James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

March 17

The Dead Cannoneer

By James Ryder Randall (1839–1908)

  • General Pelham, C.S.A., killed at Kelly’s Ford, Va., March 17, 1863.

  • JUST as the spring came laughing through the strife,

    With all its gorgeous cheer,

    In the bright April of historic life,

    Fell the great cannoneer.

    The wondrous lulling of a hero’s breath

    His bleeding country weeps;

    Hushed in the alabaster arms of Death,

    Our young Marcellus sleeps.

    Nobler and grander than the Child of Rome

    Curbing his chariot steeds,

    The knightly scion of a Southern home

    Dazzled the land with deeds.

    Gentlest and bravest in the battle-brunt,

    The champion of the truth,

    He bore his banner to the very front

    Of our immortal youth.

    A clang of sabres ’mid Virginian snow,

    The fiery pang of shells,—

    And there’s a wail of immemorial woe

    In Alabama dells.

    The pennon drops that led the sacred band

    Along the crimson field;

    The meteor blade sinks from the nerveless hand

    Over the spotless shield.

    We gazed and gazed upon that beauteous face;

    While round the lips and eyes,

    Couched in their marble slumber, flashed the grace

    Of a divine surprise.

    O mother of a blessed soul on high!

    Thy tears may soon be shed;

    Think of thy boy with princes of the sky,

    Among the Southern dead!

    How must he smile on this dull world beneath,

    Fevered with swift renown,—

    He, with the martyr’s amaranthine wreath

    Twining the victor’s crown!