Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SECESSION, by T. A. R. NELSON



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SECESSION, by            
First Line: What pen can trace, with just impression
Last Line: "be ""damned to everlasting fame!"
Alternate Author Name(s): Nelson, Thomas A. R.
Subject(s): American Civil War; Confederate States Of America; Fame; State Rights; U.s. - History; Confederacy; Reputation; Secession


What pen can trace, with just impression,
The glowing wonders of Secession, --
So peaceful once, so warlike now,
With ghastly form and frowning brow?
Once holding out, by way of suction,
The principle of reconstruction;
Now branding all as traitors, who
Would past alliances renew;
At home, arousing States to fear
That Abolition's sway was near;
Abroad, denying that such cause
Made States and men defy the laws;
Here, charging home, like cunning knaves,
That "Lincoln's War" would free the slaves;
There, beginning England's cash and aid,
To speed the progress of "Free Trade;"
Here, fighting for the right to man,
There, offering Abolition plan;
Now, claiming Cotton as the King
Of all the world -- the magic spring
To press crowned monarchs to their knees,
And make them do just as we please;
But, finding dull that cotton phasis,
Proclaiming it a specie basis;
Then, teaching that all men should spurn it,
And, with religious fervor, burn it;
Inviting foreign intervention
To stop, at once, a fierce contention;
But foiled, denying recognition
As needful, in our strong condition;
With Protean shape, chameleon hue,
Forever changing, ever new --
A thing of magic and of might,
Ne'er warmed to wrong, but always right!

Who hath not heard that WASHINGTON,
With all its wealth, would soon be won?
That one brave bee, of Southern hive,
From Northern swarms, could vanquish five?
That craven Yankees would not fight,
And, seeing us, must take to flight?
That war their fields might desolate,
But dare not visit Southern State?
Tho', if it came, then glory's blaze
Should burn it out in sixty days?
While Southern men need have no fears,
As none might fight but Volunteers?

Who doth not know that WASHINGTON
Has not been reached, will ne'er be won;
That one live Yankee is as much
As Southern knight may safely touch;
And that to tread on Northern soil
Somehow produces strange recoil?
Who hath not seen the fierce conscription --
In all its moods, beyond description --
Compel the twelve months' Volunteers,
Against their will, to serve three years?
Hunt Union sympathizers down,
And, handcuffed, bring them into town?
Who doth not feel that War, defied,
Has sadly humbled Southern pride,
When conquering legions come at will,
Our lands and harbors all to fill?
Who now can Northern courage doubt
When promised victory proved a rout?

If tidings of their fame you seek,
Go view the flight at Fishing Creek;
If useful truth not prone to shun,
Behold the fall of Donelson;
If falsehood, trained to scorn and hate,
Of many a stronghold read the fate,
And learn that every place which fell
Was heralded -- impregnable!
No foeman's face should e'er be seen
To frown, or smile, at Bowling Green;
Columbus, Island Number Ten,
Could never yield to Yankee men;
While Norfolk, New Orleans, Shiloh,
Would each inflict a fatal blow,
And Vicksburg, as a fortress stand,
The pride and boast of Dixie land!

The people drank the bitter cup
As, one by one, they all "went up;"
But, in their grief, were blandly told
That neither place was -- fit to hold!

If Lee, with cannon, sword, and lance,
On northern soil makes proud advance,
His aim will thousand tongues unfold
To conquer towns with daring bold;
To seize their Railroads, burn their cars,
And wave o'er cities "Stars and Bars;"
But if, perchance, each nobler deed
Is baffled by the impetuous MEADE --
If, with a routed army, LEE,
O'er swollen streams, is forced to flee,
He never purposed to remain;
His object was -- to save his train;
And, tho' he retrogrades his track,
'Tis no retreat, but -- "falling back!!"

Ere war began, a wordy flood
Of eloquence, belittled blood,
And Orators, ere war should stop,
Would spill their last and reddest drop;
But, since they raised the awful flame,
Their best performances, how tame!
The tattered Southern army view,
Dragged out by an ambitious crew
Of selfish leaders, 'gainst the right
And their own native land to fight.
How few of those who strove to fire
The Southern heart with war and ire,
Among their guilty, naughty pranks,
E'er deemed it safe to join the ranks!
How many of the selfish brutes
Were swift to hire substitutes,
Themselves from all exposure shield,
But others urge to take the field,
While they could stay at home and make
Whatever gains they chose to take:
Or, if provoked by pride or shame,
On tented field to win a name,
They, from their firesides ventured out,
To share in victory or rout,
'Twas only that as officers,
With gilded coats and brazen spurs,
They might the soldier's duties shun,
And snatch the fame that he had won!

