Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, OBSEQUIES OF STUART, by JOHN REUBEN THOMPSON



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OBSEQUIES OF STUART, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: We could not pause, while yet the noontide air
Last Line: In victory careering!
Alternate Author Name(s): Thompson, John Randolph
Subject(s): American Civil War; Cavalry; Stuart, James Ewell (Jeb) (1833-1864); U.s. - History; Wilderness Campaign (1864)


WE could not pause, while yet the noontide air
Shook with the cannonade's incessant pealing,
The funeral pageant fitly to prepare --
A nation's grief revealing.

The smoke, above the glimmering woodland wide
That skirts our southward border in its beauty,
Marked where our heroes stood and fought and died
For love and faith and duty.

And still, what time the doubtful strife went on,
We might not find expression for our sorrow;
We could but lay our dear dumb warrior down,
And gird us for the morrow.

One weary year agone, when came a lull
With victory in the conflict's stormy closes,
When the glad Spring, all flushed and beautiful,
First mocked us with her roses,

With dirge and bell and minute-gun, we paid
Some few poor rites -- an inexpressive token
Of a great people's pain -- to Jackson's shade,
In agony unspoken.

No wailing trumpet and no tolling bell,
No cannon, save the battle's boom receding,
When Stuart to the grave we bore, might tell,
With hearts all crushed and bleeding.

The crisis suited not with pomp, and she
Whose anguish bears the seal of consecration
Had wished his Christian obsequies should be
Thus void of ostentation.

Only the maidens came, sweet flowers to twine
Above his form so still and cold and painless,
Whose deeds upon our brightest records shine,
Whose life and sword were stainless.

They well remembered how he loved to dash
Into the fight, festooned from summer bowers;
How like a fountain's spray his sabre's flash
Leaped from a mass of flowers.

And so we carried to his place of rest
All that of our great Paladin was mortal:
The cross, and not the sabre, on his breast,
That opes the heavenly portal.

No more of tribute might to us remain;
But there will still come a time when Freedom's martyrs
A richer guerdon of renown shall gain
Than gleams in stars and garters.

I hear from out that sunlit land which lies
Beyond these clouds that gather darkly o'er us,
The happy sounds of industry arise
In swelling peaceful chorus.

And mingling with these sounds, the glad acclaim
Of millions undisturbed by war's afflictions,
Crowning each martyr's never-dying name
With grateful benedictions.

In some fair future garden of delights,
Where flowers shall bloom and song-birds sweetly warble,
Art shall erect the statues of our knights
In living bronze and marble.

And none of all that bright heroic throng
Shall wear to far-off time a semblance grander,
Shall still be decked with fresher wreaths of song,
Than this beloved commander.

The Spanish legend tells us of the Cid,
That after death he rode, erect, sedately,
Along his lines, even as in life he did,
In presence yet more stately;

And thus our Stuart, at this moment, seems
To ride out of our dark and troubled story
Into the region of romance and dreams,
A realm of light and glory;

And sometimes, when the silver bugles blow,
That ghostly form, in battle reappearing,
Shall lead his horsemen headlong on the foe,
In victory careering!





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