xt74tm71vs2v https://nyx.uky.edu/dips/xt74tm71vs2v/data/mets.xml Shaler, Nathaniel Southgate, 1841-1906. 1906  books b92-258-31813954 English Houghton Mifflin ; Riverside Press, : Boston ; New York : Cambridge : Contact the Special Collections Research Center for information regarding rights and use of this collection. From old fields  : poems of the Civil War / by Nathaniel Southgate Shaler. text From old fields  : poems of the Civil War / by Nathaniel Southgate Shaler. 1906 2002 true xt74tm71vs2v section xt74tm71vs2v 
























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FROM OLD FIELDS. Poems. 8vo, 3.00,
met. Postage extra.
THE NEIGHBOR. 2mo,,z.4o,net. Postage
-o Cents.
ELIZABETH OF ENGLAND. A Dramatic
Romance. In five volunes I. The Coro.:a-
tion. II. The Rival Queens. II. Armada
Days. IV. Essex. V. The Passing of the
Queen. 8vo, the set, fio.oo, net. Postage
extra.
THE INTERPRETATION OF NATURE.
 6mo, t.25
KENTUCKY.      In  he American Common-
wee/ths .Series. With Map.  i6mo, F..25.
ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE EARTH'S SUR-
FACE. Part I. Glaciers. By N. S. Shaler
and Wm. Morris Davis. Splendidly illus-
trated. Folio, So.oo.
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & COMPANY,
        Bos'roN AND NEw YORK.

 











FROM OLD FIELDS

 This page in the original text is blank.

 


FROM



OLD



FIELDS



P1oem0 of tMe Otbil War


            BY



NATHANIEL SOUTHGATE



SHALER



LATE PROFESSOR OF GEOLOGY IN HARVARD L'N1VERSITY
   AND DEAN OF LAWRENCE SCIENTIFIC SCHOOL


   I For out of olde feldes, as men scith,
   Cometh al this newe corn fro yeer to yere "
                         CHAUCER



      BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN & COMPANY
     Ebe 0ibersibe pre0, Cambribe
              1 906

 



























COPYRIGHT I906 BY SOPHIA P. SHALER

      ALL RIGHTS RESERVED



      Published November 1906

 


















  TO THE PEOPLE OF

     KENTUCKY

THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED

 
Viii                  PREFACE
  He ascribed to Kentuckians a certain fine negligence
and prodigality of nature common to large-hearted men
who have faith in themselves and in the inexhaustible
riches of the world. He especially approved the state
of mind which made solicitude and excessive prudence
the accessories and not the mainsprings of life. Above
all, he valued in them the courage to be themselves,
untrammeled by conventions or by undue concern for
personal interests. It was these qualities which endeared
his people to him.
  A few evenings before sending to press the poems con-
tained in this volume, my husband brought them to me
to read once more. When I had finished, struck with
the fact that some of his heroes were Confederates, I ex-
claimed: " What does this mean -and you an old Fed-
eral officer!" Laying down his long-stemmed pipe, for
a moment he silently gazed into the fire. Then lifting
his head, his usual alert glance dimmed with emotion,
"Well," he said, "those brave lads were my companions
in youth, and that's why, I suppose, they 've claimed the
right to be where I 've put them-among my chosen
men.
  The end came before Mr. Shaler was able to correct
or revise the proof of these poems; for this service I am
greatly indebted to his old friend and well-loved pupil,
Mr. William R. Thayer.
                                 SOPHIA P. SHALER.
 August 205 1906.

 









CONTENTS



PROLOGUE

NEAR THE FRONT

THE MARKSMAN'S WORK

THE HALTED BATTLE

THE MASTER'S RAGE

THE BAD SAMARITAN

THE WAY WITH MUTINEERS

THE MERRY TRUCE

THOSE MULES  .

