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15. New-Year's Address.

by S. C. Mercer.
O infant Year! whose new-born limbs are swathed
And cradled in convulsion — O dread Heaven!
Unsealing o'er this land of many woes
The Apocalyptic vials — O my torn
And bleeding country! by thy sons defloured,
And stricken of thy God--how shall I sing
A festal anthem on a broken lyre--
To ears made dull by sorrow?

From her dreams,
With music lulled, all-queenly, and perfumed
With odors from the Summer's lips distilled,
The startled nation woke — awoke to hear
Rebellion's demons in her citadel,
By dark and perjured sentinels invoked--
Singing her dirge, like the volcanic bass
Of Aetna's organ chiming with the sea
When groans the Titan in immortal pangs--
The trepidation of conflicting hosts,
Mixed with the wild alarm of clamorous bells,
The strife — the shout — the wailing of despair.

Time, by whose hands the mouldering dust of death
Is shovelled in the vaults of coffined realms,
What Nemesis insatiate still inspires
The suicide of Empires? In her breast,
Greece nursed the serpent faction with her blood,
That stung her to the heart. Rebellion's steel
Pierced the fair bosom of imperial Rome
By foreign foes unconquered; and the land
Of God's own people drank the fatal cup
Which dark dissension pressed upon her lips.

As midnight's bell proclaims with double tongue
One year departed and another born,
Swift throng around me with imperial mien
And god-like brow, and eyes of sad reproach,
As angels look in sorrow, the great dead
Who walked Mount Vernon's shades, and Marshfield's plains,
And Monticello's height, and Ashland's groves
Still vocal with unearthly eloquence--
Statesmen and Chiefs who loved their native land
And led her up to fame. With solemn air
And thrilling voice they point to freedom's flag,
War-rent and laced with sacrificial blood
By noble martyrs shed; and thus they speak--

“O sons once named Americans, but now
The world-mocked orphans of a nameless land,
Why rush ye to destruction? Happier far
Than ye the tawny tribes your fathers drove
From the primeval forests — the red chiefs
Who bravely perished on their hunting-grounds,
Or passing o'er the mountains of the West,
Went down in gloom, like nature's final sun,
To rise no more forever! Better thus
Than live the foul dishonor of your sires,
Whose progeny like Lucifer of old
Rebelled against the power that made them gods,
And perished in their treason. Come, ye winds,
Swift-winged couriers of the tropic sky,
Heralds of death and ruin — come, ye fires
That in volcanic caverns ever burn,
And crisp pale cities in your molten jaws--
Come, burning plagues, and ye tempestuous waves,
Who strangle navies in your watery arms--
Earthquakes and lightning strokes, all earthly ills
Which Heaven inflicts and trembling men abhor--
Fell bolts in God's red armory of wrath,
With all your terrors in one stroke combined,
Come! and in mercy blast the land with ruin
Rather than we should see Columbia's plains
Drenched in a crimson sea of fratricide,
Lust, rapine, malice, treachery, revenge,
The tall and crowning infamy of time.”

I hear a passing bell — the muffled drum
Rolls its sepulchral echoes on the night
Which spreads across the sky the starless pall
Of desolation. And upon my ear
Falls the wild burden of a dismal song
Like that of mocking fiends in revelry.

Fiends who in the lurid gloom
Of hell do ply the fatal loom,
Weave a banner of despair
For Columbia's tainted air.
Like the boding raven's wing
All the land overshadowing,
In the murky woof embroider
Darkness, death, and hell's disorder.

On the fatal standard show
Every form of guilt and woe--
Murder drinking deep of blood,
Rolling round him like a flood, [15]
Faction's diabolic art,
Perjured tongue and traitor heart--
All the fetid gall that drips
From the land's infected lips,
In the murky woof embroider
Darkness, death, and hell's disorder.

Weave we in the magic loom
Piles of slain without a tomb,
Cities lit with midnight fires,
Crashing walls and toppling spires,
Famine's sunken, ghastly cheek,
Outraged woman's helpless shriek,
Hoary age and infancy
Plunged in one wide misery;
In the murky woof embroider
Darkness, death, and hell's disorder.

Let the banner's folds be bound
With a fiery serpent round;
Eden's destroyer shall recal
The new temptation, sin, and fall.
We have changed the stripes of flame
To the burning blush of shame,
And the streaks of spotless white
To the pallor of affright,
And the stars which blazoned all
To wormwood in its endless fall.

