A Puritan War Song - To Canaan

A poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes

This poem, published anonymously in the Boston Evening Transcript, was claimed by several persons, three, if I remember correctly, whose names I have or have had, but never thought it worth while to publish.

Where are you going, soldiers,
With banner, gun, and sword?
We 're marching South to Canaan
To battle for the Lord
What Captain leads your armies
Along the rebel coasts?
The Mighty One of Israel,
His name is Lord of Hosts!
To Canaan, to Canaan
The Lord has led us forth,
To blow before the heathen walls
The trumpets of the North!

What flag is this you carry
Along the sea and shore?
The same our grandsires lifted up, -
The same our fathers bore
In many a battle's tempest
It shed the crimson rain, -
What God has woven in his loom
Let no man rend in twain!
To Canaan, to Canaan
The Lord has led us forth,
To plant upon the rebel towers
The banners of the North!

What troop is this that follows,
All armed with picks and spades?
These are the swarthy bondsmen, -
The iron-skin brigades!
They'll pile up Freedom's breastwork,
They 'LL scoop out rebels' graves;
Who then will be their owner
And march them off for slaves?
To Canaan, to Canaan
The Lord has led us forth,
To strike upon the captive's chain
The hammers of the North!

What song is this you're singing?
The same that Israel sung
When Moses led the mighty choir,
And Miriam's timbrel rung!
To Canaan! To Canaan!
The priests and maidens cried:
To Canaan! To Canaan!
The people's voice replied.
To Canaan, to Canaan
The Lord has led us forth,
To thunder through its adder dens
The anthems of the North.

When Canaan's hosts are scattered,
And all her walls lie flat,
What follows next in order?
The Lord will see to that
We'll break the tyrant's sceptre, -
We 'll build the people's throne, -
When half the world is Freedom's,
Then all the world's our own
To Canaan, to Canaan
The Lord has led us forth,
To sweep the rebel threshing-floors,
A whirlwind from the North.

August 12, 1862.

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