July 1, 1862: Malvern Hill

Ye elms that wave on Malvern Hill

In prime of morn and May,

Recall ye how McClellan’s men

Here stood at bay?

While deep within yon forest dim

Our rigid comrades lay –   Some with the cartridge in their mouth,

Others with fixed arms lifted South –

Invoking so

The cypress glades? Ah wilds of woe!

The spires of Richmond, late beheld

Through rifts in musket-haze,

Were closed from view in clouds of dust

On leaf-walled ways,

Where streamed our wagons in caravan;

And the Seven Nights and Days

Of march and fast, retreat and fight,

Pinched our grimed faces to ghastly plight –   Does the elm wood

Recall the haggard beards of blood?

The battle-smoked flag, with stars eclipsed,

We followed (it never fell!) –

In silence husbanded our strength –

Received their yell;

Till on this slope we patient turned

With cannon ordered well;

Reverse we proved was not defeat;

But ah, the sod what thousands meet! –

Does Malvern Wood

Bethink itself, and muse and brood?

We elms of Malvern Hill

Remember every thing;

But sap the twig will fill:

Wag the world how it will,

Leaves must be green in Spring.

Herman Melville

Published in: on July 1, 2012 at 6:15 am  Comments Off on July 1, 1862: Malvern Hill  
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