Fair broke the day among the georgian mountains;|
The mists, not chill nor raw,
But soft and warm, like spray from summer fountains,
Hung round old Kenesaw.
And vast and billowy as the face of ocean
The white fog lay below,
From whose expanse, with every shifting motion,
As from a sea of snow,
The lesser peaks arose like isles volcanic-
Lost Mountain, Pine Hill; far
To south, Stone Mountain gleamed an alp Titanic,
Whose glory noon should mar.
Nor did the fleecy legions show surrender
Till up the sunlight rolled
And filled the floating isles with matchless spendor,
The cloudy sea with gold.
When round our lotty height of observation
We saw the prospect clear,
The frail battalions with precipitation
Retreat and disappear,
Our station called the next, our view repeating
The distant posts to tell;
From the Gate City came reply and greeting,
Flag-spoken: "All is well"
It was the month when scarlet banners, flying
From every summer tree,
Proclaim, as heroes oft in death, that dying
sublimer life may be.
And where the bristling abatis defended
The rifle-pits in line,
An oriflamme, with golden lustre splendid,
Blazed the dead mountain-pine.
While far beneath, with homes and haunts civilian,
Rose Marietta's walls;
Shone white against the autumn groves vermilion
Her tented hospitals.
To north - is that dark mass the shadows creeping
Along the valley bed?
Are those the grooves that hasten onward, sweeping
With swift and swinging tread?
O Talking Flag, thy worth if ever proving,
We hail the distant glass;
"The foe at Acworth, moving on Allatoona Pass."
The Pass! from distant Chattanooga winding
Along the iron way,
The laden trains, to far Atlanta finding
Through it their southward way,
Bore the Great General food and war's munitions,
Until his great decree
That marched an army, spite of war's traditions,
Through Georgia to the sea.
Quick came the answer -"Signal for assistance
To General Corse at Rome;
Let the Pass garrison show firm resistance
Till reinforcements come -"
No hope that fleetest courier madly riding
Could cross the path they strode
The electric wires, as though our fate deciding,
Trailed speechless in the road.
But on our viewless telegraph the saving
And weighty order sped;
The baffled rebel helpless watched us waving
The magic white-and-red.
The desperate charge, the stern repulse, the ending
Of all his brilliant plan -
(For Corse's veterans stood the fort defending
Before the fight began)-
We saw; our hearts' intenser beat compelling
Our very breath to lag;
Enough when rose the signal, victory telling
And Sherman thanked the Flag.
On that red field its swift dispatch had aided
Where brave McPherson fell;
Where Smith's and Leggett's heroes enfiladed
Defied the shot and shell,
And held - till night withdrew the foe - undaunted,
The triangle of fire,
Our flag, above the shattered breast-works planted,
Beheld his hosts retire.
Strange charm is thine, mysterious dweller
In heaven's clear upper air!
The windy Zeus, the Cloud-and-Storm-Compeller
Resigns his empire there.
The lines that march deploying through the valleys
Advance and then retreat,
The impetuous mass that up the hill-side sallies
Columns that part and meet -
Thine is their purpose and their destination;
Thy stroke their guiding hand,
Whose gestures link in close communication
Commander and command.
In kindred service shine thy torches flaming
Above the midnight camps;
The dusky soldier wondering sees them, shaming
The sky's remoter lamps.
Their fiery glow the distant darkness lighting
His simple spirit awes,
And seems the stars within their courses fighting
Against the slaver's cause.
Yet safe thy secrets; vain the foeman's presage?
Of what thy words prtend;
While even the practised flagman waves the message
He does not comprehend.
Thy work is done; along Virgina's river
No more thy signal flies;
From Georgia's hills by night no more the quiver
Of thy red torch shall rise.
There came a noon when from the bastions frowning
Of every fort and bay,
Flung out a banner; hurrying on and crowning
The mountains far away.
