Page images

The foul human vultures

Have feasted and fled ; The wolves of the Border

Have crept from the dead.

From the hearths of their cabins,

The fields of their corn,
Unwarned and unweaponed,

The victims were torn,
By the whirlwind of murder

Swooped up and swept on
To the low, reedy fen-lands,

The Marsh of the Swan.

With a vain plea for mercy

No stout knee was crooked ; In the mouths of the rifles

Right manly they looked.
How paled the May sunshine,

O Marais du Cygne!
On death for the strong life,

On red grass for green !
In the homes of their rearing,

Yet warm with their lives,
Ye wait the dead only,

Poor children and wives ! Put out the red forge-fire,

The smith shall not come; Unyoke the brown oxen,

The ploughman lies dumb.
Wind slow from the Swan's Marsh,

O dreary death-train,
With pressed lips as bloodless

As lips of the slain !
Kiss down the young eyelids,

Smooth down the gray hairs;
Let tears quench the curses

That burn through your prayers.

Strong man of the prairies,

Mourn bitter and wild ! Wail, desolate woman !

Weep, fatherless child!
But the grain of God springs up

From ashes beneath,
And the crown of his harvest

Is life out of death.

Not in vain on the dial

The shade moves along, To point the great contrasts

Of right and of wrong: Free homes and free altars,

Free prairie and flood, The reeds of the Swan's Marsh,

Whose bloom is of blood !

On the lintels of Kansas

That blood shall not dry; Henceforth the Bad Angel

Shall harmless go by; Henceforth to the sunset,

Unchecked on her way, Shall Liberty follow

The march of the day.



P from the meadows rich with corn,

U crear in the cool September morn,

The clustered spires of Frederick stand
Green-walled by the hills of Maryland.
Round about them orchards sweep,
Apple- and peach-tree fruited deep,
Fair as a garden of the Lord
To the eyes of the famished rebel hordle,
On that pleasant morn of the early fall
When Lee marched over the mountain-wall, –

Over the mountains winding down,
Horse and foot, into Frederick town.

Forty flags with their silver stars,
Forty flags with their crimson bars,

Flapped in the morning wind : the sun
Of noon looked down, and saw not one.

Up rose old Barbara Frietchie then,
Bowed with her fourscore years and ten;

Bravest of all in Frederick town,
She took up the flag the men hauled down;

In her attic-window the staff she set,
To show that one heart was loyal yet.

Up the street came the rebel tread,
Stonewall Jackson riding ahead.

[graphic][merged small]

Under his slouched hat left and right
He glanced; the old flag met his sight.

“ Halt!”

Fire !"

the dust-brown ranks stood fast. out blazed the rifle-blast.

It shivered the window, pane and sash;
It rent the banner with seam and gash.

Quick, as it fell, from the broken staff
Dame Barbara snatched the silken scarf;
She leaned far out on the window-sill,
And shook it forth with a royal will.
“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country's flag,” she said.
A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came;
The nobler nature within him stirred
To life at that woman's deed and word :
Who touches a hair of yon gray head
Dies like a dog! March on!” he said.
All day long through Frederick street
Sounded the tread of marching feet:
All day long that free flag tost
Over the heads of the rebel host.

Ever its torn folds rose and fell
On the loyal winds that loved it well;
And through the hill-gaps sunset light
Shone over it with a warm good-night.
Barbara Frietchie's work is o'er,
And the Rebel rides on his raids no more.

Honor to her! and let a tear
Fall, for her sake, on Stonewall’s bier.
Over Barbara Frietchie's grave,
Flag of Freedom and Union, wave!
Peace and order and beauty draw
Round thy symbol of light and law;
And ever the stars above look down
On thy stars below in Frederick town!

« PreviousContinue »