What useful lessons spur our sense,
When taught by sour experience!
We've learned "Virginia's sacred soil,"
Like common earth, may bleed and toil;
That Tennessee in zeal may flag
To witness the dismay of Bragg,
And that our Floyd was taught to dance,
In reels, by master Rosencrans --
An active, flying Dutchman, who
Our straggling armies will pursue;
Or, if outnumbered, hold his own
With all the masses round him thrown.
But what of these? Bring Conscripts out;
The men of fifty oft are stout,
And, should they strive to hide or fly,
The lash and ball you may apply --
No Volunteer so freely fights
As one who's forced to seek his rights.

Old Union never gazed upon
Such piebald rights as have been won;
By valor gained, in open day;
These let Secession proud display --
A motley group of great and small,
But, in hotch pot, behold them all.

The right to have our ports blockaded,
And our own paradise invaded;
To be, at once, sublimely roasted
With "that same" fire of which we boasted.

The right of Preachers, who inherit,
From ancient Seers, "a lying spirit,"
To prophesy that we, in battle,
Should slay our brethren just like cattle;
But, when the fiery tide was turning,
With hell-born inspiration burning,
Besetting heaven that war should cease,
And wrestling lustily for peace,
As if THE JUST would deign to hear
Prayers meant alone for human ear.

The right to banish silver, gold,
And paper promises unfold,
Printed and paid, amidst duress,
In every shape of ugliness;
To laud each petty corporation
That labors to build up a nation;
To fill your pockets with "shin-plasters,"
Prolific fruits of cash disasters,
And take as good, all free from stricture,
Whatever rags display a picture.

The right to force your hay and oats
With, or without, Confederate notes;
To have your mules and horses prest,
And swear that you have been caressed;
To see your treasured wheat and flour
Consumed by military power;
To part with fodder, corn, and bacon,
At arbitrary value taken;
And feel that farmers freely bleed
'Neath prices stamped by lawyer Sneed --
A man whose mind alone enlarges
When pondering o'er his own huge charges.

The right to let rude soldiers seize
Your milk and poultry when they please;
Grab all your bed-clothes, sugar, honey,
And think your murmurs very funny;
The right to have your country take
Your leather for the army's sake;
In one of patriotism's fits,
To make your harness of oak splits,
And let your wives and children go
Barefooted through the mud and snow,
While some young stripling, whom it suits,
Struts, high and dry, in seven-leagued boots!

The right to have your stills destroyed
That liquors may be well employed --
For common soldiers all "go dry,"
That officers may frolic high --
The right to make your coffee, tea,
Of rye, or roots, and boast you're free;
To learn the art of breeches thatching,
Grow skilled in many-colored patching;
Wear faded clothes till old and rotten,
And make the new of Dixie cotton.

The right to close all business doors,
And do without the shops and stores;
To see your loving wife grow mad
When pins and needles can't be had;
Heave sighs for silks and calico,
And wonder where the sugars go;
To grasp you sternly by the throat,
With rents in her last petticoat,
Or wear some hideous hat or bonnet
And scream a threadbare rebel sonnet!

The right to travel as first-class,
But, like a negro, show your pass;
Large hires to pay for substitutes,
Then be compelled to "go it, boots;"
And, when Secession cuts a caper,
The news to read -- on wrapping paper.

The right to pay the heaviest tax
That ever broke a people's backs --
(In vain the sturdiest Southern writhes
At thoughts of paying cash and tithes) --
The right to hear of sons well-fed,
In distant armies, bravely led;
To be assured they get relief
Against the climate, with mule beef,
And that 'tis glorious when they die, --
They know not where, and care not why.

The right to disarm Union men
By dash of ZOLLICOFFER'S pen;
With tents and blankets to dispense,
And burn their cheap or costly fence;
Their houses search, their persons seize,
With hostile bands of Cherokees;
Then "devilish Yankees" to abuse
Who negroes in their service use.

The right to dream that all's impartial
Which may be done by Provost Marshal;
To view the scum of all the nation
Promoted to official station;
By drumhead law, to hang bridge burners,
In terror to Secession spurners;
To murder men and boys unarmed,
Who are not with its beauties charmed;
When startled renegades evanish,
Their goods to steal, their wives to banish,
And give your safety the eclat
Of bayonet courts and martial law.

Such priceless rights he never felt,
Who, at the Union altar, knelt;
Such blessings ne'er were seen or sent
In our "old, rotten government;"
They came -- so willed the smiling fates --
From our beloved Confederate States!

