Mahone's Brigade. - A Metrical Address.

A poem by James Barron Hope

"In pace decus, in bello praesidium." - Tacitus.


I.

Your arms are stacked, your splendid colors furled,
Your drums are still, aside your trumpets laid,
But your dumb muskets once spoke to the world -
And the world listened to Mahone's Brigade.

Like waving plume upon Bellona's crest,
Or comet in red majesty arrayed,
Or Persia's flame transported to the West,
Shall shine the glory of Mahone's Brigade.

Not once, in all those years so dark and grim,
Your columns from the path of duty strayed;
No craven act made your escutcheon dim -
'Twas burnished with your blood, Mahone's Brigade.

Not once on post, on march, in camp, or field,
Was your brave leader's trust in you betrayed,
And never yet has old Virginia's shield
Suffered dishonor through Mahone's Brigade.

Who has forgotten at the deadly Mine,
How our great Captain of great Captains bade
Your General to retake the captured line?
How it was done, you know, Mahone's Brigade.

Who has forgotten how th' undying dead,
And you, yourselves, won that for which Lee prayed?
Who has forgotten how th' Immortal said:
That "heroes" swept that field, Mahone's Brigade?

From the far right, beneath the "stars and bars,"
You marched amain to Bushrod Johnson's aid,
And when you charged - an arrow shot by Mars
Went forward in your rush, Mahone's Brigade.

In front stood death. Such task as yours before
By mortal man has rarely been essayed,
There you defeated Burnside's boasted corps,
And did an army's work, Mahone's Brigade.

And those who led you, field, or line, or staff,
Showed they were fit for more than mere parade;
Their motto: "Victory or an epitaph,"
And well they did their part, Mahone's Brigade.


II.

Were mine the gift to coin my heart of hearts
In living words, fit tribute should be paid
To all the heroes whose enacted parts
Gave fame immortal to Mahone's Brigade.

But he who bore the musket is the man
Whose figure should for future time be made -
Cleft from a rock by some new Thorwaldsen -
The Private Soldier of Mahone's Brigade.

His was that sense of duty only felt
By souls heroic. In the modest shade
He lived, or fell; but his, Fame's Starry Belt -
His, Fame's own Galaxy, Mahone's Brigade.

And in that Belt - all luminous with stars,
Unnamed and woven in a wondrous braid -
A blaze of glory in the sky of Mars -
Your orbs are thickly set, Mahone's Brigade.

The Private Soldier is the man who comes
From mart, or plain, or grange, or sylvan glade,
To answer calls of trumpets and of drums -
So came the Soldier of Mahone's Brigade.

His messmate, hunger; comrades, heat and cold;
His decorations, death or wounds, conveyed
To the brave patriot in ways manifold -
But yet he flinched not in Mahone's Brigade.

When needing bread, Fate gave him but a stone;
Ragged, he answered when the trumpet brayed;
Barefoot he marched, or died without a groan;
True to his battle-flag, Mahone's Brigade.

Could some Supreme Intelligence proclaim,
Arise from all the pomp of rank and grade,
War's truest heroes, oft we'd hear some name,
Unmentioned by the world, Mahone's Brigade.

And yet they have a name, enriched with thanks
And tears and homage - which shall never fade -
Their name is simply this: Men of the Ranks -
The Knights without their spurs - Mahone's Brigade.

And though unbelted and without their spurs,
To them is due Fame's splendid accolade;
And theirs the story which to-day still stirs
The pulses of your heart, Mahone's Brigade.

Men of the Ranks, step proudly to the front,
'Twas yours unknown through sheeted flame to wade,
In the red battle's fierce and deadly brunt;
Yours be full laurels in Mahone's Brigade.


III.

For those who fell be yours the sacred trust
To see forgetfulness, shall not invade
The spots made holy by their noble dust;
Green keep them in your hearts, Mahone's Brigade.

Oh, keep them green with patriotic tears!
Forget not, now war's fever is allayed,
Those valiant men, who, in the vanished years,
Kept step with you in ranks, Mahone's Brigade.

Each circling year, in the sweet month of May,
Your countrywomen - matron and fair maid -
Still pay their tribute to the Soldier's clay,
And strew his grave with flow'rs, Mahone's Brigade.

Join in the task, with retrospective eye;
Men's mem'ries should not perish 'neath the spade;
Pay homage to the dead, whose dying cry
Was for the Commonwealth, Mahone's Brigade.

