Sheridan At Cedar Creek

A poem by Herman Melville

October, 1864

Shoe the steed with silver
That bore him to the fray,
When he heard the guns at dawning--
Miles away;
When he heard them calling, calling--
Mount! nor stay:
Quick, or all is lost;
They've surprised and stormed the post,
They push your routed host--
Gallop! retrieve the day.

House the horse in ermine--
For the foam-flake blew
White through the red October;
He thundered into view;
They cheered him in the looming.
Horseman and horse they knew.
The turn of the tide began,
The rally of bugles ran,
He swung his hat in the van;
The electric hoof-spark flew.

Wreathe the steed and lead him--
For the charge he led
Touched and turned the cypress
Into amaranths for the head
Of Philip, king of riders,
Who raised them from the dead.
The camp (at dawning lost),
By eve, recovered--forced,
Rang with laughter of the host
At belated Early fled.

Shroud the horse in sable--
For the mounds they heap!
There is firing in the Valley,
And yet no strife they keep;
It is the parting volley,
It is the pathos deep.
There is glory for the brave
Who lead, and nobly save,
But no knowledge in the grave
Where the nameless followers sleep.

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