Ray, H. Cordelia
O antique city on St. Lawrence shore,
A relic, e'en a page of ancient lore
Thou art! Thy granite fortress tow'ring high,
Stretching its massive bulwarks toward the sky,
Tells of the march of war when nations proud
Proclaimed the force of arms in accents loud,--
The mighty cannon's boom; and valor rose,
While fearless armies ranged themselves as foes.
Here met two noble souls,--two chieftains brave,
Cast in heroic mould. Stern Fortune gave
To one,--the victor's meed; to each, a grave!
Renowned Champlain first gave these rocky heights
A name. Of yore full oft on starlight nights
The Indian war-whoop echoed round these plains,
And smote the desert shores with sad refrains.
Thy limpid waters, fair St. Lawrence, bore
Unchecked the rude canoe. Forevermore
In song and story will the red man be
A part of thy broad stream. Time unto thee
Will add fresh lusture as the ages roll,
And from life's warfare many a thoughtful soul
Hither repair, as to a pilgrim's goal.
Yet why a pilgrim's goal? Was it not here
That valiant armies met, and ev'ry fear
Was lulled in hope of conquest? Was't not here
On sunlit plains Wolfe's gallant troops drew near
And marched to vict'ry ere the morning broke?
Yes! e'en on Abraham's plains when courage woke,161The great commander closed his eyes in death;
But as he yielded up life's fitful breath,
And to proud England's isles the honor gave,
He claimed the poet's lines--this soldier brave:
"The paths of glory lead but to the grave."
A stately column here attests his worth,
And e'en the hero to whom France gave birth,
Despite he fell, shorn of the conqueror's wreath,
Not without glorious deeds within the sheath
Placed he his sword. His honored ashes lie
Where soft the vesper hymn goes echoing by,
Within the quiet convent's pious shade.
Such are the heroes that thy glory made,
O antique city by St. Lawrence shore!
And long as round thee mighty waters roar,
Thou wilt remain,--a page of ancient lore!
One whose majestic presence ever here,
Was as an inspiration held so dear,
Will greet us nevermore upon the earth.
The funeral bells have rung; there was no dearth
Of sorrow as the solemn cortege passed;
But ours is a grief that will outlast
The civic splendor. Say, among all men,
Who was this hero that they buried then,
With saddest plaint and sorrow-stricken face?
Ay! 'twas a princely leader of his race!
And for a leader well equipped was he;
Nature had given him most regally
E'en of her choicest gifts. What matter then
That he in chains was held, what matter when
He could uplift himself to noblest heights.162E'en with his native greatness, neither slights
Nor wrongs could harm him; and a solemn wrath
Burned in his soul. He well saw duty's path;
His days heroic purposes did know,
And could he then his chosen work forego?
Born to a fate most wretched, most forlorn!
A slave! alas! of benefits all shorn
Upon his entrance into life, what lot
More destitute of hope! Yet e'en that blot
Could not suffice to dim the glowing page
He leaves to History; for he could wage
Against oppression's deadliest blows a war
That knew no ending, until nevermore
Should any man be called a bondman. Ay!
Such was a conflict for which one could die.
Panting for freedom early, he did dare
To throw aside his shackles, for the air
Of slavery is poison unto men
Moulded as Douglass was; they suffer, then
Manhood asserts itself; they are too brave,
Such souls as his, to die content a slave.
So being free, one path alone he trod,
To bring to liberty--sweet boon from God--
His deeply injured race; his tireless zeal
Was consecrated to the bondman's weal.
He thought of children sobbing round the knees
Of hopeless mothers, where the summer breeze
Blew o'er the dank savannas. What of woe
In their sad story that he did not know!
He was a valiant leader in a cause
Than none less noble, though the nation's laws
Did seem to spurn it; and his matchless speech
To Britain's sea-girt island shores did reach.
Our Cicero, and yet our warrior knight,
Striving to show mankind might is not right!
He saw the slave uplifted from the dust,
A freeman! Loyal to the sacred trust
He gave himself in youth, with voice and pen,
He had been to the end. And now again
The grandest efforts of that brain and heart
In ev'ry human sorrow bore a part.