Let these, and other changes prove,
How their whole country all should love;
How WASHINGTON'S Farewell Address
May every noble mind impress;
How wise and just his sage reflections
On party names and wars of sections;
What madness has controlled the hour,
And wildly led with demon power!

Oh! Union, born in throes and blood,
Well nurtured by the wise and good,
What wickedness has sought thy life,
'Mid civil broils and party strife!
'T was thine to crown with happiness
A land that Heaven rejoiced to bless;
Extend to all a parent's care,
With poor and rich thy bounties share;
Whate'er was wrong, subdue, correct,
Nor smallest privilege neglect;
'Twas thine to give the exile home,
Guard well thy people should they roam;
Shield citizens in desert sands,
Or wandering o'er the prairie lands;
Exact from Savages and Kings
The homage that from power springs;
Of Liberty the guide to be
In newborn States begot of thee,
And see thy children thrive and grow
With active limbs and healthful glow;
Wealth springing up at their command,
From mines of ore and teeming land,
With naught to fear or emulate
Save progress in a rival State!
With thee, religion, equal law,
Went, hand in hand, the vile to awe;
Thy youth were taught, and hoary age,
In safety, spoke its counsels sage;
The humblest man in power or place
Might boldly his accuser face,
And from the courts of right demand
A speedy trial in native land;
No hidden foe could have him borne
Away, in distant jail to mourn;
No myrmidon could keep him there,
For Justice reached him everywhere,
And Law's great writ of common right
Flashed o'er him its resplendent light;
No coward fears, no false alarms
The people robbed of safety's arms;
Long-cherished charters did assure
Their property and lives secure;
No fetters chained the free-born mind,
No prisons innocence confined;
The ruffian's search, the assassin's tread,
Ne'er filled the land with silent dread;
The tyrant's power, unfelt, unknown,
By patriot fathers overthrown,
Existed, in the dreamy past,
Like memory of a thunder blast,
And, in the sunshine of the day,
The horrid phantom fled away!
Where'er thy flag disturbed the breeze,
On oceans wide or distant seas,
Already had thy matchless name
Aroused the trumpet blast of fame;
O'er all the earth down-trodden man
Revered the word -- AMERICAN;
And panting to be great and free,
His fondest wishes turned to thee --
The despot's foe, the living light
To guide the struggling nations right!

Shades of our country's champions! where
Dwell ye amid the ambient air?
Are ye allowed to see or know
All that occurs on earth below?
Are Freedom's heroes, when they die,
Wafted above the deep blue sky?
Their thronging spirits! may they tell
How conflict rages like a hell?
And can ye yet exert a power
To lull the storms that darkly lower?

It cannot be -- or WASHINGTON
Would sternly censure what we've done,
And hush the cannon that declare
Our slight of his paternal care!
It cannot be -- or JACKSON fierce,
The grave's dark gloom would boldly pierce,
And back to earth, in wrath return,
"With thoughts that breathe, and words that burn!"
It cannot be -- or WEBSTER, great
In all the lore that forms a State,
Would, for the Constitution, plead,
And shout -- of Anarchy take heed!
It cannot be -- or matchless CLAY
The veil that hides would tear away,
And his tall form erect display
Arrayed in dazzling robe of white,
And, flashing with angelic light,
Upon an arching rainbow stand,
Viewed by a torn and bleeding land;
And, with an eloquence new-born,
A maddened people loudly warn;
Bid War's infernal carnage cease,
And million's voices cry for peace!

What hissing curse, or crushing blast,
Shall be o'er perjured traitors cast,
Who swore their country to sustain,
But gladly give that country pain?
Who can atone for all the blood
That deluges, like angry flood,
And fills a land with groans and tears,
That happiest stood among her peers?

The orphan child, the widowed wife,
The soldier ruined, maimed for life;
The patriot scourged, the prisoner freed,
All who have suffered, all who bleed;
The thousands who in lies believed,
The millions in their hopes deceived;
The cheerless homes, the ruins black,
The fields thrown out to War's wild track;
The very horses, starved and thin,
With ghosts of murdered men, begin,
In bitterest strains, to chant, rehearse,
The traitor's doom, the tory's curse!

Where'er they go, let withering scorn
Against their coming quickly warn;
Whate'er they say, let shy distrust,
In doubt, deny their statements just;
Whate'er they do, let jealous eyes
Their best performances despise;
From their vile presence turn away,
Trust not the miscreants who betray;
Do not their callous conscience mock
With oaths that cannot bind or shock;
Withhold the honors they may seek
With brazen front or bearing meek;
Imbue your children with a dread
Of all who in Rebellion led;
And, while its gay, deluded fair,
And misled votaries you spare,
Let every proud, detested name,
Be "damned to everlasting fame!"





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