Herman Melville

A Dirge For McPherson

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Killed in front of Atlanta (July, 1864)


Arms reversed and banners craped --
Muffled drums;
Snowy horses sable-draped --
McPherson comes.

But, tell us, shall we know him more,
Lost-Mountain and lone Kenesaw?

Brave the sword upon the pall --
A gleam in gloom;
So a bright name lighteth all
McPherson's doom.

Bear him through the chapel-door --
Let priest in stole
Pace before the warrior
Who led. Bell --toll!

Lay him down within the nave,
The lesson read --
Man is noble, man is brave,
But man's -- a weed.

Take him up again and wend
Graveward, nor weep:
There's a trumpet that shall rend
This Soldier's sleep.

Pass the ropes the coffin round,
And let descend;
Prayer and volley -- let it sound
McPherson's end.

True fame is his, for life is o'er --
Sarpedon of the mighty war.

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