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Edmund Clarence Stedman (Эдмунд Кларенс Стедман)


Wave, wave your glorious battle-flags, brave soldiers of the North,
And from the field your arms have won to-day go proudly forth!
For now, O comrades dear and leal,—from whom no ills could part,
Through the long years of hopes and fears, the nation's constant heart,—
Men who have driven so oft the foe, so oft have striven in vain,
Yet ever in the perilous hour have crossed his path again,—
At last we have our hearts' desire, from them we met have wrung
A victory that round the world shall long be told and sung!
It was the memory of the past that bore us through the fray,
That gave the grand old Army strength to conquer on this day!

O now forget how dark and red Virginia's rivers flow,
The Rappahannock's tangled wilds, the glory and the woe;
The fever-hung encampments, where our dying knew full sore
How sweet the north-wind to the cheek it soon shall cool no more;
The fields we fought, and gained, and lost; the lowland sun and rain
That wasted us, that bleached the bones of our unburied slain!
There was no lack of foes to meet, of deaths to die no lack,
And all the hawks of heaven learned to follow on our track;
But henceforth, hovering southward, their flight shall mark afar
The paths of yon retreating hosts that shun the northern star.

At night, before the closing fray, when all the front was still,
We lay in bivouac along the cannon-crested hill.
Ours was the dauntless Second Corps; and many a soldier knew
How sped the fight, and sternly thought of what was yet to do.
Guarding the centre there, we lay, and talked with bated breath
Of Buford's stand beyond the town, of gallant Reynolds' death,
Of cruel retreats through pent-up streets by murderous volleys swept,—
How well the Stone, the Iron, Brigades their bloody outposts kept:
'T was for the Union, for the Flag, they perished, heroes all,
And we swore to conquer in the end, or even like them to fall.

And passed from mouth to mouth the tale of that grim day just done,
The fight by Round Top's craggy spur,—of all the deadliest one;
It saved the left: but on the right they pressed us back too well,
And like a field in Spring the ground was ploughed with shot and shell.
There was the ancient graveyard, its hummocks crushed and red,
And there, between them, side by side, the wounded and the dead:
The mangled corpses fallen above,—the peaceful dead below,
Laid in their graves, to slumber here, a score of years ago;
It seemed their waking, wandering shades were asking of our slain,
What brought such hideous tumult now where they so still had lain!

Bright rose the sun of Gettysburg that morrow morningtide,
And call of trump and roll of drum from height to height replied.
Hark! from the east already goes up the rattling din;
The Twelfth Corps, winning back their ground, right well the day begin!
They whirl fierce Ewell from their front! Now we of the Second pray,
As right and left the brunt have borne, the centre might to-day.
But all was still from hill to hill for many a breathless hour,
While for the coming battle-shock Lee gathered in his power;
And back and forth our leaders rode, who knew not rest or fear,
And along the lines, where'er they came, went up the ringing cheer.

'T was past the hour of nooning; the Summer skies were blue;
Behind the covering timber the foe was hid from view;
So fair and sweet with waving wheat the pleasant valley lay,
It brought to mind our Northern homes and meadows far away;
When the whole western ridge at once was fringed with fire and smoke;
Against our lines from sevenscore guns the dreadful tempest broke!
Then loud our batteries answer, and far along the crest,
And to and fro the roaring bolts are driven east and west;
Heavy and dark around us glooms the stifling sulphur-cloud,
And the cries of mangled men and horse go up beneath its shroud.

The guns are still: the end is nigh: we grasp our arms anew;
O now let every heart be stanch and every aim be true!
For look! from yonder wood that skirts the valley's further marge,
The flower of all the Southern host move to the final charge.
By Heaven! it is a fearful sight to see their double rank
Come with a hundred battle-flags,—a mile from flank to flank!
Tramping the grain to earth, they come, ten thousand men abreast;
Their standards wave,—their hearts are brave,—they hasten not, nor rest,
But close the gaps our cannon make, and onward press, and nigher,
And, yelling at our very front, again pour in their fire!

Now burst our sheeted lightnings forth, now all our wrath has vent!
They die, they wither; through and through their wavering lines are rent.
But these are gallant, desperate men, of our own race and land,
Who charge anew, and welcome death, and fight us hand to hand:
Vain, vain! give way, as well ye may—the crimson die is cast!
Their bravest leaders bite the dust, their strength is failing fast;
They yield, they turn, they fly the field: we smite them as they run;
Their arms, their colors are our spoil; the furious fight is done!
Across the plain we follow far and backward push the fray:
Cheer! cheer! the grand old Army at last has won the day!

Hurrah! the day has won the cause! No gray-clad host henceforth
Shall come with fire and sword to tread the highways of the North!
'Twas such a flood as when ye see, along the Atlantic shore,
The great Spring-tide roll grandly in with swelling surge and roar:
It seems no wall can stay its leap or balk its wild desire
Beyond the bound that Heaven hath fixed to higher mount, and higher;
But now, when whitest lifts its crest, most loud its billows call,
Touched by the Power that led them on, they fall, and fall, and fall.
Even thus, unstayed upon his course, to Gettysburg the foe
His legions led, and fought, and fled, and might no further go.

Full many a dark-eyed Southern girl shall weep her lover dead;
But with a price the fight was ours,—we too have tears to shed!
The bells that peal our triumph forth anon shall toll the brave,
Above whose heads the cross must stand, the hillside grasses wave!
Alas! alas! the trampled grass shall thrive another year,
The blossoms on the apple-boughs with each new Spring appear,
But when our patriot-soldiers fall, Earth gives them up to God;
Though their souls rise in clearer skies, their forms are as the sod;
Only their names and deeds are ours,—but, for a century yet,
The dead who fell at Gettysburg the land shall not forget.

God send us peace! and where for aye the loved and lost recline
Let fall, O South, your leaves of palm,—O North, your sprigs of pine!
But when, with every ripened year, we keep the harvest-home,
And to the dear Thanksgiving-feast our sons and daughters come,
When children's children throng the board in the old homestead spread,
And the bent soldier of these wars is seated at the head,
Long, long the lads shall listen to hear the gray-beard tell
Of those who fought at Gettysburg and stood their ground so well:
"'Twas for the Union and the Flag," the veteran shall say,
"Our grand old Army held the ridge, and won that glorious day!"

Edmund Clarence Stedman's other poems:
  1. Sumter
  2. W. W.
  3. Gifford
  4. Kearny at Seven Pines
  5. Peter Stuyvesant's New Year's Call

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