Raise up, O State! a shaft to pierce the sky,
To him, the Private, who was but afraid
To fail in his full duty - not to die;
And on its base engrave, "Mahone's Brigade."


IV.

Now that the work of blood and tears is done,
Whether of stern assault, or sudden raid,
Yours is a record second yet to none -
None takes your right in line, Mahone's Brigade.

Now that we've lost, as was fore-doomed, the day -
Now that the good by ill has been outweighed -
Let us plant olives on the rugged way,
Once proudly trodden by Mahone's Brigade.

And when some far-stretchen future folds the past,
To us so recent, in its purple shade,
High up, as if on some "tall Admiral's mast,"
Shall fly your battle-flags, Mahone's Brigade.


V.

Each battle-flag shall float abroad and fling
A radiance round, as from a new-lit star;
Or light the air about, as when a King
Flashes in armor in his royal car;
And Fame's own vestibule I see inlaid
With their proud images, Mahone's Brigade.

Your battle-flags shall fly throughout all time,
By History's self exultingly unfurled;
And stately prose, and loud-resounding rhyme,
Nobler than mine, shall tell to all the world
How dauntless moved, and how all undismayed,
Through good and ill stood Mahone's Brigade.

O glorious flags! No victory could stain
Your tattered folds with one unworthy deed,
O glorious flags! No country shall again
Fly nobler symbols in its hour of need.
Success stained not, nor could defeat degrade;
Spotless they float to-day, Mahone's Brigade.

Immortal flags, upon Time's breezes flung,
Seen by the mind in forests, or in marts,
Cherished in visions, praised from tongue to tongue,
Wrapped in the very fibres of your hearts,
And gazing on them, none may dare upbraid
Your Leader, or your men, Mahone's Brigade.


VI.

That splendid Leader's name is yours, and he
Flesh of your flesh, himself bone of your bone,
His simple name maketh a history,
Which stands, itself grand, glorious and alone,
Or, 'tis a trophy, splendidly arrayed,
With all your battle-flags, Mahone's Brigade.

His name itself a history? Yes, and none
May halt me here. In war and peace
It challenges the full rays of the sun;
And when the passions of our day shall cease,
'Twill stand undying, for all time displayed,
Itself a battle-flag, Mahone's Brigade.

He rose successor of that mighty man
Who was the "right arm" [2] of immortal Lee;
Whose genius put defeat beneath a ban;
Who swept the field as tempest sweeps the sea;
Who fought full hard, and yet full harder prayed.
You knew that man full well, Mahone's Brigade.

And here that great man's shadow claims a place;
Within my mind I see his image rise,
With Cromwell's will and Havelock's Christian grace;
As daring as the Swede, as Frederick wise;
Swift as Napoleon ere his hopes decayed;
You knew the hero well, Mahone's Brigade.

And when he fell his fall shook all the land,
As falling oak shakes mountain side and glen;
But soon men saw his good sword in the hand
Of one, himself born leader among men, -
Of him who led you through the fusilade,
The storm of shot and shell, Mahone's Brigade.

Immortal Lee, who triumphed o'er despair,
Greater than all the heroes I have named.
Whose life has made a Westminster where'er
His name is spoken; he, so wise and famed,
Gave Jackson's duties unto him whose blade
Was lightning to your storms, Mahone's Brigade.

Ere Jackson fell Mahone shone day by day,
A burnished lance amid that crop of spears, -
None rose above him in that grand array;
And Lee, who stood Last of the Cavaliers,
Knew he had found of War's stupendous trade,
A Master at your head, Mahone's Brigade.

O Countrymen! I see the coming days
When he, above all hinderances and lets
Shall stand in Epic form, lit by the rays
Of Fame's eternal sun that never sets,
The first great chapter of his life is made,
And spoken in two words - "Mahone's Brigade."

O Countrymen! I see historic brass
Leap from the furnace in a blazing tide;
I see it through strange transformations pass
Into a form of energy and pride;
Beneath our Capitol's majestic shade
In bronze I see Mahone - Mahone's Brigade.

O Countrymen! When dust has gone to dust.
Still shall he live in story and in rhyme;
Then History's self shall multiply his bust,
And he defy the silent Conqueror, Time.
My song is sung: My prophecy is made -
The State will make it good, Mahone's Brigade.

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