Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, LARABELLE: CANTO SECOND, by LEVI BISHOP



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LARABELLE: CANTO SECOND, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: A smiling peace, revolving years had told
Last Line: Is our young hero -- worthy johny green.
Subject(s): Death; Nations; Peace; War; Dead, The


A smiling peace, revolving years had told;
Nor jealous foe, of nations manifold,
Had plotted war, or preparations made,
To cross our path or draw a shining blade.
And yet with all, the apprehensive land,
Bespoke a rising storm on every hand.
'Twas not the flitting cloud upon the air,
But arms and havoc breathing everywhere.
There long had raged a fierce -- a bitter strife,
'Twixt North and South; now war itself was rife,
On either part; and slavery's clanking chain,
Must rule or break, though legions might be slain.

With speech prophetic, and with solemn art.
The councils of the nation saw depart
The southern statesmen; and the forfeit room --
The empty seats, remained thro' years of gloom.
The star and stripe, replaced by star and bar,
Proclaimed a long -- a fratricidal war;
Surprise and doubt give place to dread alarms,
As former friends, now foes, are seen in arms.
And forts are seized, and ships are made away,
With heavy cannon for the coming fray.
And do ye, then, ye friends of summer sky,
Intend to strike -- to cast the fatal die?
Then be it so; to gage of war we yield;
And change the garden to the battle field.
If giant strength, reserved for other foe,
Must rend ourselves; than be it, be it so.

"To army ye brave!" aloud the call is made:
"Come forth who will, and draw the shining blade."
But may the nation, now, devoid of fear,
Upon the arm rely, of volunteer!
The law of arms -- that stern unbending law,
Its terror sends along our Saginaw.
The timid and the cautious dread of strife,
Where mutual blows will tell for death or life;
And many friends and neighbors now would know,
The men to shrink and who will bravely go.
However valiant some in peace may be,
They often waver, as they clearly see
The test approach. They quiet would abstain,
The fearful chances of the battle plain.
Yet all is well: The freeman will defend
His native land whatever may impend.
His heart responds "To arms," when country calls,
To meet its foes, or if he stands or falls:
And tho' his flesh may dread its early doom,
His lofty spirit soars above the tomb.

Let come the worst, our John the soldier's place
At once will take; the coming storm will face:
The cherished home for martial camp must yield.
The rural haunt for stirring battle field.
And Johny took his knapsack and his belt,
And as he put them on he deeply felt
The love of country every fibre move;
A love that conquers every other love.
Nor do his kin the sly evasion plan;
They simply say: "My boy, now play the man;
For your return we hope -- devoutly pray,
But ne'er disgrace us on the trying day."
And one there was who heard the solemn call,
Which can the female mind so deep appall;
And she pronounced the resolution well:
No weakly maiden was cur Larabelle.

The fife and drum, that stir the soul to flame,
Were heard afar; from hill and valley came
The volunteers. The drill at random trod;
And yet the brave were seen in every squad.
The order comes to march, without delay --
A biscuit take, and lightsome haste away;
The foe advances on the distant plain,
The seat of empire boldly to regain;
The town that bears the name of Washington --
The capital -- defenseless, may be won; --
Its monuments; the millions that it cost;
And all its prestige, too, may now be lost.

And Johny hears the call and quickly goes
To regimental ranks -- to meet the foes,
Wherever they may come; and, need we tell.
That with him go the cheers of Larabelle.
Was there the blue, the stripe, the gay attire,
The cap, the shady plume -- that all admire?
Did swelling music there its power essay,
To rouse the soldier to the battle fray?
Nay, these were not; and yet there waved above,
The banner token of the land we love.
And while the rural hat might lack of grace,
Calm, under each, the patriotic face
Was clearly seen. And while the civic dress,
Of many colored ranks, bespoke the press
Of hasty call, beneath the homely gear,
There beat the hearts unknown to every fear.

The order comes: "Press onward to the front;"
To meet the foe and stand the early brunt
Of fiery onset. Now adieus are said;
Tears rapid fall, with sobs as for the dead.
Altho' we freely may devote the friend,
Our laws and homes and country to defend;
When separation comes and sons depart,
Anticipations wring the stoutest heart.
Now haste away; aboard the ready train:
"Farewell old friends, if ne'er we meet again."
The cars are loaded -- passengers and freight;
We soon approach "The City of the Strait."
The banquet smiles; good wishes warmly tell;
Proud banners wave; out rings the stirring bell:
And shouts resound -- the yell and wild hurrah,
To cheer the brave to meet the distant war.

