Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE SURRENDER OF NEW ORLEANS, by MARION MANVILLE



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THE SURRENDER OF NEW ORLEANS, by            
First Line: All day long the guns at the forts
Last Line: A glory for one is another's lost cause.
Alternate Author Name(s): Pope, Marion Manville, Mrs.
Subject(s): American Civil War; New Orleans, Battle Of (1862); U.s. - History


ALL day long the guns at the forts,
With far-off thunders and faint retorts,
Had told the city that down the bay
The fleet of Farragut's war-ships lay;
But now St. Philip and Jackson grim
Were black and silent below the rim
Of the southern sky, where the river sped
Like a war-horse scenting the fight ahead.

And we of the city, the women, and men
Too old for facing the battle then,
Saw all the signs of our weakness there
With a patience born of a great despair.
The river gnawed its neglected bank,
The weeds in the unused streets grew rank,
And flood and famine threatened those
Who stayed there braving greater woes.

Under the raking of shot and shell
The river fortresses fighting fell;
The Chalmette batteries then boomed forth,
But the slim. straight spars of the ships of the North
Moved steadily on in their river-road,
Like a tide that up from the ocean flowed.

Then load after load, and pile upon pile,
Lining the wharves for many a mile,
Out of the cotton-presses and yards,
With a grim industry which naught retards,
The bales were carried and swiftly placed
By those who knew there was need of haste,
And the torch was laid to the cotton so.
Up from that bonfire the glare and glow
Was seen by the watchers far away,
And weeping and wailing those watchers say,
"The city is lost! O men at the front,
Braving the fortunes of war, and the brunt
Of battle bearing with fearful cost,
The city you loved and left is lost!"

Ah, memories crowding so thick and fast,
Ye were the first; is this the last?
We gave with clamor our first great gift,
With shouts which up to the heavens lift;
We gave with silence our last best yield,
Our last, best gleaning for Shiloh's field.
With mute devotion we saw them go;
But when the banners were furled and low,
And the solid columns were thinned by war,
We wondered what we had given for.

And oh, the day when with muffled drum
We saw our dear, dead Johnston come!
The blood of our slain ones seemed to pour
From the eyes that should see them come no more.
We measured our grief by each gallant deed;
We measured our loss by our direful need;
Our dead dreams rose from the vanquished past,
And across the future their shadows cast.
Our brave young hope, like a fallen tear,
We laid on the grave of our Chevalier.

And that last wild night! the east was red
So long 'fore the day had left its bed.
With white, set faces, and smileless lips,
We fired our vessels, we fired our ships.
We saw the sails of the red flame lift
O'er each fire-cargo we set adrift;
To Farragut's fleet we sent them down,
A warm, warm welcome from the town.

But, alas, how quickly came the end!
For down the river, below the bend,
Like a threatening finger shook each mast
Of the Yankee ships as they steamed up fast.
Grim and terrible, black with men,
Oh, for the Mississippi then!
And -- God be merciful! -- there she came
A drifting wreck, a ship of flame
What a torch to light the stripes and stars
That had braved our forts and harbor bars!
What a light, by which we saw vainly slip
Our hopes to their death in that sinking ship!

We shrieked with rage, and defeat, and dread,
As down the river that phantom sped;
But on the deck of a Yankee ship,
One grim old tar, with a smiling lip,
Patted the big black breech of his gun,
As one who silently says, "Well done!"

To-day the graves that were new are old,
And a story done is a story told;
But we of the city, the women and men,
And boys unfitted for fighting then,
Remember the day when our flag went down,
And the stars and stripes waved over the town.
Ah me! the bitter goes with the sweet,
And a victory means another defeat;
For, bound in Nature's inflexible laws,
A glory for one is another's Lost Cause.





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