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



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LARABELLE; CANTO THIRD, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The blow that lays the soldier on the plain
Last Line: No trace is found of worthy johny green.
Subject(s): Absence; Death; Grief; Soldiers; War; Separation; Isolation; Dead, The; Sorrow; Sadness


The blow that lays the soldier on the plain,
Is felt by others, deeply felt again,
Around the hearthstone, in the home afar,
Where tears attest the havoc of the war.

Beside the stream that feeds the Saginaw,
In calm submission to the Sovereign law,
Are many friends in doubt and sore dismay,
Who dread to learn the losses of the day.
And doubt itself, with mingled hope and fear,
Will melt the heart; will draw the silent tear.
The vagrant rumors, on the rapid wing,
May strengthen hope, and consolation bring,
To friends and parents, anxious for the son,
Who may survive a battle lost or won;
But still they feel a pang of bitter grief,
And will, till all the truth shall bring relief.

The home of Johny no relief could tell,
And deeply sighed the charming Larabelle.
"Ah, did he perish in the dreadful fray --
In furious charge that closed the fatal day?
Did he go down amid the fiery blast,
A brave unknown, in hasty burial cast?
Or did he to the foe a captive yield,
And does he now survive the bloody field?"
No one could answer. None relieve the moan --
The sigh responsive to the dread unknown.
"And will the future, with its silent pall,
No tidings yield of his untimely fall?"
It must not be. The father's, mother's tears,
And broken hearts, in now declining years,
Will fatal prove, if naught is heard or seen,
Of cherished lad -- devoted Johny Green.

How shall the quest be made to speedy find
The fallen brave, or captive left behind?
The rapid trains, the steamers near and far,
Are all purveyed to serve the hasty war.
Can we reliance place upon the mail,
To bear a letter? Foes may this assail.
May earnest friend the hostile plain essay,
And reach the spot that saw the fearful day?
What if he does, can Johny there be found,
Or dead or living, on the bloody ground?
Or will the hills and valleys of the scene,
Glad tidings render of our Johny Green?

'Tis doubtful all; and yet will all unite,
And try the best; each one will quickly write;
Yea write to stranger foe and distant friend;
No harm can spring from means to such an end.
The father, mother and the neighbors kind,
The post purvey, the volunteer to find.
To every hospital and every friend,
Whose place is known, the earnest letters tend.
But can they wait the long return and slow,
While days to weeks and weeks to ages grow?
Perhaps no letter will its owner find;
Perhaps the mails be scattered to the wind:
Perhaps the scouts of ever watchful foe,
May seize, in hopes the plans of war to know.

Whatever be the cause no tidings come,
To cheer the aching hearts in Johny's home.
Ah, said the sire, I fear -- I more than fear,
Our lad will ne'er return our cot to cheer.
But, said the mother, fear must not prevail,
'Till every search and every effort fail.
An agent send, the father calm replies;
In sorrow bent, as tears bedim his eyes:
Yea let a messenger the field explore,
Where late our son the brunt of battle bore.

The agent goes; explores the distant round,
Where'er the lad or body may be found.
He soon returns in grief and in despair,
With anxious friends the darkest fears to share.
Ah now, the parents cry, must we give o'er
The hopeful search. 'Tis clear we never more
Shall here behold -- in this the rural scene,
The boy -- the volunteer -- our Johny Green.

The woman's kindly soul will oft despair,
When others hope and expectation share.
And then again, when hope in man is past,
The woman's heart will cling unto the last:
Her lofty spirit wings the dread profound,
And casts a cheerful glance on all around:
Her thrilling voice the darkest hour will cheer;
Will oft induce despair to persevere.
Among the many friends who shared the grief
For Johny's absence, Larabelle was chief.
She mused upon the chances, far away,
That might have led the soldier far astray.
She calmly thought upon the varied train
Of accidents around the battle plain:
She pondered o'er, in every shade and form,
That bloody day -- that fiercely raging storm:
She knew the danger that awaits the spy,
Who should be ready -- fearlessly to die.
And yet with all, as fell the silent tear,
She firm resolved, devoid of every fear,
To seek the distant country of the foe;
To every want and fortune undergo;
And wide explore, in southern battle scene,
The hidden path or grave of Johny Green.
Tho' terrors grim might fierce beset her way,
Her mission shone resplendent as the day.
Above the sickening fields of distant war,
Arose the genius of her guiding star.
If John were dead she soon his tomb would tell;
If not, he would not hide from Larabelle:
And if or living or beneath the sod,
Him she would seek, while firmly trusting God.

