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48. Roanoke.

by Geo. Alfred Townsend.
Fair island by the calm, blue Sound,
     Where high thy pines their branches sway,
And make low melodies all day
     To lull the slumbers of the drowned;
The sea-gull screams along thy strand
     To mock the vulture and the crow,
And lonesomely the wreckers go
     Down the long aisles of silver sand.
There are no sails across the bar;
     Where is the fisherman's canoe,
And all the cunning nets he drew
     Before the blighting of the war?
No more the hounds and hunters come
     To chase the wild deer from the oak;
For desolation sere and dumb,
     Sits in the homes of Roanoke.

There first my pale and sanguine race
     A birthplace found-perhaps a grave ;1
Her father came too late to save,
     He met no welcome and no trace.
And vainly rode the anguished carl--
     For so the sole direction ran--
Across the tide to Croatan,
     And searched the groves of Albemarle.
Perhaps she loved some Indian brave,
     And dusky children learned to know
Far in the land of Manteo;
     Or paced, half-famished by the wave,
Where gazing wearily at morn,
     She heard the far surf clash and croak
The requiem of the golden corn
     That never came to Roanoke.

Thrice ploughed thy sand the English keel--
     They turned their helm through Ocracock--
They perished by the tomahawk,
     The famine hand, the fever heel.
The brave Sir Walter led the way;
     He saw the blue smoke curling go
Up from thy huts, Granganimo,
     Where the red Indian children play.
And swearing never to forget
     The faith he pledged the tawny chief,
They smoked the first tobacco leaf
     In the all-hallowed calumet.
Alas! for Christian oath and plight,
     His holy vow the Briton broke,
And murdered in a single night,
     The native Lords of Roanoke.

The wild duck flocked the sound astir,
     The bear looked out from Secotan-- [44]
They saw no living human man,
     But only where the ashes were.
And never more the yellow maize
     Flecked half the fields of Currituck--
The isle was seared by some ill luck
     Till after many weary days.
Still might the squaw and hunter dwell--
     Nor had the pale face need to go
Far from the sunny Pamlico--
     If but each trusted each as well.
They spurn the pleasant homes they hold:
     The old, old peace they ruthly broke,
And wandered vainly after gold
     Far up the stream of Roanoke.

Those savage times have waned apace,
     The piney isle no red men tread,
Their wigwams and their wives are dead,
     And war has blackened all the place;
For treason left its thousand farms,
     And broke the calumet in twain;
And called across the stormy main
     A host of loyal men at arms.
Thy pines De Monteuil's death bemoan,
     Thy surge brave Russell's requiem measures,
And delving for forbidden treasures,
     Thy traitors dig but skull and bone.
Two awful days the foemen met,
     And when the third all glorious woke,
The spangled flag we worship yet,
     Curled all its stripes o'er Roanoke.

The corpse half buried in the sand,
     The far-off friends that wait the shock,
The raven brooding on the rock,
     The hungry sky, the lonesome land,
The blood, the tears, the sons, the sires--
     Oh! these too well the triumph note,
Though ringing from the nation's throat
     Acclaims that quench her funeral pyres.
We laugh and weep all unawares;
     The flag above, the dead beneath,
The sabre dripping in its sheath,
     And on our lips dear household prayers.
See mercy in the arms of fear.
     My God! this curse of blood revoke,
May every loyal Northern spear
     Be nerved with news from Roanoke.

Philadelphia, February 16, 1862.

1 Virginia Dare, the first offspring of English parents in the New World, was born on Roanoke Island, 1587.

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George Alfred Townsend (1)
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