Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, LARABELLE; CANTO FOURTH, by LEVI BISHOP



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LARABELLE; CANTO FOURTH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The search without success, tho' wide and far
Last Line: Of johny green and worthy larabelle.
Subject(s): Graves; Love; Nations; Tombs; Tombstones


The search without success, tho' wide and far,
Could not obscure the maiden's radiant star;
For still she felt -- yea, confident she grew,
That soon the absent brave would spring to view.
And firm in hope, with heart sublimely bold,
Southern she bent her step, to seek the hold,
That might detain him still. The hills and vales,
The verdant plains, where beauty never fails;
The shady forests and the climate bland,
A charm bespoke of fairy -- happy land.
Ah, such a land! that nature kindly framed
To be the first -- Saturnian truly named,
Ah, why should it be torn in bloody strife?
A waste be made, with every sorrow rife?
'Twas bold ambition, by which angels fell,
That raised the war flag, with its dreadful yell;
That dipt in brother's blood the reeking hand,
And made a desolation of the land.

Our maiden still advances. Now she meets
A sergeant of the foe, and him she greets:
"Kind sir, wast in the battle -- in the shock
Of fiery valor -- 'mid the clang and smoke
Of dreadful slaughter, where my dearest friend
A captive went, or bravely met his end?"
"I was, dear maiden, there," he calmly said,
"Where piles arose to mountains of the dead;
Where we, tho' victors, bled at every pore,
As grape and shot and shell our legions tore.
How many bosoms felt the cruel steel!
How many homes the deepest sorrow feel!"
"And why," said she, as tears bedimd her eyes,
"Should havoc thus disgrace the good and wise?
Ah, why should brothers fiercely thus contend?
A recent friendship thus with horror blend?"
"You well may ask;" the sergeant quick replied:
"The line is drawn: If you, the other side,
Would quiet stay, and us in quiet leave,
No tears would fall, no sigh the heart would grieve.
We only ask, in peace, that we may rest;
Oh, give us peace! Your nation shall be blest."
"Our nation blest! The nation is but one,"
She quickly said; "the whole, to southern sun:
Each foe must vanish; every hostile moat;
One only banner must above us float."
"But will," he said, "your numbers -- force endure?
Will resolution such an end insure,
Against a purpose calm, no strength can shake?
Against a prowess firm, no power can break?"
"They will," she cried: "We number two for one,
And battles fought are battles but begun.
With moats about you cast and lines of steel,
A desolation sore ye soon must feel.
And more than all, we place our humble trust
In Him above, whose cause is always just.
His arm will guide us in the varied strife,
Thro' shades of death to unity and life."
"But we, he said, will humbly trust Him too,
In fiercest conflict safe to bring us through:
Let come the worst -- come death in every form,
Our gallant ship will safely brave the storm."
"Then blows must end it. But," said Larabelle,
"Oh, can you not, my friend, now kindly tell,
Of him I seek, who braved that awful scene,
And led the charge -- my worthy Johny Green?"
"I saw him there, upon the dreadful day,
As yet unhurt while thousands round him lay:
If now a captive, or if there he fell,
I grieve to say, dear maid, I cannot tell."

And still the maiden constant held her way,
A southern course, for there the lost might stray.
From teeming soil rich vegetation shone,
To far invite her steps, although alone.
The sweet magnolia and the cotton plain
Attractions lent, despite the servile chain;
And while the summer heat oppressive fell,
Bright gleamed the star of hopeful Larabelle.

A station and a prison now appear,
In bristling arms; and yet the view may cheer;
For there within the frowning martial scene,
Perhaps our Belle may find her Johny Green.
She asks admission, but, without a pass,
Can enter none, not e'en a handsome lass.
She quick describes, and earnestly inquires
For him she seeks -- the goal of her desires.
And such a man there is within the lines,
But stern retaliation him confines;
Or if not this, yet firm the rules of war,
Oppress the brave, and dearest friends debar.
She pleads a sister's claims, with heavy heart;
And then the wife, to share his luckless part;
And then a father's and a mother's tears;
Then mildly threats, in hopes that latent fears,
Or prudence rather, may the rules abate,
Which must prolong the fruits of bitter hate.
Three days she importunes, without success,
Tho' well sustained by sighs and deep distress;
Until at last, and from apparent shame,
That seemed to slur the proudly southern name,
She triumphs well; for who can maiden leave
In sorrow thus, for one she loves, to grieve.

