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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

Sheridan at Cedar Creek

By Herman Melville (1819–1891)

[From Battle Pieces, and Aspects of the War. 1866.]

SHOE the steed with silver

That bore him to the fray,

When he heard the guns at dawning—

Miles away;

When he heard them calling, calling—

Mount! nor stay:

Quick, or all is lost;

They’ve surprised and stormed the post,

They push your routed host—

Gallop! retrieve the day.

House the horse in ermine—

For the foam-flake blew

White through the red October;

He thundered into view;

They cheered him in the looming,

Horseman and horse they knew.

The turn of the tide began,

The rally of bugles ran,

He swung his hat in the van;

The electric hoof-spark flew.

Wreathe the steed and lead him—

For the charge he led

Touched and turned the cypress

Into amaranths for the head

Of Philip, king of riders,

Who raised them from the dead.

The camp (at dawning lost)

By eve, recovered—forced,

Rang with laughter of the host

At belated Early fled.

Shroud the horse in sable—

For the mounds they heap!

There is firing in the Valley,

And yet no strife they keep;

It is the parting volley,

It is the pathos deep.

There is glory for the brave

Who lead, and nobly save,

But no knowledge in the grave

Where the nameless followers sleep.

October, 1864.