Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE VICTOR AT ANTIETAM [SEPTEMBER 17, 1862], by HERMAN MELVILLE



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THE VICTOR AT ANTIETAM [SEPTEMBER 17, 1862], by             Poet's Biography
First Line: When tempest winnowed grain from bran
Last Line: And great antietam's cheers renew.
Subject(s): American Civil War; Antietam, Battle Of (1862); Mcclellan, George Brinton (1826-1885); United States - History


WHEN tempest winnowed grain from bran
And men were looking for a man,
Authority called you to the van,
McClellan!
Along the line the plaudits ran,
As later when Antietam's cheers began.
Through storm-cloud and eclipse must move
Each cause and man, dear to the stars and Jove;
Nor always can the wisest tell
Deferred fulfilment from the hopeless knell --
The struggler from the floundering ne'er-do-well.
A pall-cloth on the Seven Days fell,
McClellan --
Unprosperously heroical!
Who could Antietam's wreath foretell?

Authority called you; then, in mist
And loom of jeopardy -- dismissed.
But staring peril soon appalled;
You, the Discarded, she recalled --
Recalled you, nor endured delay;
And forth you rode upon a blasted way,
Arrayed Pope's rout, and routed Lee's array,
McClellan!
Your tent was choked with captured flags that day,
McClellan.
Antietam was a telling fray.

Recalled you; and she heard your drum
Advancing through the ghastly gloom.
You manned the wall, you propped the Dome,
You stormed the powerful stormer home,
McClellan!
Antietam's cannon long shall boom.

At Alexandria, left alone,
McClellan --
Your veterans sent from you, and thrown
To fields and fortunes all unknown --
What thoughts were yours, revealed to none,
While faithful still you labored on --
Hearing the far Manassas gun!
McClellan,
Only Antietam could atone.

You fought in the front (an evil day,
McClellan) --
The forefront of the first assay;
The Cause went sounding, groped its way;
The leadsmen quarrelled in the bay;
Quills thwarted swords; divided sway;
The rebel flushed in his lusty May:
You did your best, as in you lay,
McClellan.
Antietam's sun-burst sheds a ray.

Your medalled soldiers love you well,
McClellan!
Name your name, their true hearts swell:
With you they shook dread Stonewall's spell
With you they braved the blended yell
Of rebel and maligner fell;
With you in fame or shame they dwell,
McClellan!
Antietam-braves a brave can tell.

And when your comrades (now so few,
McClellan, --
Such ravage in deep files they rue)
Meet round the board, and sadly view
The empty places; tribute due
They render to the dead -- and you!
Absent and silent o'er the blue;
The one-armed lift the wine to you,
McClellan,
And great Antietam's cheers renew.





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