By Herman Melville
(1819 - 1891)
 
 
An Uninscribed Monument on One of the Battle-Fields of the Wilderness
 
 
SILENCE and Solitude may hint
  (Whose home is in yon piny wood)
What I, though tableted, could never tell—
The din which here befell,
  And striving of the multitude.
The iron cones and spheres of death
  Set round me in their rust,—
    These, too, if just,
Shall speak with more than animated breath.
  Thou who beholdest, if thy thought,
Not narrowed down to personal cheer,
Take in the import of the quiet here—
  The after-quiet—the calm full fraught;
Thou too wilt silent stand,—
Silent as I, and lonesome as the land.
 
 
Crossing the Tropics
 
 
WHILE now the Pole Star sinks from sight
  The Southern Cross it climbs the sky;
But losing thee, my love, my light,
O bride but for one bridal night,
  The loss no rising joys supply.
 
Love, love, the Trade Winds urge abaft,
And thee, from thee, they steadfast waft.
 
By day the blue and silver sea
  And chime of waters blandly fanned,—
Nor these, nor Gama’s stars to me
May yield delight, since still for thee
  I long as Gama longed for land.
 
I yearn, I yearn, reverting turn,
My heart it streams in wake astern.
 
When, cut by slanting sleet, we swoop
  Where raves the world’s inverted year,
If roses all your porch shall loop,
Not less your heart for me will droop,
  Doubling the world’s last outpost drear
 
O love, O love, these oceans vast:
Love, love, it is as death were past!
 
 
Memorials
 
On the Slain at Chickamauga
 
 
HAPPY are they and charmed in life
  Who through long wars arrive unscarred
At peace. To such the wreath be given,
If they unfalteringly have striven—
  In honor, as in limb, unmarred.
Let cheerful praise be rife,
  And let them live their years at ease,
Musing on brothers who victorious died—
  Loved mates whose memory shall ever please.
 
And yet mischance is honorable too—
  Seeming defeat in conflict justified,
Whose end to closing eyes is hid from view.
The will, that never can relent—
The aim, survivor of the bafflement,
    Make this memorial due.
 
 
The College Colonel
 
 
HE rides at their head;
  A crutch by his saddle just slants in view,
One slung arm is in splints you see,
  Yet he guides his strong steed—how coldly too.
 
He brings his regiment home,
  Not as they filed two years before;
But a remnant half-tattered, and battered, and worn,
Like castaway sailors, who, stunned
    By the surf’s loud roar,
  Their mates dragged back and seen no more,—
Again and again breast the surge,
  And at last crawl, spent, to shore.
 
A still rigidity and pale,
  An Indian aloofness, lones his brow;
He has lived a thousand years
Compressed in battle’s pains and prayers,
  Marches and watches slow.
 
There are welcoming shouts and flags;
  Old men off hat to the Boy,
Wreaths from gay balconies fall at his feet,
  But to him—there comes alloy.
 
It is not that a leg is lost,
  It is not that an arm is maimed,
It is not that the fever has racked,—
  Self he has long disclaimed.
 
But all through the Seven Days’ Fight,
  And deep in the Wilderness grim,
And in the field-hospital tent,
  And Petersburg crater, and dim
Lean brooding in Libby, there came—
  Ah heaven!—what truth to him!
 
 
The Eagle of the Blue
 
 
ALOFT he guards the starry folds
  Who is the brother of the star;
The bird whose joy is in the wind
  Exulteth in the war.
 
No painted plume—a sober hue,
  His beauty is his power;
That eager calm of gaze intent
  Foresees the Sibyl’s hour.
 
Austere, he crowns the swaying perch,
  Flapped by the angry flag;
The hurricane from the battery sings,
  But his claw has known the crag.
 
Amid the scream of shells, his scream
  Runs shrilling; and the glare
Of eyes that brave the blinding sun
  The volleyed flame can bear.
 
The pride of quenchless strength is his—
  Strength which, though chained, avails;
The very rebel looks and thrills—
  The anchored Emblem hails.
 
Though scarred in many a furious fray,
  No deadly hurt he knew;
Well may we think his years are charmed—
  The Eagle of the Blue.
 
 
The Enviable Isles
 
 
THROUGH storms you reach them and from storms are free.
  Afar descried, the foremost drear in hue,
But, nearer, green; and, on the marge, the sea
  Makes thunder low and mist of rainbowed dew.
 
But, inland,—where the sleep that folds the hills
A dreamier sleep, the trance of God, instils,—
  On uplands hazed, in wandering airs aswoon,
Slow-swaying palms salute love’s cypress tree
  Adown in vale where pebbly runlets croon
A song to lull all sorrow and all glee.
 
Sweet-fern and moss in many a glade are here,
  Where, strown in flocks, what cheek-flushed myriads lie
Dimpling in dream, unconscious slumberers mere,
  While billows endless round the beaches die.
 
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