Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Charlestongram

by Henry Timrod (1828-1867)

Calm as that second summer which precedes
       The first fall of the snow,
In the broad sunlight of heroic deeds,
       The City bides the foe.
As yet, behind their ramparts stern and proud,
       Her bolted thunders sleep—
Dark Sumter, like a battlemented cloud,
       Looms o’er the solemn deep.
No Calpe frowns from lofty cliff or scar
       To guard the holy strand;
But Moultrie holds in leash her dogs of war
       Above the level sand.
And down the dunes a thousand guns lie couched,
       Unseen, beside the flood—
Like tigers in some Orient jungle crouched
        That wait and watch for blood.
Meanwhile, through streets still echoing with trade,
       Walk grave and thoughtful men,
Whose hands may one day wield the patriot’s blade
       As lightly as the pen.
And maidens, with such eyes as would grow dim
       Over a bleeding hound,
Seem each one to have caught the strength of him
       Whose sword she sadly bound.
Thus girt without and garrisoned at home,
       Day patient following day,
Old Charleston looks from roof, and spire, and dome,
       Across her tranquil bay.
Ships, through a hundred foes, from Saxon lands
       And spicy Indian ports,
Bring Saxon steel and iron to her hands,
       And summer to her courts.
But still, along you dim Atlantic line,
       The only hostile smoke
Creeps like a harmless mist above the brine,
       From some frail, floating oak.
Shall the spring dawn, and she still clad in smiles,
       And with an unscathed brow,
Rest in the strong arms of her palm-crowned isles,
       As fair and free as now?
We know not; in the temple of the Fates
       God has inscribed her doom;
And, all untroubled in her faith, she waits
       The triumph or the tomb.

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