Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE COLLEGE COLONEL, by HERMAN MELVILLE

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THE COLLEGE COLONEL, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: He rides at their head
Last Line: Ah heaven! -- what truth to him!
Subject(s): American Civil War; Labor & Laborers; United States - History; War; Work; Workers

HE rides at their head;
A crutch by his saddle just slants in view,
One slung arm is in splints you see,
Yet he guides his strong steed -- how coldly too.

He brings his regiment home,
Not as they filed two years before;
But a remnant half-tattered, and battered, and worn,
Like castaway sailors, who, stunned
By the surf's loud roar,
Their mates dragged back and seen no more, --
Again and again breast the surge,
And at last crawl, spent, to shore.

A still rigidity and pale,
An Indian aloofness, lones his brow;
He has lived a thousand years
Compressed in battle's pains and prayers,
Marches and watches slow.

There are welcoming shouts and flags;
Old men off hat to the Boy,
Wreaths from gay balconies fall at his feet,
But to him -- there comes alloy.

It is not that a leg is lost,
It is not that an arm is maimed,
It is not that the fever has racked, --
Self he has long disclaimed.

But all through the Seven Days' Fight,
And deep in the Wilderness grim,
And in the field-hospital tent,
And Petersburg crater, and dim
Lean brooding in Libby, there came --
Ah heaven! -- what truth to him!

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