Hard pressed by numbers in his strait,
Rebellion’s soldier-chief no more contends–
Feels that the hour is come of Fate,
Lays down one sword, and widened warfare ends.
The captain who fierce armies led
Becomes a quiet seminary’s head–
Poor as his privates, earns his bread.
In studious cares and aims engrossed,
Strives to forget Stuart and Stonewall dead–
Comrades and cause, station and riches lost,
And all the ills that flock when fortune’s fled.
No word he breathes of vain lament,
Mute to reproach, nor hears applause–
His doom accepts, perforce content,
And acquiesces in asserted laws;
Secluded now would pass his life,
And leave to time the sequel of the strife.
But missives from the Senators ran;
Not that they now would gaze upon a swordless foe,
And power made powerless and brought low:
Reasons of state, ’tis claimed, require the man.
Demurring not, promptly he comes
By ways which show the blackened homes,
And–last–the seat no more his own,
But Honor’s; patriot grave-yards fill
The forfeit slopes of that patrician hill,
And fling a shroud on Arlington.
The oaks ancestral all are low;
No more from the porch his glance shall go
Ranging the varied landscape o’er,
Far as the looming Dome–no more.
One look he gives, then turns aside,
Solace he summons from his pride:
“So be it! They await me now
Who wrought this stinging overthrow;
They wait me; not as on the day
Of Pope’s impelled retreat in disarray–
By me impelled–when toward yon Dome
The clouds of war came rolling home”
The burst, the bitterness was spent,
The heart-burst bitterly turbulent,
And on he fared.
In nearness now
He marks the Capitol–a show
Lifted in amplitude, and set
With standards flushed with a glow of Richmond yet;
Trees and green terraces sleep below.
Through the clear air, in sunny light,
The marble dazes–a temple white.
Intrepid soldier! had his blade been drawn
For yon stirred flag, never as now
Bid to the Senate-house had he gone,
But freely, and in pageant borne,
As when brave numbers without number, massed,
Plumed the broad way, and pouring passed–
Bannered, beflowered–between the shores
Of faces, and the dinn’d huzzas,
And balconies kindling at the sabre-flash,
‘Mid roar of drums and guns, and cymbal-crash,
While Grant and Sherman shone in blue–
Close of the war and victory’s long review.
Yet pride at hand still aidful swelled,
And up the hard ascent he held.
The meeting follows. In his mien
The victor and the vanquished both are seen–
All that he is, and what he late had been.
Awhile, with curious eyes they scan
The Chief who led invasion’s van–
Allied by family to one,
Founder of the Arch the Invader warred upon:
Who looks at Lee must think of Washington;
In pain must think, and hide the thought,
So deep with grievous meaning it is fraught.
Secession in her soldier shows
Silent and patient; and they feel
(Developed even in just success)
Dim inklings of a hazy future steal;
Their thoughts their questions well express:
“Does the sad South still cherish hate?
Freely will Southen men with Northern mate?
The blacks–should we our arm withdraw,
Would that betray them? some distrust your law.
And how if foreign fleets should come–
Would the South then drive her wedges home”
And more hereof. The Virginian sees–
Replies to such anxieties.
Discreet his answers run–appear
Briefly straightforward, coldly clear.