A MIDNIGHT VENTURE

EAST TENNESSEEANS

THE GEORGIANS

THE BATTERY

THE EAGER MUSTER

THE OBSERVANT MAN

MADAME B.'s REVIEW

THE GENERAL'S YARN

FHE ORDER

THE NEW YEAR'S TOAST

THE SMUGGLERS

JIM'S PARDNER'S TALES

THE FORGOTTEN OUTPOST



      . .  I

            3

          5

            9
          , I2

            15

    .   . 20

      .   27

    .   . 29

           39
    .    48

      .   52

        . . 58

      .   64

  .   .  72

           74

        79
           82

          84

           86

    .   .  90

    .   103

 

x                  CONTENTS

THE GREAT RAID   .    .   .                   112

AUGUSTA      .   .    .   .   .      .   .    I36
THE STORY    .   .                            1.46

CUMBERLAND GAP .    .                         173
THE RESCUE MARCH .   .    .                   200

UNDER THE BANNER                 .   .   .    220

TOLD IN THE DARK .   .                        286
THE CHANGE OF FRONT .   .   .                 289

THE LEADER'S PRAYER   .   .                   291
THE ARTILLERY CHIEF     .   .    .            292

APPOMATTOX: THE CONFEDERATE'S STORY .  .   . 294
THE SOLDIER'S WAY   .                         297

THE HAPPY RELEASE.    .   .                   300

THE BURIAL PLACE    .   .     .    . .        304

THE ORPHAN BRIGADE   .    .   .    .          307

 











FROM OLD FIELDS

 This page in the original text is blank.

 





PROLOGUE



WHAT should we do with ancient deeds and days
That in the ancient way go to the deep
Straight as a plummet till they find their place
In its enduring silence  Leave them slip
From light to dark, and watch the tiny whirl
Upon the swift glassed ocean till there comes
Another whirling, token of where sinks
Again brave man or deed Nay, so the brutes
In the brute time, atom and molecule
Planets and suns trooped from the dark to dark;
So too their children in the beasts and birds
Went unremembered out of light and life
Leaving of chaunting soul and lion's heart
Naught but their progeny to brave and sing
Their little while in air and be forgot.
It is the part of man to treasure men
And set their splendours in the heaven's vault,
Until those stars shall make us endless day
To banish villain night. 'T is his to help
The Architect in shaping out of dust
His temple that uplifts within the void
To be the habitation of the all
That wins His splendour; till there be no more
Of death that knows but dust.
                                So let us on

 

2                   PROLOGUE
    Upon this goodly work, - shape as we may
    Its deep foundations from our brother's deeds
    Built to uphold His fane, -set in its walls
    Imperishable gems they wrought from dust,
    And grace it with all grace of memory,-
    Turn every stone they wrought and seek the face
    That shines the fairest in the glint of sun,-
    Care even for the shards they cast away
    So that they bear the touch of their dear hands,-
    Let to the plummet's deep alone the shames,
    Those ugly prints on earth trod by the feet
    That strove unknowing upward. Thus we may
    Be helpers of the Master.

 



NEAR THE FRONT



A STREET in country town at midnight time:
Above, the harvest moon; below, the earth
War-stricken, desolate. On either side
Is utter ruin; here, by flame that left
But whitened remnants, -there, yet sorrier
In shops and dwellings where the doors stand wide
And trampled goods tell plain that plunderers
Have ravaged where men stored. Along this street
Is laid a hard-marched column by its arms:
Close-packed upon the sidewalks, with the feet
In dusty gutters and each side the way
Crammed close as herring in a box; they sleep
With breasts to sky or earth: shaped as they '11 lie
Within the trenches ere the shovelers
Have done their part. Upon the unblocked road,
Six paces wide, pass on the endless trains
Of laden wagons, guns, and cavalry
To hard-pressed front: and a like ceaseless line
Of ambulances bearing to the rear
Their loads of misery. The creaking wheels
Crunch on the loosened stones two feet away
From outer lines of heads, and send the dust
Upon their senseless eyes. The riders sway
Nigh out their saddles and the horses lean
One 'gainst the other as they stumble on,

 

4                NEAR THE FRONT
For they, too, slumber -yea, this world 's asleep,
Save from each ambulance the wounded tell
They know their torment. There one pleads for drink
Poor chap, his bandage 's loosened and he thirsts
Because his life flows out. He '11 soon be still:
His cry is but a quaver; he '1 soon slake
Thirst at the eternal spring. See, there goes
A woman treading softly through the host,
Scanning the faces upturned to the sky
With eager stealth. Swift glance and then swift on
Until she's out of sight.