The song of treason ceased — the demons fled,
And as I mused in the dark bitterness
Of grief to this sad prophecy of woe,
I heard a sound, as when the ocean moves
His moist battalions to the tempest's march,
To storm the fortress of the rocky isles,
And hosts innumerable thronged around
In panoply of war. From every height
And every valley, rolled the martial drum,
And bugles calling to the gory charge
The loyal and the bold, while streamed on high
Gay banners glittering with the hues of heaven.
“We come, O bleeding country!” was their cry,
“To beat aside the parricidal steel,
And shield the snowy breast that gave us life.”

New-England's seamen swelled the rallying cry
Along the coasts, the Middle States replied
From thronging marts, the echoes leaped along
The Mississippi Valley, whose vast floods
Throb like the pulses of the Nation's heart,
And pale Virginia, all besprinkled now
With War's red baptism, to Kentucky spoke,
Kentucky tried but faithful unto death
To sad Missouri called, Missouri passed
The kindling watchword to the vast North-west,
Ohio, Indiana, Illinois,
Who louder sang than Niagara's roar
To the unconquered heights of Tennessee;
Hoarse echoes, like the low sepulchral moan
Of subterranean fires, disturbed the Gulf--
The bleeding Gulf betrayed and overawed--
Then swelling loud as an Archangel's trump,
Or shrill winds piping o'er the stormy flood,
It thundered back from far Pacific's coast.

Come to the tombs by mourning millions thronged
Beneath the oak of weeping. Glorious dead
Fame's cemetery holds no hero dust
More dearly honored in sublime repose.
Pale ashes, with a nation's tears bedewed,
And fanned by sighs as numerous as the winds,
The laurels that you nurture shall be green
And bloom forever round the precious urns
Of Baker and of Lyon. Fortune smiled
Upon them, casting from her ample lap,
Her lavish stores of fame and wealth and ease,
And wooed them to repose. Though sweet her song,
She sang unheeded. Honor, fortune, life
They offered freely on their country's shrine,
In the red heat and fury of the fight,
Deeming the dearest jewels of the world
Were nought when weighed against the nation's life.

He who led our faltering ranks
Up the ambuscaded banks--
He who poured his heart's red rain
Over Springfield's stormy plain,
Heeding not the volleys deadly,
Nor the life-blood running redly,
Cold in death shall lead no more
Where our country's eagles soar.

Such, O War! thy fearful pleasure,
Priceless blood and costliest treasure,
Still the victims whom thou smitest
Are the loveliest and brightest.
But the martyrs shall be glorious
When our flag returns victorious:
Death, who seals such patriot eyes,
Opens them in Paradise.

As wistfully I gazed upon their graves
A vision passed before me. On a mount
That glowed with light ineffable, appeared
The New-Year, in imperial garments clad,
Erect and tall and godlike in his mien,
With strength immortal in his manly limbs,
And hope and courage beaming from his eyes.
In either hand a hideous serpent writhed,
Gasping and struggling in the pangs of death,
Seeking in vain to sting with venomed fangs
The hand that grasped them. On the scaly folds
Of one appeared the reptile's name — secession--
The other bore the legend Abolition;
And these twin dragons, ever linked together,
Moved by one fell intent and mortal hate,
Still twining with inseparable coils,
Writhed with the self-same pangs, and hissed, and died.
The New Year cast the reptiles at his feet,
And lo! swift breaking from the clouds, he saw
Coming in splendor like the morning sun,
The reunited Empire of the West,
Swelled on the ear the ever-murmuring hum
Of populous cities on unnumbered streams,
And marts of commerce by a hundred lakes.
The teeming fields, with varied harvests, waved,
And tinkling bells on distant hills revived
Sweet memories of Arcadia's pastoral days.
Fair science led her train by every grove
And hill and stream, and pure religion filled
Her solemn temples with perpetual hymns
And fervent supplication to her God.
And from above the shades of years departed
Sang with a voice that filled the firmament:
“Hail, New-Year, hail! the noblest child of Time!
The Power which brought the fathers o'er the flood
Has saved the offspring from the seven-fold fire.
A Union healed shall date its life from thee,
Redemption's golden era. From its shield
No star shall vanish in forlorn eclipse,
Nor exiled Pleiad chant in skies remote
Her solitary song, nor sundered be
The marriage bond of States, by law confirmed
And the eternal oracles of God.”

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