His regnant intellect, his dignity,
Did make him honored among all to be;
And public trusts his country gladly gave
Unto this princely leader, born a slave!
Shall the race falter in its courage now
That the great chief is fallen? Shall it bow
Tamely to aught of injury? Ah, nay!
For daring souls are needed e'en to-day.
Let his example be a shining light,
Leading through duty's paths to some far height
Of undreamed victory. All honored be
The silv'ry head of him we no more see!
Children unborn will venerate his name,
And History keep spotless his fair fame.
The Romans wove bright leafy crowns for those
Who saved a life in battle with their foes;
And shall not we as rare a chaplet weave
To that great master-soul for whom we grieve?
Yea! Since not always on the battle-field
Are the best vict'ries won; for they who yield
Themselves to conquer in a losing cause,
Because 'tis right in God's eternal laws,
Do noblest battle; therefore fitly we
Upon their brows a victor's crown would see.
Yes! our great chief has fallen as might fall
Some veteran warrior, answering the call
Of duty. With the old serenity,
His heart still strung with tender sympathy,164He passed beyond our ken; he'll come no more
To give us stately greeting as of yore.
We cannot fail to miss him. When we stand
In sudden helplessness, as through the land
Rings echo of some wrong he could not brook,
Then vainly for our leader will we look.
But courage! no great influence can die.
While he is doing grander work on high,
Shall not his deeds an inspiration be
To us left in life's struggle? May not we
Do aught to emulate him whom we mourn?
We are a people now, no more forlorn
And hopeless. We must gather courage then,
Rememb'ring that he stood man among men.
So let us give, now he has journeyed hence,
To our great chieftain's memory, reverence!
To Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, on her Eighty-fifth Birthday
We greet thee now upon this festal morn,
O Friend of Freedom! thou who in those days
When human rights were scorned and Justice slept,
Though loud the bondman cried, didst dare to raise
Thy voice to aid the lowly. Many a soul
Was roused to nobler thinking, many a heart
Impelled to braver doing by thy words,
And in the contest fitted to bear part.
We read, and lo! a vision rises there.
Who is't comes here? A hero crowned with bay?
Ah, no! a slave in chains, of meekest mien,
Treading with patient step a thorny way.165'Tis Uncle Tom, sad Uncle Tom! He turns,
He backward points, and what do we descry?
Unnumbered hosts in shackles, bleeding, torn,
To whom it were a blessing but to die.
Anon the vision passes! and we see
Another host,--a smiling, happy band.
The chains are torn away, and chants of praise
Vibrate along the mountains, through the land.
Such was the boon that thou didst help to give,
O noble woman! and as years fleet by,
Does not the thought of ransomed Uncle Toms
Moisten with tears of thankfulness thine eye?
For surely naught can e'er avail to check
A blessed influence: it still will live
While the majestic stars in solemn rhythm
Wheel in their mighty orbits. What could give
Such impulse unto Justice as the scenes
On thy pathetic pages? Who could learn
The story of that rare, heroic life,
And not with deepest indignation burn?
The nation's shame was lifted by the force
Of words like thine, far more than by decrees
Of lordliest statesmen in their councils grave.
And when war's din had ceased, and on the breeze
The silv'ry cadence of fair Freedom's chimes
Rang out in joyful measures, was the peal
Not sweeter for the work that thou hadst done?
Whose worth the coming years will still reveal.
So may thy birthday be all bright with bloom
Of happy thoughts, and from the stirring past
May sweetest mem'ries come of those brave deeds
For Freedom ventured. Lo! time speedeth fast,166And loved ones haste again with greeting glad
And as around they flock their gifts to lay
Before thy feet, our dearest prayer is this:
God's peace be thine upon thy natal day!
The Muse of Poetry came down one day,
And brought with willing hands a rare, sweet gift;
She lingered near the cradle of a child,
Who first unto the sun his eyes did lift.
She touched his lips with true Olympian fire,
And at her bidding Fancies hastened there,
To flutter lovingly around the one
So favored by the Muse's gentle care.