Nor trusted she alone. Throughout the land,
The fervent prayers arose on every hand.
Yea, to the little church will all repair,
To ask the blessing of the Father there.
And will she, reckless, and without a guide,
Or friend or kind protector, firm abide
The bitter worst? She will; nor shot nor shell,
Nor charging host shall daunt our Larabelle.
And soon with scanty purse and scanty gear,
She calm departs. A thousand voices cheer.
A thousand swelling hearts ascend on high,
And there invoke protection from the Sky.

The steamer, pack-horse, and the rapid train,
The heavy wagon o'er the mountain chain,
The way diversify. The deep morass,
The forest, and the river, she must pass.
And as she nears the hostile-guarded lines,
Of friend and foe, without the counter-signs
Or pass-port safe; nor these, nor aught can bar,
Her onward step where leads her guiding star:
That she, alone, is on a worthy task,
Is all the pass-port that a man can ask.

She comes at last upon the bloody field,
Where brothers met determined not to yield;
Where legions fought a doubtful day to save,
And strewed the plain with thousands of the brave.
The ground had freely drank of purple rills,
That crept towards the valleys from the hills.
A month had passed beneath a southern sun,
And rapid putrifaction had begun
Of men and horses slain. The wounded lie
Beneath a thousand tents; and means apply
To health restore and purify the air;
And yet a deathly stench is everywhere.
The flies in myriads cover hill and vale,
The rich effluvia there to deep inhale.
The hungry fox and jackal claim a share,
While heavy vultures hover on the air.
And belts and arms, and balls and bursted shell,
May still be seen, that of the struggle tell.
The shattered caisson, the dismounted gun,
The rifle pits, the earth-works lightly run,
The shot-plowed furrow, cut and rifted trees;
Yea, houses torn, the maiden wanderer sees.

As Larabelle surveyed the awful scene,
Where men devoted, with her Johny Green,
Had fire and slaughter met in every form,
Her noble spirit felt the mighty storm.
She sought the hill -- the fatal sloping side,
That saw the charge; where turned the battle tide;
Where lately raged the fierce, the fearful strife,
Amid a wreck of wasting human life;
And as she stood, and calmly gazed around,
She seemed to tread -- to trespass hallowed ground.

From such a scene our Larabelle withdrew
In solemn sadness. Next, she went to view
The burial ground -- beneath a sylvan grove,
Where lay, perhaps, the object of her love.
The mounds were fresh: In files the heroes lay,
As when they stood amid the battle fray.
No monument as yet was there to tell,
The names and valiant deeds of those that fell;
But at the head of each is simply read,
The name, the State, battalion of the dead.
And thus by thousands here, and far and wide,
The North and South are mingled side by side.
As both to mutual death the breast have bared;
So both together have the glory shared:
The cause of war aside, and all the brave,
May claim the laurel of the honored grave.
Here worthy spirits now are sleeping low;
The King of Terrors levels every foe.

Our Larabelle, with mingled hopes and fears,
With heavy heart, and sighs and many tears,
Above the hillocks each inscription read;
To find the name she sought among the dead.
And while she sought, she hoped she could not find;
Oh, might her eye-lids to his name be blind!
For if no tell-tale board his name could give,
She still might find him for he still might live.
And eager thus from mound to mound she went,
And scanned the names in burial sadly blent:
And when at last to farther end she came,
In careful search, yet fearful of the name;
A disappointment sore her spirits felt,
And yet in gladness -- thankful soon they melt;
For through the silent wrecks of battle scene,
No trace is found of worthy Johny Green.





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