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At A Dinner To General Grant Post by :imsharons Category :Poems Author :Oliver Wendell Holmes Date :November 2010 Read :2259

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At A Dinner To General Grant

JULY 31, 1865

WHEN treason first began the strife
That crimsoned sea and shore,
The Nation poured her hoarded life
On Freedom's threshing-floor;
From field and prairie, east and west,
From coast and hill and plain,
The sheaves of ripening manhood pressed
Thick as the bearded grain.

Rich was the harvest; souls as true
As ever battle tried;
But fiercer still the conflict grew,
The floor of death more wide;
Ah, who forgets that dreadful day
Whose blot of grief and shame
Four bitter years scarce wash away
In seas of blood and flame?

Vain, vain the Nation's lofty boasts,--
Vain all her sacrifice!
"Give me a man to lead my hosts,
O God in heaven!" she cries.
While Battle whirls his crushing flail,
And plies his winnowing fan,--
Thick flies the chaff on every gale,--
She cannot find her man!

Bravely they fought who failed to win,--
Our leaders battle-scarred,--
Fighting the hosts of hell and sin,
But devils die always hard!
Blame not the broken tools of God
That helped our sorest needs;
Through paths that martyr feet have trod
The conqueror's steps He leads.

But now the heavens grow black with doubt,
The ravens fill the sky,
"Friends" plot within, foes storm without,
Hark,--that despairing cry,
"Where is the heart, the hand, the brain
To dare, to do, to plan?"
The bleeding Nation shrieks in vain,--
She has not found her man!

A little echo stirs the air,--
Some tale, whate'er it be,
Of rebels routed in their lair
Along the Tennessee.
The little echo spreads and grows,
And soon the trump of Fame
Has taught the Nation's friends and foes
The "man on horseback"'s name.

So well his warlike wooing sped,
No fortress might resist
His billets-doux of lisping lead,
The bayonets in his fist,--
With kisses from his cannons' mouth
He made his passion known
Till Vicksburg, vestal of the South,
Unbound her virgin zone.

And still where'er his banners led
He conquered as he came,
The trembling hosts of treason fled
Before his breath of flame,
And Fame's still gathering echoes grew
Till high o'er Richmond's towers
The starry fold of Freedom flew,
And all the land was ours.

Welcome from fields where valor fought
To feasts where pleasure waits;
A Nation gives you smiles unbought
At all her opening gates!
Forgive us when we press your hand,--
Your war-worn features scan,--
God sent you to a bleeding land;
Our Nation found its man!


(The end)
Oliver Wendell Holmes's poem: At A Dinner To General Grant

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