In the poem, Lee's role as a general portrays him as an underdog ("twice baptized in blood"), struggling with firm resolve against a superior foe, though accepting his victories with modesty ("Then, from the summit smiled on those who stood / Below, and simply said, 'I did the best I could!'"). However, both in success and in defeat, Lee held one major trait which Lucas praised:
Success, defeat, a truer meaning have:
'Tis Virtue dominates eternally.
'Tis Virtue makes the freeman or the slave,
From whose green heights of wingless victory,
Our hero, conquered—only shone the more,
As, half-eclipsed, the moon burns ruddier than before!
Lie still in glory! hero of our hearts,
Sleep sweetly in thy vaulted chapel-grave!
The splendor of the far-excelling stars departs—
Not so the lustre of the godlike brave!
Thy glory shall not vanish, but increase,
Thou boldest son of war, and mildest child of peace!
Lie still in glory! patient, prudent, deep!
O, central form in our immortal strife,
With an eternal weight of glory, sleep
Within her breast, who gave thee name and life!
Lie very still! no more contend with odds!
Transcendent among men—resplendent with the gods!
Lie still in glory! faithful, fervent, strong!
Perchance the land we love shall need a name:
Perchance the breath of unresisted wrong
Shall blow enduring patience into flame:
If so, thy name shall leap from star to star
In thunder, and thy sleeping army wake to war!