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Poems

Battle-Pieces and Others Aspects of War

The Portent (1859)

Slowly swaying (such the law),
Gaunt the shadow on the green,
Shenandoah!
The cut is on the crown
(Lo, John Brown),
And the stabs shall heal no more.

Hidden in the cap
Is the anguish none can draw;
So your future veils its face,
Shenandoah!
But the streaming beard is shown
(Weird John Brown),
The meteor of the war.


Photograph of John Brown

 

l. 4: Shenandoah. Harper's Ferry (see note below), is located on the Shenandoah River.
l. 6: John Brown (1800-1859). A well-known radical abolitionist who organized and carried out a raid on the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia on 16 October, 1859. He hoped that this action would lead to a general revolt of Southern slaves. However, his small band of men was defeated by forces led by Col. Robert E. Lee. He was accused of murder and treachery and was executed in Charlestown, Va., on 2 December, 1859. For many he was considered a martyr of the cause of Abolition and his attack at Harper's Ferry is often viewed as a prelude to the Civil War.

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