THE PORTSMOUTH MEMORIAL POEM.–THE FUTURE HISTORIAN.
James Barron Hope.
Oh the women of Old Portsmouth in their patience were sublime,
As in working and in praying they abided GOD’s own time!
Marble saints in a stately Minster, in some land across the sea,
In a flood of Winter moonlight were not half so pure to me!
And your men in Grey were faithful! they were counted with the best!
And where they fought no shadow fell on Old Virginia’s crest.
Rags in cold, bare feet in marches never turned your children back;
In retreat they loved the rearguard, in advance they loved attack!
Oh, my brothers! I see figures which all flit athwart my brain,
Like the torches lit by lightning in some tempest-driven rain,
And above the rushing vision, in my soul I hear the cry:
“Those who fell for Home and Duty left us names that cannot die!”
First, before the sleeping warriors, comes a gentle woman’s face,
Every mark Time made upon it seemed to add a Christian grace.
Sister of the soldier’s widow, mother of his orphan child,
To us she seemed, indeed, as one on whom her GOD had smiled,
Passed from our sight, sustained by CHRIST, she went upon her way,
And be you sure, as I am, that her soul is here to-day!
Other names now blaze upon me, and they shine out one by one
As the rays dart out a glitter from a shield hung in the sun.
Fiske, and White, and brave Vermillion, fell on Malvern’s deadly slope,
When the cause that they defended was a-glow with life and hope.
Gallant Butt, and two Neimeyers you may boast in mood of pride,
Types were they of valiant soldiers, and like soldiers true they died!
And Grimes, at bloody Sharpsburg, went down prone upon the field,
And Hodges, under Pickett, took his last sleep on his shield.
And Cowley, and Forrest, and Wilson, and Cocke on your Window still blaze,
And their names enrich its blazon in the evening’s golden haze.
Dunderdale, and Beaton, and Bennett, and Bingley, and Armistead, and Gayle,
And Williams, the brave Color Sergeant, and Owens are men to bewail.
Last, not least, there comes the Seaman, valiant Cooke, my cherished friend,
Who was faithful to Virginia from beginning to the end;
Had the theatre been given he had played a Nelson’s part,
Or in Anson’s place had written his prodigious log and chart.
Carolina — may GOD bless her! — gave that true man to the State,
With a heart for any fortune and a soul for any fate.
Seaman of the blue salt water! On our narrow streams you taught,
Highest lessons of devotion in the battles that you fought.
Other names crowd fast upon me as stars thicken on the view,
When the night comes down upon us, but I fix my gaze on two —
As the “midland oak” of England is chief tree of all her trees —
As the peak of Teneriffa is chief peak of all the seas —
So our mighty Lee and Stonewall — greater names no era boasts —
Shall exalt their Shades forever o’er the grand Confederate Hosts!
‘Twas not glory that they fought for through those weary years of pain
Though the glory fell upon them as it ne’er may fall again.
That sentiment inspired them which lifts men to make them great,
Love of hearthstone, friends, and neighbors, and devotion to the State.
Not as rebels but as warriors they sent forth their famous cry —
Not as traitors but as freemen they went forth to do or die!
Then give the dead your tears, oh, friends, upon this day of days,
And let a solemn joy resound in all your words of praise!
For honor still has claims on man, and duty still can call
Above the sordid cares of life, the market and the stall.
Yes, honor still has claims on man! Thank GOD that this is so!
And there are heights of life where still all spotless lies the snow.
Oh, better than lands and vast estates, or titles high and long
The spirit of those whose deeds are fit to consecrate in Song!
When Regulus to Carthage went, and went back to keep his word,
His great action preached a homily which all mankind has heard.
It gave to the sacred cause of truth an impulse which still lives,
And left the world the moral which a grand example gives.
Here, within a nutshell’s compass, the high argument appears
Which the man who dies for duty in his dying moment cheers,
And ’tis thus the Human Epic, acted out by all below,
Takes a fuller pulse and cadence in its long-resounding flow.
In the future some historian shall come forth both strong and wise,
With a love of the Republic, and the truth, before his eyes.
He will show the subtle causes of the war between the States,
He will go back in his studies far beyond our modern dates,
He will trace out hostile ideas as the miner does the lodes,
He will show the different habits born of different social codes,
He will show the Union riven, and the picture will deplore,
He will show it re-united and made stronger than before.
Slow and patient, fair and truthful must the coming teacher be
To show how the knife was sharpened that was ground to prune the tree.
He will hold the Scales of Justice, he will measure praise and blame,
And the South will stand the verdict, and will stand it without shame.