Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Hive at Gettysburg

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

Middle States: Gettysburg, Pa.

The Hive at Gettysburg

By John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)

IN the old Hebrew myth the lion’s frame,

So terrible alive,

Bleached by the desert’s sun and wind, became

The wandering wild bees’ hive;

And he who, lone and naked-handed, tore

Those jaws of death apart,

In after time drew forth their honeyed store

To strengthen his strong heart.

Dead seemed the legend: but it only slept

To wake beneath our sky;

Just on the spot whence ravening Treason crept

Back to its lair to die,

Bleeding and torn from Freedom’s mountain bounds,

A stained and shattered drum

Is now the hive where, on their flowery rounds,

The wild bees go and come.

Unchallenged by a ghostly sentinel,

They wander wide and far,

Along green hillsides, sown with shot and shell,

Through vales once choked with war.

The low reveille of their battle-drum

Disturbs no morning prayer;

With deeper peace in summer noons their hum

Fills all the drowsy air.

And Samson’s riddle is our own to-day,

Of sweetness from the strong,

Of union, peace, and freedom plucked away

From the rent jaws of wrong.

From Treason’s death we draw a purer life,

As, from the beast he slew,

A sweetness sweeter for his bitter strife

The old-time athlete drew!