 







THE MARKSMAN'S WORK



                          THE silent lines
Are set against each other in the pause
That comes before the battle; watching near
The chance of stroke and parry. Waiting still
For some last vantage of new men, or guns,
Or for belated scouts who search the point
Where well-aimed blow may tell. It is a time
When soul is tense as bowstring with its shaft
Down to the head: when all the leaders watch
As cats before the pounce.
                          In front of us
Are fields whereon for half a mile there is
No note of what's to come. The sheep feed there,
As by the shambles they are wont to crop
What good earth sends of nurture. But away
Nigh thousand yards beyond our outer force,
Are foemen's pickets: on their line a house,
The homestead of these fields, and by its side,
Beneath an orchard's shade, a battery
Where men lie by their guns, while right and left
Stretches the dun line of their waiting host.
Upon the housetop, seated on the crest,
There sits a soldier, bending o'er a board,

 
6           THE MARKSMAN'S WORK
    Making a sketch-map of our front. We see
    With the unaided eye no more than this,
    For in that distance man is but a mite
    Mere fleck 'gainst earth or sky. Yet with the glass
    We change him to near neighbour. So we find
    He is an officer, fair-shaped and young,
    Who's deftly at his task. Now he looks up,
    And with hand-shaded eyes he scans our front:
    Then with his pencil turns them to his sketch.
    It is a pretty sight, as innocent
    As the sheep cropping in the quiet field,
    And vet he knows 't is venture, hardiest
    A man may make in war, and we know well
    He is a brave man whom we needs must slay
    So swift we can.
                     Quick the commander calls-
    "Here, Captain, have a gun with your best squad
    And knock that fellow off."
                                " It shall be done.
    But you should see that close beside that house
    They have a battery, and to my gun
    They 're sure to send an answer from their own;
    And then the dance begins."
                                 " We don't want that,
    Yet we must stop that rascal."
                                  " Let me call
     A fellow from the regiment that serves
     As my support. He is the crackest shot

 
        THE MARKSMAN'S WORK
From Minnesota: used to just such work
In potting redskins."
                       " Have him for a try
Nine hundred yards - I '11 bet a hat he 'l miss,
Yet it is worth the trying, for the ball
May scare the villain off."
                           Up comes the man,
A lank and grizzled fellow, with the eye,
Blue-grey and strangely steadfast, of the sort
Who have the slaying habit. " Can you hit
That chap upon the housetop"
                                 " Guess I can,
It is a long shot, but there ain't no wind."
  Slowly he loads his rifle; then he goes
Down to a fence; looks long and silently
As if he paced the distance in his mind:
Now lies upon his belly; finds a rest
To hold his piece that suits him, by a post.
We see him ready, and with glass to eves
A score watch for the end. There sits the youth,
The picture of an artist at his task,
Outgoing to the world and bringing back
Share of its wealth. How happy he seems there
In the new morning! Crack! the rifle rings:
We hold breath for an instant. There he goes
Backward behind the ridgepole, while his sketch
Flits down the roof towards us. As the face
Slips out of sight, we see the startled look



7

 
8          THE MARKSMAN'S WORK
   That comes upon it when the man knows death.
   We close our glasses; not a word is said;
   The marksman stalks away; he does not look
   Into our eyes, but straightway on: and we
   Keep eyes from others' faces and seek out
   Some trifling thing to do.

 





THE HALTED BATTLE



THEY are hard at it; veteran brigades
Who 've chased each other up and down the land
Till one has turned at bay. Near-by are groups
Of men who hold the horses nose to nose,
A dozen in a bunch, where they find place
To 'scape the scorching fire; and there the lines:
Not as you see them pictured in fair rows
Like garden plants, but scattered creeping men
By ones and twos and threes that slip right on,
Kneeling to shoot, running to win their way,
And sometimes toppling when the way is lost
For this world's faring. There upon the hills
Are set the batteries, they too most unlike
The artist's business -each with six great guns,
As neatly lined as books upon a shelf,
With dancing dolls about them. They 're well hid,
You never see a muzzle or a man,
But know them by their shout, the puffs of smoke,
The screech of shrapnel and the cloud in air
That sends its leaden hail. Ay, here is war,
With its infernal splendour naught can quell
Until the fire 's flamed out. All earth's priests
With book and candle could not exorcise
That demon from this field.
                            But now there comes

 

