120. Aceldama.

by George Alfred Townsend.
The genius of our Empire looked, one noon,
Where, flushed with sunset, sparkled peak and sea,
River and plain and forest all atune--
Throbbing and thrilling in each artery--
Gaunt cataracts, impatient to be free,
Great lakes, like oceans, that lay prone and seething,
And wildernesses, where the storms were breathing,
And cliffs, whose arms reach where the heavens be
“This power and populousness,” murmured she,
”Must be historic, and the new baptism
Of war descend upon it; feud and schism
Shall override these valleys, down these hills
Blood dig new channels for its smoking rills,
And the blue sky grow hazy, where the slain
Die, cursing in the bitterness of pain.
These rivers, that go sluggish to the main,
Bearing upon their bosoms kine and grain,
Shall float leviathans, whose frowning ports
Will speak in thunder to a hundred forts,
And hurrying from their sleepy tillages,
The yeomanry shall rally in these villages,
And hear a music that they never knew--
The shrilly fife that throbbed at Agincourt
And thrilled the thousands on the field of Tours,
The deathless drum that beat at Waterloo!

”My empire shall not be a tame array
Of paltry towns and peaceful downs and moors,
Where, through the loitering summer, clowns and boors
Go slow a-field to sickle in the hay--
A valorous race, whose fame will reach away,
To shame of older clans and climes the glory,
Shall make a grand and monumental story,
To be remembered till the world grows gray!
Pilgrims shall hither through the ages stray,
To mark the sites where hordes fell rash and fated.
No land is great till red and consecrated!“

Forthwith she strewed her dragon-teeth adown
The Carolinian meadows. In a trice
Armed men sprang up amid the corn and rice,
And seized on fortress, arsenal, and town;
She scattered them, where vigorous and brown,
The Texan marked his spotted cattle graze,
And by the light of villages ablaze,
Mustered a thousand bayonets and sabres;
And where the negro in the cotton-groves
Sat down at eve to eat his yellow loaves,
The Alabamian roused his sons and neighbors;
The Georgian hills were black. Oh! fate, not reason--
Louisiana faltered in obedience;
And wavering for a moment in allegiance,
The old Dominion rushed into the treason,

An awful pause! Half-terror, half in wonder,
The moon glared blue; the very ocean lay
Dumb and in dread; the grave-clothes stirred their clay;
Then broke from Charleston hay the first deep peal of thunder! [106]
O Massachusetts! hallowed be for aye,
Thy sturdy heart that never throbbed in vain!
And be the forests and the streams of Maine
Blessed forever! terrible and gaunt
The mountaineers of Hampshire and Vermont
Poured from their eyries, half-way in the sky,
Down where Long Island Sound lifts up its calm blue eye.

The empires of York and Penn were all aflame;
There was no hamlet where the drum beat not,
No fireside, but desperate and hot,
Some son or father felt the glow of shame,
And buckled on his sword and breathed his mother's name.

The prairies rang — Ohio raised her hand
With Illinois, to wipe away the guilt,
The sword should drip in carnage to the hilt,
And every roof-thatch be a beacon-brand.
At each Iowa hearth stood stern a mailed man--
Young Kansas knelt in wrath, and swore with Michigan!

A wall of flame blazed up the border-line;
A thousand camp-fires lit the midnight sky;
The white tents glistened in the trampled rye;
An armed man replaced each ash and pine;
The trooper rode where erst had grazed his kine;
The barley-blades grew up to bayonets;
A navy tore the frightened fisher's nets;
A crusade swarmed across each mount and moor,
Their fane to rescue by Potomac's shore;
The first great hearts beat out at Baltimore.

O zeal too rash! O treason too profound!
O feeble king! O keen and subtle Warwick!
O quiet plains that blood has made historic!
O simple hearts that valor has renowned!
O carnivals where vulture gorged with hound!
O martyrdoms where yet the relics bleach!
O agonies that words can never reach!
O heroisms that must ever thrill!
The brook is red that flows by Centreville;
The Leesburg bluffs are ghostly in the dun,
A thousand spectres stalk by Arlington;
The fires are lurid on the haunted hill
Where Lyon's lordly name brings tears and terrors still.

How sank the right! how treason flushed and vaunted!
We had no country and the slave no hope!
Where slept the sword that in the erst could cope
With grander tyrannies, whose banners flaunted
Over the empires where its chieftains led?
A deep reply came up from Hilton Head;
From stormy Hatteras the answer broke,
And echoed down the strand of Roanoke,
And broke in thunder on the Cumberland!
And vengeance trembled on the lips of law,
Where Tennessee raised her ungyved hand,
And Sigel broke the chains of Arkansaw!

We have made history! ourselves have done it,
And begged no help from emperors and peers;
Thrown our own gauntlet down, crossed swords and won it,
Called from our own sweet vales these volunteers,
And fed them with our golden sheaves and ears.

The rills obscure, that sang the livelong year,
So lonesomely that none were known to hear;
The mill-roads, where the weeds choked up the tracks,
And stopped the ox-cart; and the patch of pines,
Where never within memory rang the axe,
But ever through the seasons brays and whines
The gust, that stirs the reed-tops in the fens;
The hidden cottages in shady glens;
The sleepy cross-road, where the sign-post gleams,
And boors beside the well-trough rein their teams;
The village, only known in country maps,
Where never a murder happened through the ages,
And twice a week the mails come down in stages,
And life was a succession of short naps:
These have been made world-famous! Populaces
Shall visit them for aye, as storied places;
The Czar shall mention them upon his throne,
And seamen, that keep watches of cold nights,
Couple them with long marches and great fights;
The antiquary treasure bits of bone
Picked up, at ploughing, by some grinning clown,
Who quoth: “How great a graveyard to so small a town!”

Hereafter come romances, for our themes
Are prouder than the Trojans or the Gauls.
We have our Davids, Jonathans, and Sauls,
Whose deeds will cover folios and reams,
Where every dusty rail-car screams and steams,
Look out on battle-plains and monuments,
And any surplus shillings, dimes, and pence,
Keep for the urchin's hat you stumble over--
His grandsire fought at Pittsburgh and at Dover!

Not yet, my heart! the thousands still contending
Forbid the hope that half the world confesses;
The eagle strains and gnaws his yielding jesses:
A moment more he shall be heavenward wending,
And all our stars in the same azure blending.
Break, then, these sabres, strike the iron mail
From every hull, and let these bristling marts
Be gentle havens for the gentler arts,
Where commerce sleeps beneath each whitening sail,
And labor walks with love in every vale.
Where gleam these tents let patient herds go lowing,
And nod on every slope their golden fleece;
Subdue the storms so long and ruthly blowing,
And usher in the day of perfect peace!

Great Falls, Va.

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