It left undecked no hamlet's little steeple
That loud with joy-bells rung;
And from the breasts of a too-happy people
Its passion-flowers were hung.
We knew its language; knew our work was over;
And hailed, while ours we furled,
The only Flag whose sovereign folds shall cover
Henceforth our Western world.
It said: "For no poor vaunt of wide dominions
I threw the gage of war;
Through all the fearful fight may rosy pinions
The hope of ages bore.
"Ye say Greece fought for liberty; her story
Still lights the student's cheek;
And all her scenery seems a field of glory
From which her heroes speak.
"But ask the Helot, when her banners floating
Through most pellucid air,
Came home, o'er Persian downfall gloating,
How much his race might share?
"Rome's boasted standard righted wrongs patrician
Where'er its eagles flew;
What recked her haughty loards of their conditions
Who no proud lineage knew?
"From nameless graves along the blue Egean,
From Asian temples prone,
From Romans hearths in buried homes Pompeiian,
From Eqypt's mystic stone,
"I heard the voice of Time, in solemn warning,
Pronounce the words of ban;
'I build the sepulchres of nations scorning
The rights of man as man.'
"I learned their lesson; not to strength or beauty
I pledge a special grace;
No wider stretch of my protecting duty
To birth or caste or race.
"As much oppressor as oppressed to better
I bade war's thunders roll,
Since who has learned to view unmoved a fetter
Has lost the freeman's soul.
"O lowly worker in the fields of cotton,
Great king of sword or pen,
I yield you both, your lesser claims forgotten,
The equal rights of men;
"The old republic, purified and guided
As once its founders planned;
To hold forever one and undivided
Our common Fatherland;
"For this I fought; the nations, silent, eying
The dreadful struggle, stood;
The land of Milton coldly blamed, denying
The need of war or blood.
"She stretched across the ocean intervening
No cordial hand of friend,
But said, 'It is an awful strife, whose meaning
I do not comprehend.'
"True, what significance to her, whose treasure
Were claims of acient birth,
Had our great conflict, waged those claims to measure
By man's intrinsic worth?
"The cause in which her Hampden died forgetting,
To her the haughty pride
Of Southern cavalier, his slaves regretting,
More nearly seemed allied.
"What better proof than this her barons offered,
That through their present runs
The spirit that in Magna Charta proffered
Small boon to peasants' sons.
"For well I hold my higher code forever
From careless readers sealed;
The Signal Flag of Liberty has never
Her symbols yet revealed,
"Unless to hearts of generous thoughts prolific,
And they alone combine
The secret disk, the stroke hieroglyphic,
The hidden countersign.
"And those in whom my trumpet's loud appealing
No martial ardor woke,
Who listless saw my color-bearer reeling
Amidst the battle smoke -
"Who heaped their sordid gains with tearless faces
Through scenes that angels thrilled,
And shunned the broken ranks whose empty places
A braver host had filled;
"To them my bugle notes to combat calling
In foreign accents rung;
On their dull ears my million voices falling
Rehearsed an unknown tongue;
"But nobler souls, the heights of thought commanding,
In purer atmosphere,
Above the sulphurous mists of passion standing,
Leaned down with words of cheer.
"O poet, sage, whose broader view extending
Above the cloudy plain.
Descried each hostile infuence impending,
With warning not in vain!
"O woman, loyal and clear-sighted, merging
Your dearest hopes in mine,
From lonely mounts of self-forgetting urging
Your sacrifice divine!
"Not less your work than theirs whose valor daunted
The fiery front of War;
And yours the peerless laurels only granted
To Freedom's Signal Corps.
And thou, O mother! for a soldier weeping
By far Potomac laid,
Or distant Chattahoochee, swiftly leaping
Athwart its chestnut shade,
"Lament him not; no love could make immortal
The span that we call life;
And never hero entered heavenly portal
Through fields of grander strife;
"And glories brighter than heraldic splendors
His kindred's house may claim;
That when I call the roll of my defenders
My lips shall speak his name."