Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, BEYOND THE POTOMAC, by PAUL HAMILTON HAYNE



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BEYOND THE POTOMAC, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: They slept on the field which their valor had won
Last Line: Since they passed o'er the river?
Subject(s): American Civil War; Maryland; United States - History


THEY slept on the field which their valor had won,
But arose with the first early blush of the sun,
For they knew that a great deed remained to be done,
When they passed o'er the river.

They arose with the sun, and caught life from his light, --
Those giants of courage, those Anaks in fight,--
And they laughed out aloud in the joy of their might,
Marching swift for the river.

On! on! like the rushing of storms through the hills;
On! on! with a tramp that is firm as their wills;
And the one heart of thousands grows buoyant, and thrills,
At the thought of the river.

Oh, the sheen of their swords! the fierce gleam of their eyes!
It seemed as on earth a new sunlight would rise,
And, king-like, flash up to the sun in the skies,
O'er their path to the river.

But their banners, shot-scarred, and all darkened with gore,
On a strong wind of morning streamed wildly before,
Like the wings of death-angels swept fast to the shore,
The green shore of the river.

As they march, from the hillside, the hamlet, the stream,
Gaunt throngs whom the foemen had manacled, teem,
Like men just aroused from some terrible dream,
To cross sternly the river.

They behold the broad banners, blood-darkened, yet fair,
And a moment dissolves the last spell of despair,
While a peal, as of victory, swells on the air.
Rolling out to the river.

And that cry, with a thousand strange echoings, spread,
Till the ashes of heroes were thrilled in their bed,
And the deep voice of passion surged up from the dead,
"Ay, press on to the river!"

On! on! like the rushing of storms through the hills,
On! on! with a tramp that is firm as their wills,
And the one heart of thousands grows buoyant, and thrills,
As they pause by the river.

Then the wan face of Maryland, haggard and worn,
At this sight lost the touch of its aspect forlorn,
And she turned on the foemen, full-statured in scorn,
Pointing stern to the river.

And Potomac flowed calmly, scarce heaving her breast,
With her low-lying billows all bright in the west,
For a charm as from God lulled the waters to rest
Of the fair rolling river.

Passed! passed! the glad thousands march safe through the tide;
Hark, foeman, and hear the deep knell of your pride,
Ringing weird-like and wild, pealing up from the side
Of the calm-flowing river!

'Neath a blow swift and mighty the tyrant may fall;
Vain! vain! to his gods swells a desolate call;
Hath his grave not been hollowed, and woven his pall,
Since they passed o'er the river?





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