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The Armies Of The Wilderness
by [?]



Like snows the camps on southern hills
Lay all the winter long,
Our levies there in patience stood–
They stood in patience strong.
On fronting slopes gleamed other camps
Where faith as firmly clung:
Ah, froward king! so brave miss–
The zealots of the Wrong.

In this strife of brothers
(God, hear their country call),
However it be, whatever betide,
Let not the just one fall.

Through the pointed glass our soldiers saw
The base-ball bounding sent;
They could have joined them in their sport
But for the vale’s deep rent.
And others turned the reddish soil,
Like diggers of graves they bent:
The reddish soil and tranching toil
Begat presentiment.

Did the Fathers feel mistrust?
Can no final good be wrought?
Over and over, again and again
Must the fight for the Right be fought?

They lead a Gray-back to the crag:
“Your earth-works yonder–tell us, man”
“A prisoner–no deserter, I,
Nor one of the tell-tale clan”
His rags they mark: “True-blue like you
Should wear the color–your Country’s, man”
He grinds his teeth: “However that be,
Yon earth-works have their plan.”

Such brave ones, foully snared
By Belial’s wily plea,
Were faithful unto the evil end–
Feudal fidelity.

“Well, then, your camps–come, tell the names”
Freely he leveled his finger then:
“Yonder–see–are our Georgians; on the crest,
The Carolinians; lower, past the glen,
(Follow my finger)–Tennesseeans; and the ten
Camps there–ask your grave-pits; they’ll tell.
Halloa! I see the picket-hut, the den
Where I last night lay.” “Where’s Lee”
“In the hearts and bayonets of all yon men!”

The tribes swarm up to war
As in ages long ago,
Ere the palm of promise leaved
And the lily of Christ did blow.

Their mounted pickets for miles are spied
Dotting the lowland plain,
The nearer ones in their veteran-rags–
Loutish they loll in lazy disdain.
But ours in perilous places bide
With rifles ready and eyes that strain
Deep through the dim suspected wood
Where the Rapidan rolls amain.

The Indian has passed away,
But creeping comes another–
Deadlier far. Picket,
Take heed–take heed of thy brother!

From a wood-hung height, an outpost lone,
Crowned with a woodman’s fort,
The sentinel looks on a land of dole,
Like Paran, all amort.
Black chimneys, gigantic in moor-like wastes,
The scowl of the clouded sky retort;
The hearth is a houseless stone again–
Ah! where shall the people be sought?

Since the venom such blastment deals,
The south should have paused, and thrice,
Ere with heat of her hate she hatched
The egg with the cockatrice.

A path down the mountain winds to the glade
Where the dead of the Moonlight Fight lie low;
A hand reaches out of the thin-laid mould
As begging help which none can bestow.
But the field-mouse small and busy ant
Heap their hillocks, to hide if they may the woe:
By the bubbling spring lies the rusted canteen,
And the drum which the drummer-boy dying let go.

Dust to dust, and blood for blood–
Passion and pangs! Has Time
Gone back? or is this the Age
Of the world’s great Prime?

The wagon mired and cannon dragged
Have trenched their scar; the plain
Tramped like the cindery beach of the damned–
A site for the city of Cain.
And stumps of forests for dreary leagues
Like a massacre show. The armies have lain
By fires where gums and balms did burn,
And the seeds of Summer’s reign.