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

Southern States: Washington, D. C.

Spring at the Capital

By Elizabeth Akers Allen (1832–1911)

THE POPLAR drops beside the way

Its tasselled plumes of silver-gray;

The chestnut pouts its great brown buds, impatient for the laggard May.

The honeysuckles lace the wall;

The hyacinths grow fair and tall;

And mellow sun and pleasant wind and odorous bees are over all.

Down looking in this snow-white bud,

How distant seems the war’s red flood!

How far remote the streaming wounds, the sickening scent of human blood!

For Nature does not recognize

This strife that rends the earth and skies;

No war-dreams vex the winter sleep of clover-heads and daisy-eyes.

She holds her even way the same,

Though navies sink or cities flame;

A snowdrop is a snowdrop still, despite the nation’s joy or shame.

When blood her grassy altar wets,

She sends the pitying violets

To heal the outrage with their bloom, and cover it with soft regrets.

O crocuses with rain-wet eyes,

O tender-lipped anemones,

What do ye know of agony and death and blood-won victories?

No shadow breaks your sunshine-trance,

Though near you rolls, with slow advance,

Clouding your shining leaves with dust, the anguish-laden ambulance.

Yonder a white encampment hums;

The clash of martial music comes;

And now your startled stems are all a-tremble with the jar of drums.

Whether it lessen or increase,

Or whether trumpets shout or cease,

Still deep within your tranquil hearts the happy bees are murmuring “Peace!”

O flowers! the soul that faints or grieves

New comfort from your lips receives;

Sweet confidence and patient faith are hidden in your healing leaves.

Help us to trust, still on and on,

That this dark night will soon be gone,

And that these battle-stains are but the blood-red trouble of the dawn,—

Dawn of a broader, whiter day

Than ever blessed us with its ray,—

A dawn beneath whose purer light all guilt and wrong shall fade away.

Then shall our nation break its bands,

And, silencing the envious lands,

Stand in the searching light unshamed, with spotless robes, and clean, white hands.