Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ARMY CORRESPONDENT'S LAST RIDE; FIVE FORKS, APRIL 1, 1865, by GEORGE ALFRED TOWNSEND



Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

ARMY CORRESPONDENT'S LAST RIDE; FIVE FORKS, APRIL 1, 1865, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Ho! Pony. Down the lonely road
Last Line: And took the first despatch!
Subject(s): American Civil War; Holidays; Memorial Day; United States - History; War; Declaration Day


Ho! pony. Down the lonely road
Strike now your cheeriest pace!
The woods on fire do not burn higher
Than burns my anxious face;
Far have you sped, but all this night
Must feel my nervous spur;
If we be late, the world must wait
The tidings we aver: --
To home and hamlet, town and hearth,
To thrill child, mother, man,
I carry to the waiting North
Great news from Sheridan!

The birds are dead among the pines,
Slain by the battle fright,
Prone in the road the steed reclines
That never reached the fight;
Yet on we go, -- the wreck below
Of many a tumbled wain, --
By ghastly pools where stranded mules
Die, drinking of the rain;
With but my list of killed and missed
I spur my stumbling nag,
To tell of death at many a tryst,
But victory to the flag!

"Halt! who comes there? The countersign!" --
"A friend." -- "Advance! the fight, --
How goes it, say?" -- "We won the day!" --
"Huzza! Pass on!" -- "Godd-night!" --
And parts the darkness on before,
And down the mire we tramp,
And the black sky is painted o'er
With many a pulsing camp;
O'er stumps and ruts, by ruined huts,
Where ghosts look through the gloam, --
Behind my tread I hear the dead
Follow the news toward home!

The hunted souls I see behind,
In swamp and in ravine,
Whose cry for mercy thrills the wind
Till cracks the sure carbine;
The moving lights, which scare the dark,
And show the trampled place
Where, in his blood, some mother's bud
Turns up his young, dead face;
The captives spent, whose standards rent
The conqueror parades,
As at the Five Forks road arrive
The General's dashing aides.

O wondrous Youth! through this grand ruth
Runs my boy's life its thread;
The General's fame, the battle's name,
The rolls of maimed and dead
I bear, with my thrilled soul astir,
And lonely thoughts and fears;
And am but History's courier
To bind the conquering years;
A battle-ray, through ages gray
To light to deeds sublime,
And flash the lustre of this day
Down all he aisles of Time!

Ho! pony, -- 't is the signal gun
The night-assault decreed;
On Petersburg the thunderbolts
Crash from the lines of Meade;
Fade the pale, frightened stars o'erhead,
And shrieks the bursting air,
The forest-foilage, tinted red,
Grows ghastlier in the glare;
Tough in her towers, reached her last hours,
Rocks proud Rebellion's crest --
The world may sag, if but my nag
Get in before the rest!

With bloody flank, and fetlocks dank,
And goad, and lash, and shout --
Great God! as every hoof-beat falls
A hundred lives beat out!
As weary as this broken steed
Reels down the corduroys,
So, weary, fight for morning light
Our hot and grimy boys;
Through ditches wet, o'er parapet
And guns barbette, they catch
The last, lost breach; and I, -- I reach
The mail with my despatch!

Sure it shall speed, the land to read,
As sped the happiest shell!
The shot I send strike the world's end;
This tells my pony's knell;
His long race run, the long war done,
My occupation gone, --
Above his bier, prone on the pier,
The vultures fleck the dawn.
Still, rest his bones where soldiers dwell,
Till the Long Roll they catch.
He fell the day that Richmond fell,
And took the first despatch!




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