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The men who wore the gray.

A new poem by Father Ryan.
[The following exquisite poem was prepared to be read at the meeting in behalf of the Southern Historical Society, in New Orleans, April 25th. From some cause it failed to reach the committee in time, and was not read. But we are sure that our readers will thank us for giving it here, and will join us in tendering Father Ryan the warm gratitude of true Confederates everywhere for adding this gem to the many others with which he has enriched our Southern literature, and embalmed the precious memories of the land and cause we love so well.]

Tell it as you may,
     It never can be told;
Sing it as you will,
     It never can be sung:--

The story of the glory
     Of the men who wore the gray
In their graves, so still;
     The story of the living,
Unforgiven yet forgiving, [280]
     The victims still of hate,
Who have forever clung,
     With a love that will not die,
To the memories of our Past,
     Who are patient and who wait,
True and faithful to the last,--
     For the Easter morning sky,
When Wrong's rock shall roll away
     From the sepulchre of Right,
And the Right shall rise again
     In the brightness of a light,
That shall never fade away,
     Triumphantly and glorious
To teach once more to men,
     The Conquered are victorious.
The Conquered in the strife,
     Throa their children yet shall reign
By their patience and their peace;
     They shall fill the People's life,
From Right's ever virgin vein,
     With the purest blood that flows,
Made the purer by our woes,
     Without stain and without cease,
Till the children of our foes
     Shall be proud and glad to claim
And to write upon one scroll
     Every dear and deathless name
On our Southern muster-roll.

Ah! we rebels met defeat
     On the gory battle-field,
And we flung our muskets down,
     When our Bonnie Flag was furled;
But our right did but retreat
     With pure honor for her shield,
And with justice for her crown,
     From the forces of the world;--
(For against us thousands came,
     Money-bought from every clime,
But we stood against them all,
     For the honor of our name,
Till the fated day of time
     Came but to crown our Fall
With a fadeless wreath of Fame.)

Retreat into that shrine,
     Back of every Southern breast,
Your hearts, my friends, and mine, [281]
     Where Right finds a holy Rest
On the altar-stairs that slope
     Toward the throne where reigns the Just,
Where we still live on and hope,
     And in Him we place our trust.

Is it treason thus to sing?
     Why, then treason let it be,
Must we stoop to fawn on wrong?
     To the Idol must we bring
Our heart's idolatry
     And the fealty of song?
No, no ;--the past is past--
     May it never come again;
May no drum, or bugle's blast
     Summon warriors to the plain!
The battle's play is o'er,
     We staked our all and lost--
The red wild waves that tossed
     The Southland's sacred bark
Are sleeping on the shore.
     She went down in the dark.
Is it wrong for us to listen
     To the waves that still will glisten
Where the wreck we loved went down?
     Is it wrong to watch the willows
That are drooping o'er the grave?
     Is it wrong to love our brave?

Are our memories a treason
     To the Powers we must obey?
Can the victors give a reason
     Why the men who wore the gray
From our hearts should march away,
     And should pass from us forever
Like the dreamings of the night?
     Do they want the South to sever
The blood-consecrated ties,
     The sacred bonds of sorrow
That will link our last To-morrow
     To our glory hallowed Past?
Ah! our hearts cry: Never! Never!
     For each soldier heart that dies
In our memories still is beating;
     Thoa the years are fast retreating,
We remember to the last. [282]
     Nay; tell it as you may
It never can be told,
     And sing it as you will,
It never can be sung--

The story of the glory of our Bonnie, Bonnie Flag,
     When its battle-wings were waving in the valley — on the crag,--
On the billows of the ocean,--by the river's winding shore.

The years have passed away,
     But, ah! 'tis flinging still
Around our hearts to-day
     The self-same spell it flung
O'er our soldiers in their gray.

Back of lines that never quailed--
     Far from battle-banners' flash--
There were lips that moaned and wailed,
     And how many eyes that wept;
Thoa they heard no cannon crash
     Nor the terror-storms of lead,
And they sighed the while they slept
     When they dreamed their own were dead.
Mothers, wives and children fair,
     Back of all the ranks that fought,
Knelt adown in holy prayer,
     And in heaven only sought,
In their infinite despair,
     Gleams of hope to light the Night
Darkly gathering o'er the Right.

Can a singer gather up,
     In the chalices of song,
Half the tears that filled the cup
     Of the griefs of such a throng?

Crimson drops on battle-plain,
     Throa four sorrow-laden years,--
Were they richer than the rain,
     That baptized our homes with tears?

Nay; no singer yet has sung
     Song to tell how hearts had bled,
Where, our soldiers' homes among,
     Wept eyes waiting for the dead.

And one-statuesque and still-- [283]
     (Is he in the hall to-night,
Who yet suffers for the Right?)
     Faithful chieftain of our Cause--
Like an ocean rock his will
     Let the wild waves rise and fall;
What cares it, and what cares he?
     Thoa still banned by Freedom's laws!
In his home beside the sea
     Lives he freest of the free.
Ah! they chained his feeble frame,
     But they could not chain his thought,
Nor the Right for which he fought,
     And they could not chain his fame,
But they riveted his name
     To the hearts of you and me;--
Aged chieftain! Southern truth!
     In you keeps immortal youth!
You, our truest and our best,
     What care you for any ban?
Are you not the noblest guest
     In the hearts of each and all?
For us all you wore wrong's chain,
     And each heart is now the hall
Where you have the right to reign.

Leader of the men in gray!
     Chieftain — truest of the true--
Write our story as you may,
     And you did; but even you,
With your pen, could never write
     Half the story of our land.
Your's the heart and your's the hand--
     Sentinels of Southern right;
Your's the brave, strong eloquence--
     Your true words our last defense;
Warrior words — but even they
     Failed as failed our men in gray;
Fail to tell the story grand
     Of our cause and of our land.

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