July 23, 2011

Grant: O stern-faced Chief

Only a few months before his death, General (and President) Ulysses S. Grant signed a contract to publish his memoir with a publishing house founded by Mark Twain. It became one of the highest-selling books of the century, but he only barely finished it before his death on July 23, 1885 (he is pictured at right in the process of writing that book).

The Irish-born political activist/poet/editor John Boyle O'Reilly offered this poetic tribute, simply titled "Grant—1885":

        Blessed are Pain, the smiter,
        And Sorrow, the uniter!
        For one afflicted lies—
        A symboled sacrifice—
        And all our rancor dies!

No North, no South! O stern-faced Chief,
One weeping ours, one cowled Grief—
Thy Country—bowed in prayer and tear—
For North and South—above thy bier!

For North and South! O Soldier grim,
The broken ones to weep for him
Who broke them! He whose terrors blazed
In smoking harvests, cities razed;
Whose Fate-like glance sent fear and chill;
Whose wordless lips spake deathless will—
Till all was shattered, all was lost—
All hands dropped down—all War's red cost
Laid there in ashes—Hope and Hate
And Shame and Glory!
                                     Death and Fate
Fall back! Another touch is thine;
He drank not of thy poisoned wine,
Nor blindly met thy blind-thrown lance,
Nor died for sightless time or chance—
But waited, suffered, bowed and tried,
Till all the dross was purified;
Till every well of hate was dried;
And North and South in sorrow vied,
And then—at God's own calling—died!

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