THE HALTED BATTLE



The mightier, a maid upon a horse.
A whiff of wind and there she is amidst
The plump of shot and shell. She goes straight on,
As if 't was custom with her thus to ride
Into the gates of Hell. With a " Good Lord!"
And else of expletive, the leader calls
The bugler to sound truce, lifts the white flag
So that his brethren other side of field
In wonder halt their fire. Sends forth an aid
With handkerchief on sabre to explain
A woman owns the field, that till she 's off,
The battle needs be. Then he seeks the lass:
The damsel undisturbed is chatting on
With those beside her, very much at ease,
As if this old world were so very good
That Satan could not mar it. Now he says,
Well, little woman, what has brought you here
This is no place for you."
                           " I 'm going to my ma's;
I 've been a-visiting, 't is my way home."
Yes, yes, but don't you see we 've business
With other fellows, and you will get hurt;
So go back to your friends and stay with them
Until we 've done our job."
                            " I told you, sir,
I 'm going to my ma's. What I 've to do
Is most important, so you '11 have to wait
Till I get by." The general mops his face,
Sputters a bit in undertones, then laughs,



I O

 
THE HALTED BATTLE



I I



Rocking to saddlebow. Now he rides on,
The damsel by his side, upon the way.
First through his own troops, who rise up and cheer,
A shout with sorrow in it, for the lass
Brings back the memory of far-off homes,
Of sisters and of sweethearts; now 'cross fields
That were debated, to the foeman's lines
For a like greeting. Most courteously
He hands her to his foeman. "This dear girl
Is for her ma's; 't will need full half an hour
Before she 's out of range; let our flag stay
Until that time is up." The other says:
"Would it could stay for good: it will be hard
To go straight back to Hell in half an hour."

 






THE MASTER'S RAGE



              A SOLDIER'S STORY

PAP THOMAS did n't talk much with his tongue,
But when it came to doing, then oh, my!
He was an orator to lift your hair.
He and their Stonewall Jackson had the trick
Of saying nothing till their job was done,
And nothing afterwards. Virginians
Are mighty queer. The half of them all gab,
The other half whack hard and march right on
To find the next chance. So it was with Pap.
At first we thought him dumb, but we soon learned
The way he talked. You must remember how
He whooped old Hood right off of Nashville field
So fast and far, that Old Nick never found
Where his headquarters were. He did that job
In Quaker-meeting way: kept mighty still
Until the Lord was ready: then went on
As if he owned the sky. I '11 tell you now
A story that ain't printed, but it shows
The way he preached.
                     We were a scurvy lot
Of raw recruits; both men and officers
Were mostly in for Hell. The decent chaps
Were scared of those who warn't. Then came old Pap.

 
THE MASTER'S RAGE



At first we grinned and wondered what he'd do,
And planned our darndest just to find it out.
We found it pretty quick. He did n't stop
For grand review, as all the others did
When they came for a try. He rode straight down
The halted column: so we could n't work
The rackets we had rigged, and when we tried
To get up something as he passed, his eyes
Went right straight through us and we felt ashamed,
And mad because we did. Now when he came
To where our company stood, we'd scattered out
To raid a little farm. Our captain first
He was a cuss. He led us in such games,
But when we'd business he'd the belly-ache.
He'd set the house afire, and now came out
With both arms full of plunder, -women's clothes,
A mantel-clock, et cet'ra, -looking round
To find the stolen wagon where he kept
The things he ragged for shipment. Then Pap comes
With all his staff; reined up and took it in,-
The burning house, the looting, and our Cap
With his mule-load of stealings. With a jump
He 's off his horse and square before the cuss,
Whose shoes seemed stuck to ground.
Then slowly Pap relieved him of his load,
Set down the clock and laid the women's clothes
Right careful on the grass. We fellows thought
Now we'd the chance to play at horse with him,
So we began to holler: then stopped off



I 3

 
         THE MASTER'S RAGE
At what was doing. Silent still, old Pap
Took out the cuss's sword, and with a whack
Upon the door-stone made it smithereens;
Pulled off his uniform and left him there
Stark naked in the cold. When P'ap was done,
Without a word he climbed back on his horse
And rode on down the line. My, we were still
'Who saw it all, and those who did n't knew
Somehow or other of it - knew with us
That we had come bang up against the Lord
And must behave as men. As for the Capy-
We emptied out his wagon for the folks
Who owned the farm and chucked him naked in.
He squealed Pap had no right to strip him bare.
I reckon that is so. Reg'lations say
Nothing about it: Uncle Moses, too,
Don't take it up. But when you find Old Nick
Inside a chap, I reckon that you have
A right to whale him out, and need n't be
Too durned particular not to spoil the hide
When he has been let in. You bet there were
A lot of welts on Jew backs when He 'd done
With cleaning out the temple.



