Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A CHRISTOPHER OF THE SHENANDOAH, by EDITH MATILDA THOMAS

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

A CHRISTOPHER OF THE SHENANDOAH, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Mute he sat in the saddle
Last Line: Come life or come death I could n't do less than follow his guide.
Subject(s): American Civil War; Snicker's Ferry, Battle Of (1864); U.s. - History


MUTE he sat in the saddle, -- mute 'midst our full acclaim,
As three times over we gave to the mountain echo his name.
Then, "But I could n't do less!" in a murmur remonstrant came.

This was the deed his spirit set and his hand would not shun,
When the vale of the Shenandoah had lost the glow of the sun,
And the evening cloud and the battle smoke were blending in one.

Retreating and ever retreating, the bank of the river we gained,
Hope of the field was none, and choice but of flight remained,
When there at the brink of the ford his horse he suddenly reined.

For his vigilant eye had marked where, close by the oozy marge,
Half-parted its moorings, there lay a battered and oarless barge.
"Quick! gather the wounded in!" and the flying stayed at his charge.

They gathered the wounded in whence they fell by the river-bank,
Lapped on the gleaming sand, or aswoon, 'mid the rushes dank;
And they crowded the barge till its sides low down in the water sank.

The river was wide, was deep, and heady the current flowed,
A burdened and oarless craft! -- straight into the stream he rode
By the side of the barge, and drew it along with its moaning load.

A moaning and ghastly load -- the wounded -- the dying -- the dead!
For ever upon their traces followed the whistling lead,
Our bravest the mark, yet unscathed and undaunted, he pushed ahead.

Alone? Save for one that from love of his leader or soldierly pride
(Hearing his call for aid, and seeing that none replied),
Plunged and swam by the crazy craft on the other side.

But Heaven! what weary toil! for the river is wide, is deep;
The current is swift, and the bank on the further side is steep.
'T is reached at last, and a hundred of ours to the rescue leap.

Oh, they cheered as he rose from the stream and the
water-drops flowed away!
"But I could n't do less!" in the silence that followed we
heard him say;
Then the wounded cheered, and the swooning awoke in the
barge where they lay.

And I? -- Ah, well, I swam by the barge on the other side;
But an orderly goes wherever his leader chooses to ride.
Come life or come death I could n't do less than follow his guide.

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