Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Song of Marion’s Men

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Southern States: Santee, the River, S. C.

Song of Marion’s Men

By William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878)

OUR band is few, but true and tried,

Our leader frank and bold;

The British soldier trembles

When Marion’s name is told.

Our fortress is the good green wood,

Our tent the cypress-tree;

We know the forest round us,

As seamen know the sea.

We know its walls of thorny vines,

Its glades of reedy grass,

Its safe and silent islands

Within the dark morass.

Woe to the English soldiery

That little dread us near!

On them shall light at midnight

A strange and sudden fear:

When waking to their tents on fire

They grasp their arms in vain,

And they who stand to face us

Are beat to earth again;

And they who fly in terror deem

A mighty host behind,

And hear the tramp of thousands

Upon the hollow wind.

Then sweet the hour that brings release

From danger and from toil:

We talk the battle over,

And share the battle’s spoil.

The woodland rings with laugh and shout,

As if a hunt were up,

And woodland flowers are gathered

To crown the soldier’s cup.

With merry songs we mock the wind

That in the pine-top grieves,

And slumber long and sweetly,

On beds of oaken leaves.

Well knows the fair and friendly moon

The band that Marion leads,—

The glitter of their rifles,

The scampering of their steeds.

’T is life our fiery barbs to guide

Across the moonlight plains;

’T is life to feel the night-wind

That lifts their tossing manes.

A moment in the British camp,—

A moment,—and away,

Back to the pathless forest,

Before the peep of day.

Grave men there are by broad Santee,

Grave men with hoary hairs,

Their hearts are all with Marion,

For Marion are their prayers.

And lovely ladies greet our band

With kindliest welcoming,

With smiles like those of summer,

And tears like those of spring.

For them we wear these trusty arms,

And lay them down no more

Till we have driven the Briton

Forever from our shore.