April 19, 2013

Grandpa, what wounded you?

Hannah Flagg Gould's father Benjamin was a veteran of the American Revolution and, as such, it is perhaps not surprising that many of her poems patriotically reflect on that conflict. One such verse, "The Scar of Lexington," commemorates that skirmish in Massachusetts on April 19, 1775. The poem, which apparently dates to 1830, is framed as a young boy asking his grandfather, a veteran, of his experience (and the origins of his scar):

With cherub smile the prattling boy,
   Who on the veteran's breast reclines,
Has thrown aside his favourite toy,
   And round his tender finger twines
Those scatter'd locks, that with the flight
Of fourscore years are snowy white;
And, as a scar arrests his view,
He cries, "Grandpa, what wounded you?"

"My child, 'tis five-and-fifty years
   This very day, this very hour,
Since from a scene of blood and tears,
   Where valour fell by hostile power,
I saw retire the setting sun
Behind the hills of Lexington;
While pale and lifeless on the plain
My brothers lay, for freedom slain!

"And ere that fight, the first that spoke
   In thunder to our land, was o'er,
Amid the clouds of fire and smoke
   I felt my garments wet with gore!
'Tis since that dread and wild affray,
That trying, dark, eventful day,
From this calm April eve so far,
I wear upon my cheek the scar.

"When thou to manhood shalt be grown,
   And I am gone in dust to sleep,
May freedom's rights be still thine own,
   And thou and thine in quiet reap
The unblighted product of the toil
In which my blood bedew'd the soil.
And while those fruits thou shalt enjoy,
Bethink thee of this scar, my boy.

"But, should thy country's voice be heard
   To bid her children fly to arms,
Gird on thy grandsire's trusty sword;
   And, undismay'd by war's alarms,
Remember, on the battle-field,
I made the hand of God my shield:
And be thou spared, like me, to tell
What bore thee up, while others fell."

Like the grandfather in the poem, Benjamin Gould fought with the Massachusetts militia and was wounded on Lexington Green on April 19, 1775. Hannah Gould published several books of poetry, including her first in 1832. She wrote at least three other poems focused on Lexington ("Lexington's Dead," "The Battle of Lexington," and "Liberty: An Ode for the Celebration fo the Battle of Lexington") as well as a prose essay on the "Lexington Elm." Miss Gould never married and lived a relatively retired life in Newburyport, Massachusetts, though she was known as a kind and social hostess.

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