Read Before the
"Confederate Veterans' Association"
Memorial Day -- April 26, 1891
Birmingham, Ala., April 26, 1891
But yesterday it seems to me
We furled the banner over Lee:
But yesterday the stars and bars
Were taken from the hands of Mars :
But yesterday the men in gray,
Like troubadours came homeward gay --
No vengeance finding lodgment in
Those hearts, whose legend still had been
And was, how'e'er, their die was cast,
My home -- my southland first and last.
No bitter memories and no hate,
No mourning o'er a cruel fate,
They came with cheer from North to South
Still with a new song in their mouth,
To find the fire fiend on their hills,
The shattered turbines of their mills,
Their cabins desolate and their barns
begirt and hid in briary tarns,
And yet they were so glad to see
The sweet charms of the used to be,
The olden haunts -- the mother there,
Smit as she was with more than care:
Perchance a noble father too,
To clasp them as they used to do:
So glad to kiss their sister's cheek:
And e'en "old mammy's" roof to seek,
So glad to wander around the place:
Tho' it wore an unfamiliar face,
To see what olden charms remained,
What olden glory home retained.
So glad to stretch in peaceful shade,
Where brook or bird sweet music made:
So glad to hear the bee's soft hum
And not the 'larum of the drum;
To list the silvery waters pour,
And not the opening battle's roar:
So glad to lay them in their beds
Without a rifle at their heads,
Without the picket on the hill
Or sentry station by the rill:
So glad to roll upon the sward,
Nor meet a sergeant of the guard ;
So glad to hear no whirring shot
From mountain gorge or woody spot;
So glad to be aroused no more
By picket firing -- cannon roar:
They had no heart for bitterness ;
They had no lips to curse, but bless :
They had no time to think of hate,
Nor to complain of cruel fate.
Nor yet to mourn the backward scene,
Once bright with hope and glory's sheen.
Their minds seemed shut against regret,
Their footsteps all were forward set;
Accustomed long to faces front,
To fortify against the brunt,
To charge obedient to command
Or 'mid a storm of shot to stand;
To move not either left or right,
To make and not direct the fight.
But hearing orders not to pause,
To criticize or ask the cause,
But up to victory's heights to lay
Their bleeding forms to pave the way.
They grew up, as it were to be
Above the servile hireling ; free
From those base instincts which men show
When disaster dark or overthrow
Confronts -- free from that vileness shown
By those who think of self alone,
So they had into Bayards grown;
Without reproach or fear -- full high
Above the average height of such
As dare not for their country die,
When true men meet in deadly clutch,
They walked upon the lofty plane
Of such as wear but duty's chain.
Yet with them went and with them came
The comrades of the past the same;
Whether to mem'ry only dear :
For unforgotten were the dead,
Who by them in the ditch had bled ;
Who fought at Gettysburg with them --
There won the martyr's diadem,
Or by the Rappahannock's wave
Went down into an unknown grave ;
Stood true at Donelson, and died
Where ev'ry wo the soldier tried,
At Franklin, Shiloh, Perryville ;
At fierce Cold Harbor faithful still,
In each and ev'ry trial stood,
Upon the land, upon the flood
The direst tests that man could stand,
In love of home and native land.
These ever present -- unforgot
Came to the mansion and the cot,
From out their spirit land and wrought
A magnanimity of though
In those surviving them and strife
And whispered them of nobler life,
And kept them as by mystic spell
Bound to a valorous principle,
And 'tis our grateful memory now
We gather meekly to avow
Their valor -- to recount and own
That half the glory we have known,
And half the power that we claim
Has been reflected by their name.
In yonder city of the dead
There may not be one narrow bed
In which a Southern soldier sleeps,
O'er which an aged mother weeps
Disconsolate -- for years, long years
Which seals the fountain of our tears
Has failed to wash his image out --
There may not rest one gallant scout
Who died in grapple with the foe
At Chickamauga long ago,
Or closed with Stonewall all his wars
At weird Melzie Chancellor's,
Or bathed the slopes of Malvern Hill
With blood which kings might weep to spill;
It was such royal, taintless blood,
Unsullied as Castalia's flood.
There may not rest one hardy tar
That got on sea his latest scar,
Beneath the sod of yon fair hill,
But for their mem'ries sacred still
We'll twine our wreathes and lay them there,
And bid the fairies of the air
Go take our mem'ries thus expressed,
O'er valley wide -- o'er mountain crest,
To each and every far off grot,
To each and ev'ry sacred spot
Which keeps -- is honored with the keeping --
The bones o'er which we still are weeping.
Yes, take these mem'ries sweet of ours,
And strew them as we strew these flowers,
And leave the precious freight with them
As a memorial diadem.
To-morrow morn the flowers will fade,
Scarce leave their odors in the glade,
But what their wreathing signifies
Will live as long as Paradise.
Wherever love of country finds
A lodgment in the people's minds,
This burning sentiment, this strong
Remembrance shall inspire the song.
The history of the people and
The patriotism of all the land
From Tampa to Saul St. Marie,
From Champlain to the Mexic sea,
And our proud children of after years
Will mingle praises, smile sand tears,
And scarcely learn - nor wish to know
Which was the friend, which was the foe.
