June 15, 2014

Warfield: Such was Destiny's decree!

Catherine Anne Warfield, born in Missisippi in 1816, was popular in her native South as both a poet and writer of fiction. After her marriage, she moved to Kentucky and there lived through the Civil War. From her home of Beechmore, she wrote her poem "Drowned, Drowned" on June 15, 1867 (the title references a line in Shakespeare's Hamlet). The poem compares the struggle of the Confederate Army with diving for pearls and, like much of the Southern poetry of the period, elevates these veterans to angelic status in sentimental, patriotic verse:

In the dark Confederate sea
Rest the heroes of our race;
O'er them waves are sweeping free,
And the pearls of ocean trace
Temples, where the helm should be,
Worn with high heroic grace.
'Twas a desperate strife at best,
And they perished—let them rest
In their silent burial place!—

When our divers, dreading nought,
Plunged to depths, through ocean whirls,
It was all their hope and thought,
To bear back those precious pearls,
Passion freighted, Beauty fraught,
Such as gleam 'mid glowing curls,
Or on baldrick and on banner,
In the old heroic manner,
Broidered all, by high-born girls.

But the divers came no more
From that dark Confederate sea,
With its ceaseless muffled roar,
And its billows sweeping free,
And the pearls were never gathered,
And the storms were never weathered.
Such was Destiny's decree!—
Quench the tear, and stay the sigh,
Nothing now can these avail;

They who nobly strive and die,
Over Fate itself prevail.
Give to those, who on the shore
Wait for sires who come no more,
Shelter from the surf and gale.
Spread the board and trim the hearth,
For the orphans of our race,
Lift from weariness and dearth,
Each young drooping form and face,
Light anew the olden fires
Won from high heroic sires,
And may God bestow his grace!

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