The Hive At Gettysburg

A poem by John Greenleaf Whittier

In the old Hebrew myth the lion's frame,
So terrible alive,
Bleached by the desert's sun and wind, became
The wandering wild bees' hive;
And he who, lone and naked-handed, tore
Those jaws of death apart,
In after time drew forth their honeyed store
To strengthen his strong heart.
Dead seemed the legend: but it only slept
To wake beneath our sky;
Just on the spot whence ravening Treason crept
Back to its lair to die,
Bleeding and torn from Freedom's mountain bounds,
A stained and shattered drum
Is now the hive where, on their flowery rounds,
The wild bees go and come.
Unchallenged by a ghostly sentinel,
They wander wide and far,
Along green hillsides, sown with shot and shell,
Through vales once choked with war.
The low reveille of their battle-drum
Disturbs no morning prayer;
With deeper peace in summer noons their hum
Fills all the drowsy air.
And Samson's riddle is our own to-day,
Of sweetness from the strong,
Of union, peace, and freedom plucked away
From the rent jaws of wrong.
From Treason's death we draw a purer life,
As, from the beast he slew,
A sweetness sweeter for his bitter strife
The old-time athlete drew

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