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[382]

The Confederate dead. [from the Richmond, Va., times, Jan. 30, 1898.]

A beautiful poem by A. C. Gordon, of Staunton.


To the Editor of the Times:
In reading the excellent address of Capt. R. S. Parks to the veterans [see ante pp. 354-364], as reported in your paper, and the beautiful and fitting verses with which he closed, it occurred to me that you would enjoy, if you have never seen it, or read it, the entire poem as delivered by the author, the Hon. A. C. Gordon, of Staunton, Va., upon the occasion of unveiling the monument erected to the Confederate dead at Staunton, Va., and I enclose you a copy. The late Professor George Fred. Holmes told the writer of this that he considered Mr. Armistead Gordon's poem ‘the finest on such an occasion he had read since the war.’ With many other distinguishing qualities, I am happy that Virginia has in this son one who writes so beautifully in verse.1

G. Julian Pratt. Waynesboro, Va., January 25, 1898.


The Confederate dead.

“The grief that circled his brow with a crown of thorns was also that which wreathed them with the splendor of immortality.”— Castelar'sSavonarola.’

I.

Where are they who marched away,
     Sped with smiles that changed to tears,
Glittering lines of steel and gray
     Moving down the battle's way—
Where are they these many years?

Garlands wreathed their shining swords;
     They were girt about with cheers,
Children's lispings, women's words,
     Sunshine and the songs of birds—
They are gone so many years.

[383] Lo! beyond their brave array
     Freedom's august dawn appears:
Thus we said: “The brighter day
     Breaks above that line of gray.” —
Where are they these many years?

All our hearts went with them there,
     All our love, and all our prayers;
What of them? How do they fare,
     They who went to do and dare,
And are gone so many years?

What of them who went away
     Followed by our hopes and fears?
Braver never marched than they,
     Closer ranks to fiercer fray.—
Where are they these many years?

Ii.

Borne upon the Spartan shield
     Home returned that brave array
From the blood-stained battle-field
     They might neither win nor yield;
That is all, and here are they.

That is all, The soft sky bends
     O'er them, lapped in earth away;
Her benignest influence lends,
     Dews and rains and radiance sends
Down upon them, night and day.

Over them the Springtide weaves
     All the verdure of her May:
Past them drift the sombre leaves
     When the heart of Autumn grieves
O'er their slumbers.—What care they?

What care they, who failed to win
     Guerdon of that splendid day—
Freedom's day—they saw begin,
     But that, 'mid the battle's din,
Faded in eclipse away?

All is gone for them. They gave
     All for naught. It was their way
Where they loved. They died to save
     What was lost. The fight was brave.
That is all; and here are they.

[384]

III.

Is that all? Was duty naught?
     Love and Faith made blind with tears?
What the lessons that they taught?
     What the glory that they caught
From the onward sweeping years?

Here are they who marched away,
     Followed by our hopes and fears;
Nobler never went than they
     To a bloodier, madder fray,
In the lapse of all the years.

Garlands still shall wreathe the swords
     That they drew amid our cheers;
Children's lispings, women's words,
     Sunshine, and the songs of birds
Greet them here through all the years.

With them ever shall abide
     All our love and all our prayers.
‘What of them?’ The battle's tide
     Hath not scathed them. Lo, they ride
Still with Stuart down the years.

Where are they who went away,
     Sped with smiles that changed to tears?
Lee yet leads the lines of gray—
     Stonewall still rides down this way;
They are Fame's through all the years.


1 He has written as well in prose, it may be assumed, for, as fellow student with Thomas Nelson Page at the University of Virginia, he yielded to the latter (it has been admitted), some conceptions-upon which our dialect writer rose to fame and wealth.

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