14

 





THE BAD SAMARITAN



AFTER the reapers, enter in the folk
Who glean from stubble what they may of corn,
The bowed, the children, cripples of the fight
They 've waged with earth, and those who watch for morn
When they may find their battle. They are done,-
For two-score years, the days when o'er our fields
Death led his train of sturdy harvesters,
Whose sickles swept them bare: but to our day
IThe gleaners heap their sheaves of noble deeds
The histories know not; deeds that shine as stars
On swift way to the dark -told once and then
Unto forgetfulness. One of these tales
May be as sample, showing how there lies
Wealth in the nooks and crannies of this land;
Vast store of valour, faith of man to man;
Trust in the living God.
                        In Washington,
I came upon a friend, a congressman,
Sometime a Rebel: ever faithful man
To what he saw of duty. In his youth
He was a shapely giant, but was shorn
Of right leg at the hip and left to fight
Life's battle with his crutches. When I came
Into his room 'twas dark. To welcome me
He sought to light the gas in chandelier.

 
I 6          THE BAD SAMARITAN
It was high placed, so that he needed stretch
His six foot six on tiptoe. Twice he fell
Before the task was done. I gave no help,
For -well I knew he'd smite me with his crutch
Before he'd have it. When my Hercules
Had done the job, he turned to me and said,
"I 've found the man who saved me." He was full
Of the brave story I had often tried
To have him tell, and now he told it thus:
"I was with Morgan in the second fight
We had at Cynthiana: we'd been driven
For two days' hard march; at the ford we turned
To be well beaten, hustled off the field:
In the last charge, I was hard hit and fell.
I knew I 'd slipped from saddle; nothing more
Until I waked to find Samaritan,
A Federal soldier, caring for my wound.
He put a bandage and a twister on
As if he knew the trade. He gave me drink
From his canteen until I emptied it,
Then filled his own and mine and laid them down
Where I could reach them. While he cared for me
As though he were my brother, - so he was
Unto the Christ and me, there came a wolf
On two legs with a gun across the field:
'Stand off,' he cried, 'and I will finish him.'
You know the brute, he's seldom seen, and goes
Hotly upon the trail."
                        "I know the kind.

 
THE BAD SAMARITAN



He's not for the despatches, nor for long
When true men are about."
                           " True man was there
And did it neatly. Then he stooped and asked
My name and number; wrote them on a slip
And pinned it to my breast. I knew well,
Though far and faintly, what that meant, and vet
'T was good to have it done, - so gently done -
Then came the assembly: calling for pursuit
Of what was left of my side. So he turned
To heed the call. Then back to me once more,
Stripped off his overcoat and wrapped me close.
I well remember that, and then no more
Until weeks after in the hospital.
The war was ended, and I was the last
Of all the lot. I had full time to think
Of what to do. There lay I like a hulk,
As helpless as when born; and there away
Far in the west, there were a wife and child
Waiting for me to help them in sore need.
We were as poor as churchmice. It looked bad,
And yet the memory of that dear chap
Who saved me on that field helped mightily,
For in a world where foe could be so true
There was sure chance of friends. They packed me off
As soon as it was safe, and shut the door
Of the last hospital. I 'd transportation home,
And there good welcome to grim poverty
From neighbors all dead poor. Their store was gone,



I 7

 
THE BAD SAMARITAN



Save what they held in heart. I could not eat
Share of their scanty food - must work: but how
I had four fifths of me, the other fifth
Was in the grave, and it takes all a man
To win him out of ruin. You can't guess
How I began! You've seen sulky ploughs,
Those Yankee tricks with two wheels and two shares,
Shaped so you sit and drive and do the work
Of two old-fashioned rigs. There was my chance.
A man who'd known my father helped me buy
The plough and horses. I was once more man
Facing the world. I broke tobacco fields, -
You know our staple, -ploughed the growing crops
For wage that seemed a fortune. In a year
I bought a farm, and within five was rich
For a one-legged ploughboy. I read law,
Slipped into politics, but kept my hold
Upon the land, and soon had wealth enough
For two stout legs to carry. All the while,
For twenty years, my mind ran on that man,
That enemy who'd been my friend in need
God's mercy when I lay beside my grave.
I never knew a day of happiness
Mine have been mighty happy -but I thought
If he had passed me by 't would not have been.
I tried to find the fellow; got the rolls
Of the commands that were upon that field
And searched in vain to guess him. Sought the men
With whom he'd served: but I had lost his shape -

