Henry Jerome Stockard

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She calmly brought his sabre bright,
Tempered with death;
And, girding him, her all, aright,
She spoke with eyes of kindling light
More than tongue uttereth.
And then she waved farewell at last,
With grief struck dumb,
As bannered squadrons hurried past,
And bugles with imperious blast
Stammered delirium.
It was not hard to charge abreast
On trembling slopes,—
Alone, at Honor's stern behest,
To cross the red, infernal crest
That barred his people's hopes.
But man might quail to face her fate:
Distraught by fears,
To wake from troubled dreams, and wait
The midnight courier at the gate,
Through slow, ensanguined years;—
To welcome grief for which were vain
All anodyne;
To dip into the cup of pain
Her final crust and, smiling, drain
The draught as generous wine.
Would some Euripides could give,
In words to bide,
This later tragical reprieve,
When our Alcestis dared to live
While her Admetus died!
By Rappahannock's moaning wave
Mayhap he fell;
At Shiloh, leading on the brave,—
Or in some rifle-pit, his grave,
Where raked the random shell;—
Or, haply, where her presence bore
That grim, gray line
At Gettysburg, all barriers o'er,
Like a ninth wave on an iron shore,
Which ebbs by will divine.
Perchance his tomb in the old church-yard
Knew her caress;
It may be, where his form lay charred
On fire-swept wolds, the owl kept ward
In the dark Wilderness.
Still, though, recumbent in the hall
Of memory laid,
And limned upon its mournful wall,
He dwelt with her in spirit by all
The bolts of death unstayed;—
Dwelt in his sons, whose faith profound
Saw, throned afar,
The proud South, once in shackles bound,
Upon whose brow with glory crowned
Glittered the morning star.
The canvas can not hold her grace:
Its colors warm
The damps of centuries erase;
Yet o'er the scathing years her face
Will live beyond all harm.
Nor bronze nor stone shall bear her name
Through time to-be:
These may be touched by frost or flame
And sink in ruin, while her fame
Is for eternity.
Nor yet may story guard the trust,
Nor song divine;
They, like their builders, turn to dust:—
Beyond corrupting moth and rust
Stands, veiled with light, her shrine.
And Love will keep it, Love alone,
Safe from decay,—
Love wherewith God himself is one,—
When time's rule shall be overthrown,
And earth shall pass away.

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Henry Jerome Stockard