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POETRY AND PROSE.
Introduction to Patriotic Readings : delivered in the
Senate-Chamber of the United States.
(EXTRACT FROM MR. MURDOCH'S LECTURES.)
It is my ambition to illustrate and defend the great cause in which our country is now engaged, by presenting such specimens of patriotic poetry, written by my own countrymen, and by others, as may be influential in exciting national pride, and in keeping alive that feeling, without which no nation has ever been able to defend and preserve itself.
The great and good cause for which the Administration is battling against a host of traitors and factious enemies at home and a legion of interferers abroad, aroused my deepest sympathies from the very onset, and induced me to give up the profession of the actor for the time being, and to devote myself to such efforts as would contribute relief to the sick and wounded soldiers of the Republic. I feel assured that the offices of the good physician and surgeon can be wonderfully aided and advanced by pleasant and cheerful thoughts in the patient, which are often excited and maintained by the tone of the nurse or the sprightly comrade; and hence the home-like ditty, or the time-loved hymn, when sung by lips of hopeful sympathy, expands and secures the good effects produced by the probe and the knife, the potion and the ointment. Hence I have sought occasion to raise my voice, to give utterance to patriotic poetry and prose, together with scriptural recitations, in our hospitals and “Homes,” wherever the judg. ment of the surgeons attending sanctioned the perform
I know, too, what good results have been attained to the toiling and patient soldier, when he joins in, or listens to, the strains of song or hymn chanted during the long and weary march. How often have I observed, in the bivouac or at the camp-fire, after reading a poem of which the soldier's suffering and the honor of his flag have been the theme, the hitherto separate groups of officers and men mingle together, while the silent tear, and the glow of patriotic pride, spoke in eloquent terms of the presence of that generous sympathy which binds man to man, and is, indeed, the corner-stone of all nationality.
To cherish this spirit, and assist in cementing that bond of unity which should bind us together in this orisis by indissoluble bands, I have attempted, through the medium of my elocutionary and dramatic experience, to interpret, and to intensify, the glorious lyrics, poems, and ballads that have been written by our loyal bards to commemorate the noble deeds of our soldiers and sailors, and dedicated by them to that soul of heroism and self-sacrifice now so beautifully and potently expressed in the spirit and acts of the noblest army ever marshalled to save a suffering and imperilled people.
I have tendered my services to the cause of the Republic in a spirit arising from a conviction that the citizen is bound to make the music of the nation's war or fight to it. I prefer to help as the trumpeter was accused of doing in Æsop's fable. I am constrained to say that I have been in a measure impelled to my present course from a sense of gratitude in return for the ample remuneration of the labors of a long professional career so generously tendered by my fellow-citizens. I have striven by my professional donations to prove to my countrymen that, though from physical inability I was unable to continue in the field during a regular campaign, I am still willing to labor that I may help to revive and sustain the proper tone and unity of the free and loyal States in support of our Government.
It is merely justice to myself to affirm, here, that whatever I may say or do in defence of the nation and the Administration arises from a deep-seated conviction that my duties as an American citizen are inseparably connected with my duties to my Maker, and that I am bound to defend the former in order to obey the commands of the latter,-my country first, my friends afterwards. I oppose the enemies of my country and Government as I would hurl back the intruder on my hearth-stone.
The man who stands at my door with the torch and the axe, I am impelled by the promptings of self-preservation to strike down. I acknowledge no tie of kindred and blood under such circumstances; I strike in defence of that which God has given me to protect, -of all that is dear to man on earth. In the language of the law, my house is my castle: the Government is the rock on which my house is built; the hand that undermines the one destroys the other. The Government is the law; the law is the creation of the people, in their sovereign capacity as a tribe or a nation. Therefore, that body to which the people have delegated the administration of the law becomes for the time-being part and parcel of the Government. It cannot be assailed without attacking the Constitution. The man who, under the conceded right to criticize the acts of the Government, assumes the right first to abuse it, and then to embarrass its operations, by bringing its character under reproach and destroying its influence, and, finally, opposes or incites others to oppose its decrees, becomes by such acts in the eyes of the law a traitor and a rebel, as much as he who takes up arms against the legitimate Government of his country. This would be the decision in the courts in time of peace; how much more, then, is the conduct of such men treasonous when the whole nation is in a state of war, and the Government struggling with a rebellion whose object is to dismember the country and destroy the Constitution ? Every word and deed calculated to destroy the popular confidence in the power of the Government to defend itself, under such circumstances, is a blow aimed at the vitality of the nation, and a stab in the back of every soldier whose face is turned to the armed rebels who strike at him in front. The man who, covertly or openly, seeks the destruction of my country's defenders, or gives aid and encouragement to my country's foes, is a public enemy, for whom I have nothing but the bitter word and, at the proper time, the deadly blow. Those who are not for the Government are against it.
I have many and dear friends in the disloyal States, as well as disloyal friends in the loyal States, who are opposed to my course and views in the present struggle; and though I am ready to meet them in the field, North or South, to try the justice of the cause I uphold, still, from a sense of gratitude, I frankly affirm that my heart yearns towards them, and, were I swayed by my affections instead of my sense of right and wrong, I should be inclined to find excuses for their rebellious attitude. I cannot entirely shut out of my heart and memory recollections of friendly offices and kindly sympathies extended to me, in times gone by, by those who, without doubt, were happier under the then existing state of things than they could ever be were their wildest schemes of sectional aggrandizement perfected and secured.
I can truly say, “ Not that I loved Cæsar less, but that I loved Rome more,” is the cause of my antagonism to the rebellious attitude of the seceding States.
Poetry a Substitute for Speech-Making.
(An ExtraCT FROM Mr. Murdoch's LECTURES.) "The American Flag," by Joseph Rodman Drake, needs no prologue. It is probably the finest lyric the world has ever known or read; and it is to be regretted that, when it is sung, it is adapted to a mere opera-air.
When Cincinnati was threatened, and I among the rest of her citizens volunteered to her defence, I was induced to recite this grand national hymn under the following circumstances.
Our pickets were skirmishing with those of the enemy; within sight of our intrenchments, our citizens of all classes and ages had been working in the rifle-pits the previous day and night, and during the morning of the day I speak of, and after partaking of their mid-day meal, they were resting from their labors, under the shade of some large beech-trees. In passing from the head-quarters of General