
We'll find a liquor for thy pen more fit--
     We blood-drops — see how smartly thou'lt round off
Point, pun, and paragraph in this new way;
     Till men shall read and laugh, and laughing, say,
‘ Well thrust! Punch is in vein; 'tis his red-letter day.’ ”

The weight sat on my quill: I could not write;
     The red drops clustered to my pen — in vain;
I had my theme--“Brothers that meet in fight,
     Yet shed no blood!” --my jesting mood turned pain.
I thought of all that civil love endears,
     That civil strife breaks up, and rends, and sears,
And lo! the blood-drops in my pen were changed to tears!

And for the hoarse tongues that those bloody gouts
     Had found, or seemed to find, upon my ears
Came up a gentle song in linked bouts,
     Of long-drawn sweetness — pity breathed through tears.
And thus they sang--” 'Twas not by chance,
     Still less by fraud or fear,
That Sumter's battle came and closed,
     Nor cost the world a tear.
Twas not that Northern hearts were weak,
     Or Southern courage cold,
That shell and shot fell harming not
     A man on shore or hold.

”It was that all their ghosts who lived
     To love the realm they made,
Came fleeting so athwart the fire,
     That shot and shell were stayed.
Washington with his sad still face,
     Franklin with silver hair,
Lincoln and Putnam, Allen, Gates,
     And gallant Wayne were there.

”With those who rose at Boston,
     At Philadelphia met;
Whose grave eyes saw the Union's seal
     To their first charter set.
Adams, and Jay, and Henry,
     Rutledge and Randolph, too--
And many a name their country's fame
     Hath sealed brave, wise, and true.

”An awful host — above the coast,
     About the fort, they bung;
Sad faces pale, too proud to wail,
     But with sore anguish wrung. [91]
And Faith and Truth, and Love and Ruth,
     Hovered the battle o'er,
Hind'ring the shot, that freight of death
     Between those brothers bore.

”And thus it happed, by God's good grace,
     And those good spirits' band,
That Death forbore the leaguer'd place,
     The battery-guarded strand.
Thanks unto Heaven on bended knee,
     Not scoff from mocking scorn,
Befits us, that to bloodless end
     A strife like this is borne! “

--London Punch, May 11.

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