As yet no arms their ready hands essay,
But these shall meet them on the rapid way.
Now hasten on -- more brisk ye worthy band;
The foe advances. Lincoln gives command.
The boat, the rail -- the rapid whirling car,
Shall bear you quickly to the scene of war;
While on the way the towns and cities cheer,
And hearts beat high as draws the battle near.

And of this worthy band how many braves,
Will sink untimely to their distant graves!
How many more, in writhing on the plain
Of wounds and torture, wish them of the slain!
And how the friends, impelled by nature's law,
Will sigh and weep beside the Saginaw!
Ah, weep not thus! Let every cheek be dry;
The brave are worthy if they live or die.
If haply they return to waiting home,
The Te Deum shall fill the lofty dome:
If they shall fall upon the battle plain,
No time shall quench the glories of the slain.

The battle field is near. The ranging hill,
The ledge, the bluff, the winding valley, fill
The plain extended. And the cottage smoke,
At times appears beside the stately oak.
And rills that murmur by their flowery sides,
Ere long shall drink their fill of purple tides;
While near at hand there sweeps a mighty river
That on shall bear the battle name forever.
On every hand battalions hurrying form,
And sternly wait the swiftly rising storm.
From every hill the cannon grimly frown,
And stars and bars the vast battalia crown.

Behold! a flash -- a puff of smoke is seen,
The first that meets the eyes of Johny Green.
And then a sound rolls heavy o'er the plain,
Like rolling thunder on the distant main.
Then comes a ball, wild rushing thro' the air;
Like rending sail it seems to fiercely tear.
The opening shot the firmest nerve will prove,
And Johny's ranks are seen to slightly move.
It is not craven fear, for one and all,
Are here to conquer or to nobly fall;
But untried men may waver in the hour
That tries the best, tho' with accustomed power.

And now the bristling field is all ablaze:
Magnificent; it charms the earnest gaze.
In every range, the bullets fiercely sing;
In deafening sound, ten thousand anvils ring:
The cannon plow the ranks, and cruel shells
Their havoc send; while charging "tiger yells,"
By grape are met, which makes the bravest yield,
And with the dead and dying crowds the field.
A stifling smoke bedims the heavy air,
While groans and thunders mingle everywhere.

The flying horse sweep round extended flank,
Approach the river with its rugged bank;
But as they pause, nor strike the instant blow,
A volley lays the horse and rider low.
Ah, such the time the great commander tries --
To seize at once occasions as they rise.
Far distant in advance a lonely gun,
With few to guard it, may and must be won:
A captain leads; to take it loudly calls;
He takes it nobly and he bravely falls:
His men indignant, with redoubled cries,
Tho' bullets rain, bear off the worthy prize.
At times the battle rests, then flames agen;
On every side the horses, arms and men
Bestrew the field; and death and havoc reign;
For such the horrors of the battle plain.

The day is doubtful: Bloody. Everywhere
The slaughter rages. All the glory share;
And both the loss. Yea, more. Each dying groan,
That here is heard, will swell a distant moan;
And of each gasping sigh the heroes draw,
An echo fills the vales of Saginaw.

"Prepare to charge," is heard along the line;
And masses quick assemble, and combine
The solid column. There, of calmly mien
And firm of purpose stands our Johny Green.
The hero sends an earnest prayer on high,
That God in mercy now may hover nigh.
Full well he knows that two in three may fall,
And yet no prospect can his soul appall.
The fire concentric of the ready foe,
A storm of hail upon the mass will throw.
The charging host the adverse line will try;
It may itself a shattered column fly.

The solid mass advance; loud rings the yell;
And Johny sighs: "My dearest Larabelle!"
And up the hill the column firmly goes,
In fire and hail against determined foes.
Devoted men! Devoted living from!
How melts your front beneath the driving storm!
Could human strength avail, ye now would stand:
How runs the life blood! Ah devoted band!
Ye falter now! And now your ranks give way!
Oh, fiery cloud, conceal the fatal day!

The guard at Waterloo would neither fly
Nor yield to hated foe. They chose to die.
It was a folly. Valor, human strength,
Have limits set, and both must yield at length.
The broken, shattered column breathes again;
At least the half that lies not on the plain.
"Ah, call the roll, and let the answers tell,
Who now survives and who that nobly fell."
And as the names are called, nor heard nor seen,
Is our young hero -- worthy Johny Green.





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