Who was this child? The offspring of a race
That erst had toiled 'neath slavery's galling chains.
And soon he woke to utterance and sang
In sweetly cadenced and in stirring strains,
Of simple joys, and yearnings, and regrets;
Anon to loftier themes he turned his pen;
For so in tender, sympathetic mood
He caught the follies and the griefs of men.
His tones were various: we list, and lo!
"Malindy Sings," and as the echoes. die,
The keynote changes and another strain
Of solemn majesty goes floating by;
And sometimes in the beauty and the grace
Of an impassioned, melancholy lay,
We seem to hear the surge, and swell, and moan
Of soft orchestral music far away.167Paul Dunbar dead! His genius cannot die!
It lives in songs that thrill, and glow, and soar;
Their pathos and their joy will fill our hearts,
And charm and satisfy e'en as of yore.
So when we would lament our poet gone,
With sorrow that his lyre is resting now,
Let us remember, with the fondest pride,
That Fame's immortal wreath has crowned his brow.
Centenary, February 12,1909.
We lift the curtain of the past to-day,
And chase the mists and stains of years away,
Once more, O martyred chief, to gaze on thee,
The worth and purpose of thy life to see.
'Twas thine, not worlds to conquer, but men's hearts,
To change to balm the sting of slavery's darts,
In lowly charity thy joy to find,
And open "gates of mercy on mankind."
Long will they come, the freed, with grateful gift,
From whose sad path the shadows thou didst lift.
The years have rolled their changeful seasons round,
Since its most tragic close thy life-work found.
Yet through the vistas of the vanished days
We see thee still, responsive to our gaze,
As ever to thy country's solemn needs.
Not regal coronets, but princely deeds
Were thy chaste diadem; of truer worth
Thy modest virtues than the gems of earth.
Stanch, honest, fervent in the purest cause,
Truth was thy guide; her mandates were thy laws.
Rare heroism, spirit-purity,
The storied Spartan's stern simplicity,168Such moral strength as gleams like burnished gold
Amid the doubt of men of weaker mould,
Were thine. Called in thy country's sorest hour
When brother knew not brother--mad for power--
To guide the helm through bloody deeps of war,
While distant nations gazed in anxious awe,
Unflinching in the task, thou didst fulfill
Thy mighty mission with a deathless will.
Born to a destiny the most sublime,
Thou wert, O Lincoln! in the march of time,
God bade thee pause and bid the oppressed go free--
Most glorious boon giv'n to humanity.
While slavery ruled the land, what deeds were done!
What tragedies enacted 'neath the sun!
Her page is blurred with records of defeat,
Of lives heroic lived in silence, meet
For the world's praise; of woe, despair and tears,
The speechless agony of weary years.
Thou utteredst the word, and Freedom fair,
Rang her sweet bells on the clear winter air;
She waved her magic wand, and lo! from far
A long procession came. With many a scar
Their brows were wrinkled, in the bitter strife,
Full many had said their sad farewell to life.
But on they hastened, free, their shackles gone;
The aged, young,--e'en infancy was borne
To offer unto thee loud peans of praise,--
Their happy tribute after saddest days.
A race set free! The deed brought joy and light!
It bade calm Justice from her sacred height,
When faith and hope and courage slowly waned,
Unfurl the stars and stripes, at last unstained!
The nations rolled acclaim from sea to sea,
And Heaven's vault rang with Freedom's harmony.169The angels 'mid the amaranths must have hushed
Their chanted cadences, as upward rushed
The hymn sublime: and as the echoes pealed,
God's ceaseless benison the action sealed.
Exalted patriot! illustrious chief!
Thy life's immortal work compels belief.
To-day in radiance thy virtues shine,
And how can we a fitting garland twine?
Thy crown most glorious is a ransomed race!
High on our country's scroll we fondly trace,
In lines of fadeless light that softly blend,
Emancipator, hero, martyr, friend!
While Freedom may her holy sceptre claim,
The world shall echo with Our Lincoln's name.