Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Brandywine

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

Middle States: Brandywine, the River, Pa.

The Brandywine

By Elizabeth Margaret Chandler (1807–1834)


OH! if there is in beautiful and fair

A potency to charm, a power to bless;

If bright blue skies and music-breathing air,

And Nature in her every varied dress

Of peaceful beauty and wild loveliness,

Can shed across the heart one sunshine ray,

Then others, too, sweet stream, with only less

Than mine own joy, shall gaze, and bear away

Some cherished thought of thee for many a coming day.

But yet not utterly obscure thy banks,

Nor all unknown to history’s page thy name;

For there wild war hath poured his battle ranks,

And stamped, in characters of blood and flame,

Thine annals in the chronicles of fame.

The wave that ripples on, so calm and still,

Hath trembled at the war-cry’s loud acclaim,

The cannon’s voice hath rolled from hill to hill,

And midst thy echoing vales the trump hath sounded shrill.

My country’s standard waved on yonder height,

Her red cross banner England there displayed,

And there the German, who, for foreign fight,

Had left his own domestic hearth, and made

War, with its horrors and its blood, a trade,

Amidst the battle stood; and all the day,

The bursting bomb, the furious cannonade,

The bugle’s martial notes, the musket’s play,

In mingled uproar wild, resounded far away.

Thick clouds of smoke obscured the clear bright sky,

And hung above them like a funeral pall,

Shrouding both friend and foe, so soon to lie

Like brethren slumbering in one father’s hall:

The work of death went on, and when the fall

Of night came onward silently, and shed

A dreary hush, where late was uproar all,

How many a brother’s heart in anguish bled

O’er cherished ones, who there lay resting with the dead.

Unshrouded and uncoffined they were laid

Within the soldier’s grave—e’en where they fell:

At noon they proudly trod the field,—the spade

At night dug out their resting-place; and well

And calmly did they slumber, though no bell

Pealed over them its solemn music slow:

The night winds sung their only dirge,—their knell

Was but the owlet’s boding cry of woe,

The flap of night-hawk’s wing, and murmuring waters’ flow.

But it is over now,—the plough hath rased

All trace of where War’s wasting hand hath been:

No vestige of the battle may be traced,

Save where the share, in passing o’er the scene,

Turns up some rusted ball; the maize is green

On what was once the death-bed of the brave;

The waters have resumed their wonted sheen,

The wild bird sings in cadence with the wave,

And naught remains to show the sleeping soldier’s grave.

A pebble-stone that on the war-field lay,

And a wild rose that blossomed brightly there,

Were all the relics that I bore away,

To tell that I had trod the scene of war,

When I had turned my footsteps homeward far.

These may seem childish things to some; to me

They shall be treasured ones,—and, like the star

That guides the sailor o’er the pathless sea,

They shall lead back my thoughts, loved Brandywine, to thee!