One summer morning a daring band
Over the prosperous, peaceful farms,
Sending terror and strange alarms,
The clatter of hoofs and the clang of arms.
Fresh from the South, where the hungry pine,
They ate like Pharoah’s starving kine;
They swept the land like devouring surge,
And left their path, to its furthest verge,
Bare as the track of the locust-scourge.
“The rebels are coming!” far and near
Rang the tidings of dread and fear;
Some paled, and cowered, and sought to hide –
Some stood erect in their fearless pride –
And women shuddered and children cried.
But others – vipers in human form,
Stinging the bosom that kept them warm –
Welcomed with triumph the thievish band,
Hurried to offer the friendly hand,
As the rebels rode into Maryland:
Made them merry with food and wine,
Clad them in garmen’s rich and fine,
For rags and hunger to make amends;
Flattered them, praised them, with selfish ends; -
“Leave us scatheless, for we are friends!”
Could traitors trust to a traitor? No!
Little they favoured friend or foe,
But gathered the cattle the farms across,
Flinging back with a scornful toss –
If ye are friends ye can bear the loss!”
Flushed with triumph, and wine, and prey,
A sturdy veteran, grey and old,
With heart of a patriot, firm and bold,
Strong and steadfast – unbribed, unsold.
His white locks tossed by morning air,
Fearless of danger, or death, or scars,
Went out to raise by the farm-yard bars,
The dear old flag of the Stripes and Stars.
Proudly, steadily, up it flew,
Gorgeous with crimson and white and blue!
His withered hand, as he shook it freer,
May have trembled, but not with fear,
While, shouting, the rebels drew more near.
“Halt!” – They had seen the hated sign
“Lower that rag!” was their wrathful cry.
“Fine, if it please you – I can but die!”
One, with a loud defiant laugh,
Left his comrades and neared the staff
“Down!”- came the fearless patriot’s cry –
“Dare to lower that flag, and die!
One must bleed for it – you or I!”
But caring not for the stern command,
He drew the bollards with caring hand!
Ping! went the rifle-ball – down he came
Under the flag he had tried to shame –
Seventy winters and three had shed,
But though cheeks may wither and locks look grey
His fame shall be young and fresh alway –
- Harper’s New Monthly Magazine.