Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE EAGLE OF CORINTH, by HENRY HOWARD BROWNELL



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE EAGLE OF CORINTH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Did you hear of the fight at corinth
Last Line: On the nation's loftiest dome.
Subject(s): American Civil War; Birds; Corinth, Mississippi, Battle Of (1862); Courage; Eagles; United States - History; Valor; Bravery


DID you hear of the fight at Corinth,
How we whipped out Price and Van Dorn?
Ah, that day we earned our rations
(Our cause was God's and the Nation's,
Or we'd have come out forlorn!) --
A long and terrible day!
And at last, when night grew gray,
By the hundreds, there they lay
(Heavy sleepers, you'd say),
That would n't wake on the morn.

Our staff was bare of a flag,
We did n't carry a rag
In those brave marching days; --
Ah, no, but a finer thing!
With never a cord or string,
An eagle of ruffled wing,
And an eye of awful gaze.
The grape it rattled like hail,
The minies were dropping like rain,
The first of a thunder shower;
The wads were blowing like chaff
(There was pounding like floor and flail,
All the front of our line!),
So we stood it hour after hour;
But our eagle, he felt fine!
'T would have made you cheer and laugh,
To see, through that iron gale,
How the old fellow'd swoop and sail
Above the racket and roar, --
To right and to left he'd soar,
But ever came back, without fail,
And perched on his standard-staff.

All that day, I tell you true,
They had pressed us steady and fair,
Till we fought in street and square
(The affair, you might think, looked blue), --
But we knew we had them there!
Our batteries were few,
Every gun, they'd have sworn, they knew,
But, you see, there were one or two
We had fixed for them, unaware.

They reckon they've got us now!
For the next half hour 't will be warm --
Aye, aye, look yonder! -- I vow,
If they were n't Secesh, how I'd love them!
Only see how grandly they form
(Our eagle whirling above them),
To take Robinett by storm!
They're timing! -- it can't be long --
Now for the nub of the fight!
(You may guess that we held our breath.)
By the Lord, 't is a splendid sight!
A column two thousand strong
Marching square to the death!

On they came in solid column,
For once no whooping nor yell
(Ah, I dare say they felt solemn!) --
Front and flank, grape and shell,
Our batteries pounded away!
And the minies hummed to remind 'em
They had started on no child's play!

Steady they kept a-going,
But a grim wake settled behind 'em
From the edge of the abattis
(Where our dead and dying lay
Under fence and fallen tree),
Up to Robinett, all the way
The dreadful swath kept growing!
'T was butternut mixed with gray.

Now for it, at Robinett!
Muzzle to muzzle we met
(Not a breath of bluster or brag,
Not a lisp for quarter or favor) --
Three times, there, by Robinett,
With a rush, their feet they set
On the logs of our parapet,
And waved their bit of a flag --
What could be finer or braver!
But our cross-fire stunned them in flank,
They melted, rank after rank
(O'er them, with terrible poise,
Our Bird did circle and wheel!) --
Their whole line began to waver --
Now for the bayonet, boys!
On them with the cold steel!

Ah, well -- you know how it ended --
We did for them, there and then,
But their pluck throughout was splendid.
(As I said before, I could love them!)
They stood to the last, like men --
Only a handful of them
Found the way back again.
Red as blood, o'er the town,
The angry sun went down,
Firing flagstaff and vane --
And our eagle, -- as for him,
There, all ruffled and grim,
He sat, o'erlooking the slain!

Next morning, you'd have wondered
How we had to drive the spade!
There, in great trenches and holes
(Ah, God rest their poor souls!),
We piled some fifteen hundred,
Where that last charge was made!
Sad enough, I must say.
No mother to mourn and search,
No priest to bless or to pray --
We buried them where they lay,
Without a rite of the church --
But our eagle, all that day,
Stood solemn and still on his perch.

'T is many a stormy day
Since, out of the cold bleak north,
Our great war-eagle sailed forth
To swoop o'er battle and fray.
Many and many a day
O'er charge and storm hath he wheeled,
Foray and foughten field,
Tramp, and volley, and rattle! --
Over crimson trench and turf,
Over climbing clouds of surf,
Through tempest and cannon-wrack,
Have his terrible pinions whirled
(A thousand fields of battle!
A million leagues of foam!); --
But our bird shall yet come back,
He shall soar to his eyrie-home,
And his thunderous wings be furled,
In the gaze of a gladdened world,
On the nation's loftiest dome.





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