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54. Avenged!

by Orpheus C. Kerr.
God's scales of Justice hang between
The deed Unjust and the end Unseen,
And the sparrow's fall in the one is weighed
By the Lord's own hand in the other laid.

In the prairie path to our Sunset gate,
In the flow'ring heart of a new-born State,
Are the hopes of an old man's waning years,
'Neath headstones worn with an old man's tears.

When the bright sun sinks in the rose-lipped West,
His last red ray is the headstone's crest:
And the mounds he laves in a crimson flood
Are a Soldier's wealth baptized in blood!

Do ye ask who reared those headstones there,
And crowned with thorns a sire's gray hair?
And by whom the Land's great debt was paid
To the Soldier old, in the graves they made?

Shrink, Pity, shrink, at the question dire;
And, Honor, burn in a blush of fire!
Turn, Angel, turn, from the page thine eyes,
Or the Sin, once written, never dies!

They were men of the land he had fought to save
From a foreign foe that had crossed the wave,
When his sunlit youth was a martial song,
And shook a throne as it swelled along.

They were sons of a clime whose soft, warm breath
Is the soul of earth, and a life in death;
Where the Summer dreams on the couch of Spring,
And songs of birds through the whole year ring;

Where the falling leaf is the cup that grew
To catch the gems of the new leaf's dew,
And the winds that through the vine-leaves creep
Are the sighs of Time in a pleasant sleep.

But there lurked a taint in the clime so blest,
Like a serpent coiled in a ring-dove's nest,
And the human sounds to the ear it gave
Were the clank of chains on a low-browed Slave.

The Soldier old, at his sentry-post,
Where the sun's last trail of light is lost,
Beheld the shame of the land he loved,
And the old, old love in his bosom moved.

He cried to the land, Beware! Beware
Of the symboled curse in the Bondman there!
And a prophet's soul in fire came down
To live in the voice of old John Brown.

He cried; and the ingrate answer came
In words of steel from a tongue of flame;
They dyed his hearth in the blood of kin,
And his dear ones fell for the Nation's Sin!

O matchless deed! that a fiend might scorn;
O deed of shame! for a world to mourn;
A prophet's pay in his blood most dear,
And a land to mock at a Father's tear!

Is't strange that the tranquil soul of age
Was turned to strife in a madman's rage?
Is't strange that the cry of blood did seem
Like the roll of drums in a martial dream?

Is't strange that the clank of the Helot's chain
Should drive the Wrong to the old man's brain,
To fire his heart with a Santon's zeal,
And mate his arm to the Soldier's steel?

The bane of Wrong to its depth had gone,
And the sword of Right from its sheath was drawn,
But the cabined slave heard not his cry,
And the old man armed him but to die.

Ye may call him mad that he did not quail
When his stout blade bloke on the unblest mail;
Ye may call him mad, that he struck alone,
And made the land's dark Curse his own;

But the Eye of God looked down and saw
A just life lost by an unjust law;
And black was the day with God's own frown
When the Southern Cross was a martyr's Crown!

Apostate clime! the blood then shed
Fell thick with vengeance on thy head,
To weight it down 'neath the coming rod,
When thy red hand should be stretched to God.

Behold the price of the life ye took;
At the death ye gave 'twas a world that shook:
And the despot deed that one heart broke,
From their slavish sleep a million woke!

Not all alone did the victim fall,
Whose wrongs first brought him to your thrall:
The old man played a Nation's part,
And ye struck your blow at the Nation's heart!

The freemen host is at your door,
And a voice goes forth with a stern “No more!”
To the deadly Curse, whose swift redeem
Was the visioned thought of John Brown's dream.

To the Country's Wrong and the Country's stain,
It shall prove as the scythe to the yielding grain;
And the dauntless power to spread it forth
Is the free-born soul of the chainless North.

From the East, and West, and North they come,
To the bugle's call and the roll of drum;
And a form walks viewless by their side--
A form that was born when the Old Man died!

The Soldier old in his grave may rest,
Afar with his dead in the prairie West;
But the red ray falls on the headstone there,
Like a God's reply to a soldier's prayer.

He may sleep in peace 'neath the greenwood pall,
For the land's great heart hath heard his call;
And a people's Will and a people's Might
Shall right the Wrong and proclaim the Right.

The foe may howl at the fiat just,
And gnash his fangs in the trodden dust;
But the battle leaves his bark a wreck,
And the Freeman's heel is on his track.

Not all in vain is the lesson taught,
That a great soul's Dream is the world's New Thought;
And the Scaffold marked with a death sublime
Is the Throne ordained for the coming time.

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