The Lee Memorial Ode.

A poem by James Barron Hope

"Great Mother of great Commonwealths"
Men call our Mother State:
And she so well has earned this name
That she may challenge Fate
To snatch away the epithet
Long given her of "great."

First of all Old England's outposts
To stand fast upon these shores
Soon she brought a mighty harvest
To a People's threshing floors,
And more than golden grain was piled
Within her ample doors.

Behind her stormy sunrise shone,
Her shadow fell vast and long,
And her mighty Adm'ral, English Smith,
Heads a prodigous throng
Of as mighty men, from Raleigh down,
As ever arose in song.

Her names are the shining arrows
Which her ancient quiver bears,
And their splendid sheaf has thickened
Through the long march of the years,
While her great shield has been burnished
By her children's blood and tears.

Yes, it is true, my Countrymen,
We are rich in names and blood,
And red have been the blossoms
From the first Colonial bud,
While her names have blazed as meteors
By many a field and flood.

And as some flood tumultuous
In sounding billows rolled
Gives back the evening's glories
In a wealth of blazing gold:
So does the present from its waves
Reflect the lights of old.

Our history is a shining sea
Locked in by lofty land
And its great Pillars of Hercules,
Above the shining sand,
I here behold in majesty
Uprising on each hand.

These Pillars of our history,
In fame forever young,
Are known in every latitude
And named in every tongue,
And down through all the Ages
Their story shall be sung.

The Father of his Country
Stands above that shut-in sea
A glorious symbol to the world
Of all that's great and free;
And to-day Virginia matches him -
And matches him with Lee.


II.

Who shall blame the social order
Which gave us men as great as these?
Who condemn the soil of t' forest
Which bring forth gigantic trees?
Who presume to doubt that Providence
Shapes out our destinies?

Fore-ordained, and long maturing,
Came the famous men of old:
In the dark mines deep were driven
Down the shafts to reach the gold,
And the story is far longer
Than the histories have told.

From Bacon down to Washington
The generations passed,
Great events and moving causes
Were in serried order massed:
Berkeley well was first confronted,
Better George the King at last!

From the time of that stern ruler
To our own familiar days
Long the pathway we have trodden,
Hard, and devious were its ways
Till at last there came the second
Mightier Revolution's blaze:

Till at last there broke the tempest
Like a cyclone on the sea,
When the lightnings blazed and dazzled
And the thunders were set free -
And riding on that whirlwind came
Majestic, Robert Lee!

Who - again I ask the question -
Who may challenge in debate,
With any show of truthfulness,
Our former social state
Which brought forth more than heroes
In their lives supremely great?

Not Peter, the wild Crusader,
When bent upon his knee,
Not Arthur and his belted knights,
In the Poet's Song, could be
More earnest than those Southern men
Who followed Robert Lee.

They thought that they were right and this
Was hammered into those
Who held that crest all drenched in blood
Where the "Bloody Angle" rose.
As for all else? It passes by
As the idle wind that blows.


III.

Then stand up, oh my Countrymen!
And unto God give thanks,
On mountains, and on hillsides
And by sloping river banks -
Thank God that you were worthy
Of the grand Confederate ranks:

That you who came from uplands
And from beside the sea,
Filled with love of Old Virginia
And the teachings of the free,
May boast in sight of all men
That you followed Robert Lee.

Peace has come. God give his blessing
On the fact and on the name!
The South speaks no invective
And she writes no word of blame;
But we call all men to witness
That we stand up without shame.

Nay! Send it forth to all the world
That we stand up here with pride,
With love for our living comrades
And with praise for those who died:
And in this manly frame of mind
Till death we will abide.

GOD and our consciences alone
Give us measure of right and wrong;
The race may fall unto the swift
And the battle to the strong:
But the truth will shine in history
And blossom into song.

Human grief full oft by glory
Is assuaged and disappears
When its requiem swells with music
Like the shock of shields and spears,
And its passion is too full of pride
To leave a space for tears.

And hence to-day, my Countrymen,
We come, with undimmed eyes,
In homage of the hero Lee,
The good, the great, the wise!
And at his name our hearts will leap
Till his last old soldier dies.

Ask me, if so you please, to paint
Storm winds upon the sea;
Tell me to weigh great Cheops -
Set volcanic forces free;
But bid me not, my Countrymen,
To picture Robert Lee!

As Saul, bound for Damascus fair,
Was struck blind by sudden light
So my eyes are pained and dazzled
By a radiance pure and white
Shot back by the burnished armor
Of that glory-belted Knight.

His was all the Norman's polish
And sobriety of grace;
All the Goth's majestic figure;
All the Roman's noble face;
And he stood the tall exemplar
Of a grand historic race.

Baronial were his acres where
Potomac's waters run;
High his lineage, and his blazon
Was by cunning heralds done;
But better still he might have said
Of his "works" he was the "son."

Truth walked beside him always,
From his childhood's early years,
Honor followed as his shadow,
Valor lightened all his cares:
And he rode - that grand Virginian -
Last of all the Cavaliers!

As a soldier we all knew him
Great in action and repose,
Saw how his genius kindled
And his mighty spirit rose
When the four quarters of the globe
Encompassed him with foes.

But he and his grew braver
As the danger grew more rife,
Avaricious they of glory
But most prodigal of life,
And the "Army of Virginia"
Was the Atlas of the strife.

As his troubles gathered round him,
Thick as waves that beat the shore,
Atra Cura rode behind him,
Famine's shadow filled his door;
Still he wrought deeds no mortal man
Had ever wrought before.


IV.

Then came the end, my Countrymen,
The last thunderbolts were hurled!
Worn out by his own victories
His battle flags were furled
And a history was finished
That has changed the modern world.

As some saint in the arena
Of a bloody Roman game,
As the prize of his endeavor,
Put on an immortal frame,
Through long agonies our Soldier
Won the crown of martial fame.

But there came a greater glory
To that man supremely great
(When his just sword he laid aside
In peace to serve his State)
For in his classic solitude
He rose up and mastered Fate.

He triumphed and he did not die! -
No funeral bells are tolled -
But on that day in Lexington
Fame came herself to hold
His stirrup while he mounted
To ride down the streets of gold.

He is not dead! There is no death!
He only went before
His journey on when CHRIST THE LORD
Wide open held the door,
And a calm, celestial peace is his:
Thank God! forevermore.


V.

When the effigy of Washington
In its bronze was reared on high
'Twas mine, with others, now long gone.
Beneath a stormy sky,
To utter to the multitude
His name that cannot die.

And here to-day, my Countrymen,
I tell you Lee shall ride
With that great "rebel" down the years -
Twin "rebels" side by side! -
And confronting such a vision
All our grief gives place to pride.

Those two shall ride immortal
And shall ride abreast of Time,
Shall light up stately history
And blaze in Epic Rhyme -
Both patriots, both Virginians true,
Both "rebels," both sublime!

Our past is full of glories
It is a shut-in sea,
The pillars overlooking it
Are Washington and Lee:
And a future spreads before us,
Not unworthy of the free.

And here and now, my Countrymen,
Upon this sacred sod,
Let us feel: It was "OUR FATHER"
Who above us held the rod,
And from hills to sea
Like Robert Lee
Bow reverently to God.

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