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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

The Ballad of the Colors

By Thomas Dunn English (1819–1902)

[Born in Philadelphia, Penn., 1819. Died in Newark, N. J., 1902. Contributed to Harper’s Bazar, 5 November, 1887.]

A GENTLEMAN of courtly air,

Of old Virginia he;

A damsel from New Jersey State,

Of matchless beauty she;

They met as fierce antagonists—

The reason why, they say,

Her eyes were of the Federal blue,

And his, Confederate gray.

They entered on a fierce campaign,

And, when the fight began,

It seemed as though the strategy

Had no determinate plan.

Each watched the other’s movements well

While standing there at bay—

One struggling for the Federal blue,

One for Confederate gray.

We all looked on with anxious eyes

To see their forces move,

And none could tell which combatant

At last would victor prove.

They marched and countermarched with skill,

Avoiding well the fray;

Here, lines were seen of Federal blue,

And there, Confederate gray.

At last he moved his force in mass,

And sent her summons there

That she should straight capitulate

Upon conditions fair.

“As you march forth the flags may fly,

The drums and bugles play;

But yield those eyes of Federal blue

To the Confederate gray.”

“You are the foe,” she answer sent,

“To maidens such as I;

I’ll face you with a dauntless heart,

And conquer you, or die.

A token of the sure result

The vaulted skies display;

For there above is Federal blue,

Below, Confederate gray.”

Sharp-shooting on each flank began,

And ’mid manœuvres free

The rattle of the small-talk with

Big guns of repartee,

Mixed with the deadly glance of eyes

Amid the proud array,

There met in arms the Federal blue

And the Confederate gray.

Exhausted by the fight at length

They called a truce to rest;

When lo! another force appeared

Upon a mountain’s crest.

And as it came the mountain down

Amid the trumpet’s bray,

Uncertain stood the Federal blue

And the Confederate gray.

A corps of stout free lances these

Who poured upon the field,

Field-Marshal Cupid in command,

Who swore they both must yield;

That both should conquer; both divide

The honors of the day;

And proudly with the Federal blue

March the Confederate gray.

His troops were fresh, and theirs were worn;

What could they but agree

That both should be the conquerors,

And both should captives be?

So they presented arms, because

Dan Cupid held the sway,

And joined in peace the Federal blue

With the Confederate gray.

Twelve years have fled. I passed to-day

The fort they built, and saw

A sight to strike a bachelor

With spirit-thrilling awe.

Deployed a corps of infantry,

But less for drill than play;

And some had eyes of Federal blue,

And some Confederate gray.