What have been problems
For long, long years, by dint of hate,
More tangled frown -- not by the sword
Or warrior or the ballot horde,
Not by the Statesman's pen or tongue,
Not by the poet's burning song
Resolved ; not by the school of trade
Where mutual interests are made,
Not solved by teacher, prelate, priest ;
But when all cunning plans have ceased,
They'll yet be solved above the graves
Of Southern and Northern braves,
Who fought for principle and died
In duty's harness glorified.
And after while the hardy boy
Of far Astoria, whose chief joy
Is breasting winter's ice and snows,
And conquering obstacles with blows,
Will fly his clear, cold Willamette,
His red cheeks toward the South's wind set,
To kneel him at the fragrant shrine
Of one whose rose and columbine
Round winder's neck hand clustering still,
His lap with od'rous flowers to fill,
And Florida and Oregon
Will kiss each other and be one,
And the sweet dreams from off the seas
Of our own shining Cyclades,
With gentle lapses wooings, strange,
Working as 'twere a chymic change,
Will fire the thought of colder climes
And smoothe the front of harder times,
And from this kiss of sun and snow
The happy wave of peace will flow,
And 'twill be current on each breeze
From Northern lakes or Southern seas ;
These children love each other true,
Their fathers love each other too ;
These sacred mounds contain the fires
Of noble, patriotic sire,
Who taught all other people's this --
There is no vain self-sacrifice,
That blood heroic wins acclaim,
No matter what its fountains name.
Land of the South where the
storm cloud of war
Gathering fury from near and afar,
Hurtled it bolts of destruction so long
Till every valley to anguish was wrung,
Till every town had a ghost in its hall
And every fountain its wormwood and gall,
And every bower its adder to dread
And every high couch its sword overhead,
Lift up your face for the tempest is gone,
Over the hills comes the radiant dawn,
Out of the womb of the grief-stricken past
Vict'ry and triumph and peace come at last.
Snatched from your head is the thorn crown you wore,
Clean is your scutcheon, and swept is your floor.
Out of the ashes of the sons that have bled,
That they might quiet your sorrow and dread,
That they might answer your call of alarm,
That they might shield you from insult and harm,
Out of these ashes great mem'ries are born ;
Memories the bitterest foe cannot scorn.
Cherish them, nurse them with motherly care,
Keep them as oracles sacred and rare,
Keep them as landmarks of other sad years,
Keep them for history's triumphant tears.
O, land of the South with
your royal traditions,
How green are the laurels entwining your brow
And green will the be while these sacred possessions
These graves of your heroes are tended as now,
While our sons and our daughters forget not the sires,
Chief priests of those altars, where Freedom respires.
Ev'ry wreath that your sons
in their day have entwined them
But adds a new grace to the heart and the hand,
Which quicken their mem'ries and tenderly bind them
In bright immortelles for the shrines of the land,
Their symbols and purpose we cannot repress,
Neglected they curse, and regarded they bless.
For those mem'ries must live
-- like the cedar must flourish
Or the glory and pride of the people will fly.
A people ashamed of their history should perish,
And a people ashamed of their heroes must die,
For what is a land with no history -- no braves,
The despised of the world and the mother of slaves.
How blest then the people
whose graves are remembered,
Who nurse with devotion the memory of all
Whose name with Thermopylae's few may be numbered
As immortal far less in their rise than their fall,
For thousands have triumphed, yet who knows their name?
But Leonidas falling won fame, deathless fame.
Our past I regret not, tho'
solemn its story,
'Twas begun, and continued, and closed in mishap.
The result may be likened to winter all hoary,
Forerunner of spring with the rose in its lap,
For the winter of war times is past and the spring
With its turtle of peace over all spreads her wing.
Ah, had not these dead whom
we cover with roses,
Like heroes each fortune unselfishly met
These spots where each sleeper in honor reposes,
Were deprived of a mention few sepulchres get,
And the lesson their passionate sacrifice taught,
Not glory, but shame to the people had brought.
But their fate unconsidered, with nothing but duty
To guide them through sorrow, through carnage untold,
They rose to the heights of the city of Beauty,
And their names in the book of the true are enrolled,
And their record down here we shall read, mark and learn,
And be proud of the ashes that lie in each urn.
And such urns are the caskets
of jewels resplendent,
Whose flash cannot long undiscovered remain
While Remembrance their vesta and faithful attendant,
Keeps stirring them still with an ecstatic pain,
To catch from their glances some spark of that flame
Which kindles the lamps in our Temple of Fame.
These graves are, methinks,
but the sacred high places
Whence the muse of our history will loudly proclaim
To the children of children our worth and our praises,
Or else from the record we give her -- our shame.
In guarding these places our pride we declare,
In neglecting we say, lo, our traitors lie there.
sure, these sleepers hold title to long recollection,
To rev'rent report of their struggle and fate,
Their valor and principle gave them direction ;
The plaudits of comrades their shades now await,
When their story we tell, to the world, as it is,
We but render to Caesar the things that are his.
This rev'rent report at their
graves we are making :
We make it in flowers and banners still furled,
Ere long from the bondage of Prejudice breaking,
'Twill be writ by the muse in the heart of the world,
When the watchword will be to the grand round of braves,
"American citizens sleep in these graves."
Let us bide, then, our
season's arrival, in patience ;
Like a ship from the billows and storms it will come;
And healing will drip from its sails, for the nation --
The bright sister nations, whose radiant sum
May be counted in stars on our banner unfurled,
Where those stars blaze together, the joy of the world.
Inscription on the back of the poem
Capt Tipton Bradford
His college mate
Dr. Samuel L Robertson
April 26, 1891