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The Scout Toward Aldie
by [?]


The cavalry-camp lies on the slope
Of what was late a vernal hill,
But now like a pavement bare–
An outpost in the perilous wilds
Which ever are lone and still;
But Mosby’s men are there–
Of Mosby best beware.

Great trees the troopers felled, and leaned
In antlered walls about their tents;
Strict watch they kept; ’twas Hark! and Mark!
Unarmed none cared to stir abroad
For berries beyond their forest-fence:
As glides in seas the shark,
Rides Mosby through green dark.

All spake of him, but few had seen
Except the maimed ones or the low;
Yet rumor made him every thing–
A farmer–woodman–refugee–
The man who crossed the field but now;
A spell about his life did cling–
Who to the ground shall Mosby bring?

The morning-bugles lonely play,
Lonely the evening-bugle calls–
Unanswered voices in the wild;
The settled hush of birds in nest
Becharms, and all the wood enthralls:
Memory’s self is so beguiled
That Mosby seems a satyr’s child.

They lived as in the Eerie Land–
The fire-flies showed with fairy gleam;
And yet from pine-tops one might ken
The Capitol dome–hazy–sublime–
A vision breaking on a dream:
So strange it was that Mosby’s men
Should dare to prowl where the Dome was seen.

A scout toward Aldie broke the spell.–
The Leader lies before his tent
Gazing at heaven’s all-cheering lamp
Through blandness of a morning rare;
His thoughts on bitter-sweets are bent:
His sunny bride is in the camp–
But Mosby–graves are beds of damp!

The trumpet calls; he goes within;
But none the prayer and sob may know:
Her hero he, but bridegroom too.
Ah, love in a tent is a queenly thing,
And fame, be sure, refines the vow;
But fame fond wives have lived to rue,
And Mosby’s men fell deeds can do.

Tan-tara! tan-tara! tan-tara!
Mounted and armed he sits a king;
For pride she smiles if now she peep–
Elate he rides at the head of his men;
He is young, and command is a boyish thing:
They file out into the forest deep–
Do Mosby and his rangers sleep?

The sun is gold, and the world is green,
Opal the vapors of morning roll;
The champing horses lightly prance–
Full of caprice, and the riders too
Curving in many a caricole.
But marshaled soon, by fours advance–
Mosby had checked that airy dance.

By the hospital-tent the cripples stand–
Bandage, and crutch, and cane, and sling,
And palely eye the brave array;
The froth of the cup is gone for them
(Caw! caw! the crows through the blueness wing);
Yet these were late as bold, as gay;
But Mosby–a clip, and grass is hay.

How strong they feel on their horses free,
Tingles the tendoned thigh with life;
Their cavalry-jackets make boys of all–
With golden breasts like the oriole;
The chat, the jest, and laugh are rife.
But word is passed from the front–a call
For order; the wood is Mosby’s hall.

To which behest one rider sly
(Spurred, but unarmed) gave little heed–
Of dexterous fun not slow or spare,
He teased his neighbors of touchy mood,
Into plungings he pricked his steed:
A black-eyed man on a coal-black mare,
Alive as Mosby in mountain air.

His limbs were long, and large and round;
He whispered, winked–did all but shout:
A healthy man for the sick to view;
The taste in his mouth was sweet at morn;
Little of care he cared about.
And yet of pains and pangs he knew–
In others, maimed by Mosby’s crew.