She passed the lines; surveyed the martial scene;
And saw at once the form of Johny Green.
Each knew the other -- warmly grasped the hand,
As friends that joyful meet in distant land.
And Belle at last, thro' toils and many fears,
The goal had reached. Both melt in kindly tears.
And as their words are troubled with amaze,
They would evade the public -- eager gaze;
They would recount the fortunes of the war;
And Johny longed to hear from home afar.
They walked away -- upon a hillock sat,
To freely there indulge in social chat.
A lovely bower the native forest made,
That barred the sun and lent a grateful shade.
By friend and foe the pair are distant seen;
No slur may touch the bride of Johny Green.

"My Larabelle!" the earnest soldier said,
"What guiding star hath safely hither led
A maid alone? Oh quickly let me know;
And how you passed the lines of watchful foe.
How are my father -- mother -- friends afar?
How do they bear the horrors of the war?
In dread alarms, how dear and lovely seems
The distant home -- like distant land of dreams!"

"They all are well, altho' in deep dismay,
To learn the fortunes of the dreadful day,
That hid their Johny from the common sight.
And cast a painful gloom upon the fight.
And how I found you no one truly knows,
Thro' battle scenes and bristling lines of foes.
I only know that far above the war
There constant shone my kindly guiding star.
But tell me Johny, since that fiery storm,
Upon the hill, where death in every form
Your columns rent, and tearing shell and shot
Red torrents poured, Oh, what has been your lot?"

"No tongue can tell, no human pen relate,
The pain -- the anguish of the soldier's fate,
Who falls a captive, when the willing foe,
Himself has naught of comfort to bestow.
Ah, faint and sore, beneath a burning sun,
Or if the battle may be lost or won,
The weary captive then is driven afar,
Beyond the chances of the varying war.
Then food and shelter, clothing -- all must fail,
And grim disease the weary life assail.
Ah, how the brave in hundreds passed away,
Who shared the captures of that fearful day!
Their stalwarth forms repose in southern lands;
Thin are the ranks of our surviving bands.
But let us change the melancholy theme;
War's havoc, now, to me is but a dream."

And Johny then to Larabelle relates,
The tone and temper of the Southern States:
"The politician sings of mighty gain,
And wealthy planters echo back the strain:
But Labor, sad, upholds the fearful strife,
Without a hope -- with fearful loss of life:
In mute astonishment the neutral slave,
Beholds his master drop into the grave:
And while the leaders hold a lofty mien,
The people, sure, would gladly close the scene.
But," said the hero, "scandal here may rise;
The objects we, of many glancing eyes.
Now long has been our friendship and our love,
And constant, too, as many tokens prove;
Suppose we here shall fix the nuptial band;
I have a ring to place upon your hand."
A smile from Lara, all devoid of art,
At once betrays the promptings of the heart.
Long separation, fears, the lost, the found,
Their constant souls together firm had bound.
The worthy chaplain freely lends his aid;
The prayers and short responses quick are made;
And as congratulations lend their spell,
A happy one are John and Larabelle.

And now the wife away must quickly fly,
Her tact and skill for one exchange to try;
For, captive still, the worthy John Green,
Was held a hostage in the martial scene.
And go she does, alone, upon the wing,
In hopes ere long the dear exchange to bring.
But how can she that awful presence gain,
Of Stanton, Lincoln, Seward? Ah, how vain
Must all her efforts prove! And yet she goes,
Undaunted still, though legions may oppose.
The subtle, devious, tortuous, doubtful way,
That leads to power, she threads without dismay.
She meets rebuff. "Shall we, with three for one,
Give man for man, as when the war begun?
Shall want -- starvation even, make us yield,
When firmness, here, may win the doubtful field?"
And still she importunes and perseveres,
Until success rewards her many tears.

Back to the camp she goes, as on the wind,
For love, the fleetest, far can leave behind.
With ten-fold beauty now appear her charms,
And waiting Johny folds her to his arms.

The happy sequel may be quickly told
Our volunteer, so worthy, brave and bold,
In that great battle of the southern land,
Received a shot -- a bullet in the hand;
And tho' the painful wound was now a scar,
A free discharge released him from the war.
He went for home, where first the light he saw,
Beside the stream that feeds the Saginaw.
As they arrive, the friends, and far and near,
Surround the pair and hail them with a cheer.
They greet their aged parents, now in tears
To see the end of many anxious fears.
All hearts in fond emotions deeply move,
To see return the objects of their love.

The varied war, as long its fortunes held,
Our Johny watched, till shouts of triumph swelled,
From North to South, from East to distant West,
And Peace returned to bid the nation rest.

And now, at home, within their native State,
The two will oft' their tales of war relate;
While friends and kindred long will fondly tell,
Of Johny Green and worthy Larabelle.





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