March 20, 2013

Shroud him, Spotless Banner

Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was a beloved hero of the Confederacy during the Civil War. His death in 1863 inspired many poems and songs, including one by West Virginia writer Daniel Bedinger Lucas. Published in the Baltimore-based Southern Metropolis on March 20, 1869, the poem was likely meant to be sung. It is titled "Jackson's Grave" and begins with a quote from a contemporary biography of Jackson: "The Government shrouded Jackson in their battle flag, but the people shrouded him in May flowers" (he had died in May).

Fame had marked him from the cradle,
    Though the Soldier knew it not,
All unconscious of a mission,
    Save what holy living wrought;
Naught to him was vain ambition,
    Naught but fealty to the cause
Of God and Truth and Duty, made him
    All the hero that he was.

            Shroud him, Spotless Banner, hushing
            Shouts of Victory to rest.
            While his giant arms are folded,
            Grandly o'er the Warrior's breast!
            Here he sleeps in glory: let him!

Patriots ponder o'er this spot!
    For the soul that can forget him
Soon itself shall be forgot!
    Where this mound is held as sacred,
Men may overlook their chains,
    Wingless Victory defends them,
And eternal Hope remains.
                Shroud him, Spotless Banner, etc.—

Flowers of May, O! early Flowers,
    He was younger than you all;
For the bier that, scented, bore you,
    Was the cradle of his soul!
And this grave, so close and narrow
    Is the garden of his fame,
Which shall fill the earth forever
    With the perfume of his name.
                Shroud him, Spotless Banner, etc.— 

Lucas, who also wrote a poem in honor of Confederate Robert E. Lee, was a proud supporter of the Confederate cause even after the Civil War. In his poem to Jackson, he celebrates the man's piety and implies that the Union victory left the Southerners in chains but that the memory of Jackson gives them hope. One wonders if Lucas, nicknamed "The Poet Laureate of the Lost Cause," hoped for another rebellion.

2 comments:

  1. "Left the Southerners in chains" is a pretty sour irony considering what the South was fighting for, isn't it.

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  2. Agreed. I think Lucas is a decent poet but his viewpoint was so strangely skewed: Everything in the South was perfect, and everything in the North was horrible.

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