 
THE BAD SAMARITAN



When you've been smote, you do not heed such things,
You only know the help. Offered reward-
To have a score of scoundrels at my heels-
He must be dead; so I would never know
His name or grave. And now at last he's found.
Can you believe it There in my own town.
A weary chap who'd lost in life's hard fight
Seedy and old. Full fifty times he'd heard
The story from me: for 't was often told
In hope 't would bring the clue. He knew right well
That I would share with him what he had given
Upon that field, and yet the chap held still:
Grinned at the tale, and made as if he thought
It was a yarn such as a fellow spins
When crazy from a wound as I had been.
I 've had it out with him: he was right mad
That I had spotted him before he died,
For then he would n't mind."



I 9

 




THE WAY WITH MUTINEERS



IF you need exploration of your soul,
Get a command of raw men - reprobates
From minstrel shows and jails. Tumble them in
Red-hot campaign to shape them on the march
And in the fight for service. You'll soon find
Their stuff and yours: a month of it will send
The plummet deeper than three-score and ten
Of ordered years where all earth's pleasant ways
Are trodden clear by custom, fenced by law
From the great wilderness. This story tells
T he way of life you '11 tread when your sore feet
Must stumble through such wild.
                                  'T is just a week
Since, men and guns assembled, he, the vouth
Who's dubbed their captain, set about his task
Of breaking them to harness. Yea, they chafe,
Those hard drawn thongs: it takes a bit of time
Before men's hides are calloused and their souls
Bend to the mastering. This is a day
WVhen griefs have come to head, and half the force
Are ripe for mutiny. Thev need but rum,
A little touch of it, and thev '11 lash out.
They get it - Lord knows where - it seems to leak
Through sentries as through sieves, or it slips down
As manna from the skv. First comes a rush

 
THE WAY WITH MUTINEERS



Of half a score, the leaders, for his tent.
He meets them 'fore it, and with three steps back
And well-timed stroke of sword, sent flat on ears,
He fells the foremost three. The others hear
The swish and spank and see their comrades fall
To right and left and lie as though they're dead:
That cools their rum. He calls the trusty guard-
The saving remnant -- tithe of that sad lot;
The seeming dead are forth to calaboose:
They'll come round in an hour, with nothing worse
Than two days' singing in their informed ears.
'Tis but a trifle, told because it tells
As ever does the sword when it is swung
By well-trained arm and wits that know its end's
To have the fellow down, and not to slay
In novice fashion. Here it further served,
For in his force there was a lieutenant
Of twice his years, old soldier from o'er sea
In search of fortune. Until now he 'd been
Mutinous himself in soul, to have a lad
New to the touch of arms set o'er his head.
When they came howling on he drew his sword
Ready to help, but waiting for command:
But in his eves a look that told his chief
What hid behind it of expectancy.
In such swift times you see much - if at all;
The captain saw, and knew the fellow longed
To have it turn to profit, and it nerved
Soul for the strokes he sent. The man was true,



2 I

 
22        THE WAY WITH MUTINEERS
  For all promotion's dear. That business done,
  He gave salute with sword and generously,
  In way that told his nurture, said to him:
  I make my compliment, it was well done;
  My Captain knows dot trick! " and they were friends
  At touch of common trade. The youth had learned
  Dot trick" when but a stripling, at the hands
  Of a great master, who taught him the sword.
  Such things to be had surely need to grow
  Into the waxing lad in his first teens,
  So that the muscles do it in the need
  Just as they serve the tiger's in his spring
  Mere wits would boggle it.
                             It's now the time
  For evening drill with guns. The men need have
  Yet further lesson that their captain 's fit
  To hold them to their work. He has just learned
  From his first sergeant that he is contemned
  By all the men because he cannot swear
  Their test of manly virtue. He loathes that-
  But as it's needful, he now harks him back
  To certain memories of Skipper Small,
  With whom he 'd sailed a short twelvemonth before -
  Misnamed, for he was mighty in most things
  That make a man, and wondrous in the way
  In which he hurled profanity to sky:
  No cheap and vulgar snarling, as you hear
  From the land-lubber, but the roar of sea,
  Of battling ships and storms. Those Spanish things

 

