Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  At Gettysburg

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

At Gettysburg

By Isaac Rusling Pennypacker (1852–1935)

[Born in Phoenixville, Chester Co., Pa., 1852. Died in Ardmore, Pa., 1935.]

[From the Poem read in Dedication of the Pennsylvania Monuments. 12 September, 1889.]

HOW soon the first fierce rain of death,

In big drops dancing on the trees,

Withers the foliage! At a breath,

Hot as the blasts that dried old seas,

The clover falls like drops of blood

From mortal hurts, and stains the sod;

The wheat is clipped, but the ripe grain

Here long ungarnered shall remain;

And many who at the drum’s long roll

Sprang to the charge and swelled the cheer,

And set their flags high on the knoll,

Ne’er knew how went the fight fought here;

For them a knell tumultuous shells

Shook from the consecrated bells,

As here they formed that silent rank,

Whose glorious star at twilight sank.

And night, which lulls all discords—night,

Which stills the folds and vocal wood,

And, with the touch of finger light,

Quiets the pink-lipped brook’s wild mood,

Which sends the wind to seek the latch,

And seals young eyes while mothers watch—

Night stays the battle, but with day

Their lives, themselves, foes hurl away.

Where thousands fell, but did not yield,

Shall be to-morrow’s battle-field.

E’er dying died or dead were cold,

New hosts pressed on the lines to hold,

And held them—hold them now in sleep,

While stars and sentinels go round,

And war-worn chargers shrink like sheep

Beside their riders on the ground.

All through the night—all through the North

Speed doubtful tidings back and forth;

Through North and South, from dusk till day

A sundered people diverse pray.

So gradual sink the deliberate stars,

The sun doth run the laggards down,

At sleep’s still meadows bursts the bars,

And floods with light the steepled town.

Blow! bugles of the cavalry, blow!

Forward the infantry, row on row!

While every battery leaps with life,

And swells with tongueless throats the strife!

Gettysburg, and Other Poems. 1890.