Separation and reunion: brother Jonathan's lament for sister CarolineBoth a record and a prophecy are contained in these lines by the New England poet, Oliver Wendell Holmes. A state convention meeting in Charleston had on December 20, 1860, unanimously passed an ordinance of secession, and during January and February six other States had followed. Early in February the Confederate Government had been organized at Montgomery, Alabama, with Jefferson Davis as President. Holmes dated this poem March 25, 1861. four days later the New President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, ordered relief to be sent to Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. On April 12th the attack on Sumter was made, and the war begun. How fully the sentiment of brotherhood here expressed by Holmes has been realized among the American people it has been the purpose of the Introduction to this volume and of the following selections to show.
She has gone,—she has left us in passion and pride,—
Our stormy-browed sister, so long at our side!
She has torn her own star from our firmament's glow,
And turned on her brother the face of a foe!
O Caroline, Caroline, child of the sun,
We can never forget that our hearts have been one,—
Our foreheads both sprinkled in Liberty's name,
From the fountain of blood with the finger of flame!
You were always too ready to fire at a touch;
But we said: ‘She is hasty,—she does not mean much.’
We have scowled when you uttered some turbulent threat;
But Friendship still whispered: ‘Forgive and forget!’
Has our love all died out? Have its altars grown cold?
Has the curse come at last which the fathers foretold?
Then Nature must teach us the strength of the chain
That her petulant children would sever in vain.