THE WAY WITH MUTINEERS



That cut your soul like knives; Italian
To scorch your kindred, mixed up with those psalms,
Imprecatories, with Semitic art to damn
For this world and the next, went in to make
What English lacked of Satan's litany.
It was a thing famed to the furthest seas,
And fitly, for in it you heard a soul
Contending with the deeps. It's well to say
That Small, ashore, was deacon; there his speech
Was very gentle, almost ladylike.
He roared but seldom, even on the seas;
But gods and men attended when he did.
A little conning, and that litany
Is ready for the service. All an hour
Those chaps in calaboose are in their minds:
Then once again the horse play and foul chaff.
He's waited for the moment; then lets forth
That sulphurous inundation. First they stare,
Then pale and gasp. Poor things, they'd dreamed they
      swore!
Ten minutes of the blast and they are tamed.
He never swore again -there was no need,
For now they're sure that though he is a boy,
That boy's been deep in Hell. So he has right
To be their over-lord.
                      Yet one more scene,
The worst in all these acts, and it is done,
This task of breaking in. The captain finds
Near by his camp, at dusk, one of his men,



23

 

THE WAY WITH MUTINEERS



Macdonald by his name, with shape that fits
The Scotch Hibernian at his very best,
Frightening a decent woman, touch of rum
And fulness of the Devil in his hide.
He's quickly tethered, but he raves right on
In the rough Irish way, smites lustily,
And hurls death warrants at his captain's head.
He's bucked and gagged, a horse-bit in his mouth
Well strapped behind his ears, and so he's laid
To ruminate till morning in the pen.
At break of day, he's loosened: with the leap
Of tiger cat he is straight at the throat
Of man who helps him. Something must be done,
Else what's been done is lost. A mutineer
Who keeps it up as this, infects a camp
As does the plague and swifter. Custom bids
You send a bullet through his head and cast
His carcass in the trench; for in campaign
There is no court-martialing for common men
When they turn mutineers. Yet 't is a man-
Just now the very best of "number ones"
With whom he has to deal. They're hard to find -
Strong, nimble fellows, who sponge out the gun,
Ram home the cartridge - take the blast that comes
Born and not made, as poets. Noble chap
When parted from his Satan: devil's own,
When they, as now, are joined. The captain tries
A saving stroke: he has him crucified
Upon the spare wheel, such as you have seen



24

 
THE WAY WITH MUTINEERS



Hanging behind the caisson: well strapped down,
To hang there till he or his Satan dies,
In sight of all the camp. All through the day
From hour to hour the captain waits on him
To ask if he will soldier. Finds Old Scratch
Still has him in his clutch. The end's in sight;
The pulses stopped. The surgeon says he'll die
Before the sun is down. So now with two
To serve as witnesses, the captain goes
Once more to him: tells him that death is near,
And asks his will with what he has to leave -
His little kit: his pay: last word for home.
At this, the devil tears out, and the man 's
Once more the master : he begins to weep
And says he 'll soger. In a trice he 's down:
Rubbed, dosed, and cheered with friendliness, until
Life surges back -close squeak, and yet he won
Out from the shadow gate. That topped the task,
For when Macdonald's devil hied him forth,
He called his minions from the others' hearts.
It is a fearful sight to see a man
Hang on the tree as slow life ebbs away -
It besomed all their souls.
                          Two years are gone,
That captain 's elsewhere, when there comes to him
A splendour of man, first sergeant's stripes
Upon his uniform. So once again
Macdonald stands before him: changed in all
Save for his birthright of majestic shape,



25

 
26        THE WAY WITH MUTINEERS
  And might to swing it. He has come to thank
  The Captain for his help in casting out
  The devil that had ruled him all his days
  Until he found that cross, and then rent forth
  And left him free as man.
                            Why drag these tales
  Out of the dark that cloaks infinity
  Of just such shames; done in the ancient way
  In sinning for the Lord. Deeds that wake men
  For two-score years thereafter wondering
  What they were when they did them. 'T is for those
  Who fancy war hosts are celestial,
  With planetary order swaying them-
  Who see the well-shaped myriads on parade
  Swing to the flare of bugle, tap of drum,
  And think that law is there. 'T is might ye see;
  Hard, brutal might, that bears the soul right down
  And welds it to its neighbour with the stroke-
  Yea, it is order -that of nether Hell.
  Sherman was right -he knew. So do not bring
  To me your rage and pr