Louise Imogen Guiney

Sherman: “An Horatian Ode”

THIS was the truest man of men,
The early-armored citizen,
Who had, with most of sight,
Most passion for the right;

Who first forecasting treason’s scope
Able to sap the Founders’ hope,
First to the laic arm
Cried ultimate alarm;

Who bent upon his guns the while
A misconceived and aching smile,
And felt, thro’ havoc’s part,
A torment of the heart,

Sure, when he cut the moated South
From Shiloh to Savannah’s mouth,
Braved grandly to the end,
To conquer like a friend;

In whom the Commonwealth withstood
Again the Carolinian blood,
The beautiful proud line
Beneath an evil sign,

And taught his foes and doubters still
How fatal is a good man’s will,
That like a sun or sod
Thinks not itself, but God!

Many the captains of our wrath
Sought thus the pious civic path,
Knowing in what a land
Their destiny was planned,

And after, with a forward sense,
A simple Roman excellence,
Pledge in their spirit bore
That war should be no more.

Thrice Roman he, who saw the shock
(Calm as a weather-wrinkled rock,)
Roll in the Georgian fen;
And steadfast aye as then

In plenitude of old control
That asked, secure of his own soul,
No pardon and no aid,
If clear his way were made,

Would have nor seat nor bays, nor bring
The Cæsar in him to be king,
But with abstracted ear
Rode pleased without a cheer.

Now he declines from peace and age,
And home, his triple heritage,
The last and dearest head
Of all our perfect dead,

O what if sorrow cannot reach
Far in the shallow fords of speech,
But leads us silent round
The sad Missouri ground,

Where on her hero Freedom lays
The scroll and blazon of her praise,
And bids to him belong
Arms trailing, and a song,

And broken flags with ruined dyes
(Bright once in young and dying eyes),
Against the morn to shake
For love’s familiar sake?

The blessèd broken flags unfurled
Above a healed and happier world!
There let them droop, and be
His tent of victory;

There, in each year’s auguster light,
Lean in, and loose their red and white,
Like apple-blossoms strewn
Upon his burial-stone.

For nothing more, the ages thro’,
Can nature or the nation do
For him who helped retrieve
Our life, as we believe,

Save that we also, trooping by
In sound yet of his battle-cry,
Safeguard with general mind
Our pact as brothers kind,

And, ever nearer to our star,
Adore indeed not what we are,
But wise reprovings hold
Thankworthier than gold;

And bear in faith and rapture such
As can eternal issues touch,
Whole from the final field,
Our father Sherman’s shield.

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