Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AN INCIDENT, by FREDERICK GODDARD TUCKERMAN



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AN INCIDENT, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Twas in the country's darkest hour of fear
Last Line: Beneath a single bloodbright stripe of cloud.


'Twas in the country's darkest hour of fear,
Perplexity, and peril. Overawed,
The world hung breathlessly: at home and near
Were bitter foes, and bitterer friends abroad,
Nor hope there seemed beneath the hearse of heaven.
On such a day of doubt, and silently,
We walked apart, the Englishman and I
Through low flat wood that, as we rose, rose higher.
A man he was, expatriate and self-driven
Beyond the deep; adrift, he cared not whither,
Hating his land and also hating ours;
In many things lacking the gift to see
And rating all he loved not rogue or liar,
Either of both, perhaps, or both in either:

Loving not man but yet humanity,
Loving the white Truth as a boy his bride,
Loving the sun, the ground, the growth, the showers,
Believing too in God and destiny
And in the general uselessness of life.

"Behold," at length he spoke. "The brother strife
Is well night ending now, and what betide,
The country is no more, her flag is furled!
And can it be that these our foolish eyes
Shall see the close that almost saw the rise?
America! the country of the world!
The half-the-world that should have changed the whole,
The model flowering of all modern time,
Dropping to pieces like a three-days rose?
The rise we saw not, but we see the close:
But on the earth no promise of the prime,
Nor in the cloud of heaven from pole to pole!"

"Not so!" I said, "or if so, not so yet!
Our own is ours, and I must first forget,
Ere I forego one petal of my Flower,
All happy days and dreams of happy youth,
That Spring will come again, that winds will blow;
The early vehement hope, the faith unshaken,
The deep obliging vows our hearts have taken,
And once for all, to strike in danger's hour
And strive and overcome for Her and Truth!
And shall I droop because my Cause is low?
Blood of myself! not so! whilst thou canst flow
Or give one drop to victory's holy shower!
Still must I deem with him whose precepts say,

The darkest hour is just before the day:
And if the day be cloud, the land be dearth,
He looketh on with far foreshadowing eye,
Sees in the fruitless earth more fruitful earth,
And in the sky, the sky beyond the sky!
And more and most, in war began the Slave;
In war must cease, his lifebirth and his grave.
Rolled as through blood, the Realm will reach repose;
Cooled as from fire, the clefted Land will close,
And battle's field, like a late up-ploughed lot,
Return to fresher growths where these are not.
Nor more to hear, our anguished hearts will beat
The midnight raid, the skirmish, the retreat:
All this shall pass--the smoke shall draft aside,
The kine shall low where late the cannon roared,
And in those vales where now the hurrying sword
With blood for sweat is reaping to the quick,
The farmer shall again his sickle put.
And where red Strife has stamped with angriest stride,
Mid its own orchard bowers again shall hide
The cottage home with its small children, like
The bird's nest set in the print of a horse's foot."

He smiled, but now a whisper far and sweet
That seemed to rise again and faint and flee
Came to us of the distant mountain breeze.
He smiled but answered not, and on we wound
Still through the woods until our weary feet
Still through the woods, but rising latterly,
Gained a high place at last above the trees,
A sere and desolate spot: on every bound
Dark woodsides pressing up, and more remote
On the land's edge, a single parted pinetree.
"Cans't thou then find," he said, "mid outskirts wintry
That golden grace of Spring? thine early creed?
Vows of observance which in youth thou sworest?
Ah, not as now we linger, caring not
That life has failed with us, half proud indeed
That we have strive, or loved, or suffered wrongly,
Firm in despair or faltering in contrition."
Beyond the mountain and the climbing forest,
Beyond the ribs of the far separate pine,
Suddenly struck on my averted vision
A single star through twilight twinkling strongly,
A single beam stirring its misty shroud:
Of a world's hope the visible flag and sign,
Beneath a single bloodbright stripe of cloud.





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