September 6, 2012

Confederate flag: Flag of the Free?

The same day that Edmund Clarence Stedman made his appeal to Abraham Lincoln, a Southern poet celebrated the Confederacy. Abram Joseph Ryan, a Catholic priest sometimes referred to as the "Poet-Priest of the Confederacy," penned his lines "To the Confederate Flag Over the State House" on September 6, 1862. In it, he celebrates the flag flying over Kentucky's capitol building. Just a year earlier, the legislature had ordered the United States flag to fly over the building in recognition of their allegiance to the Union. A group of dissidents, however, secretly established a provisional government that appealed for acceptance into the Confederacy. Ryan's poem, including its ironic presentation of Southern whites as being in shackles, the Confederate flag representing the free, and the Union as oppressors:

Float proudly o'er Frankfort, thou flag of my heart!
The dread of oppressors and hirelings thou art;
Our eyes have grown weary of waiting for thee.
Too long have we waited, O Flag of the Free!
The men who were pledged not to make war on thee
Betrayed us, and laughed that we'd thought ourselves free.
They bound us with shackles, and ere we could rise,
The gleaming of bayonets answered our cries.

Lives only our own we could lay down in scorn,
But we could not, we dared not, leave women forlorn;
And so we have waited, have watched, and have prayed,
For sight of the Cross that so long was delayed.
But now we will rise up like new men and strong,
And praise of brave Smith be the theme of our song.
He has come! he has come! with Flag of the Free;
No more shall our State Yankees' head-quarters be.

When freed from our tyrants, our children we'll teach
To lisp Kirby Smith in first essays of speech.
The flag he has planted on our State House dome
Gives him in the heart of Kentucky a home.

1 comment:

  1. That's quite a photograph of Ryan - evidently, he's never been familiar with a comb. Gives him a kind of John Brown wildness, doesn't it? (Although he'd probably be insulted for his name to uttered in the same breath with Brown's.)

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