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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.

The Nests at Washington

By John James Piatt (1835–1917)

BEFORE the White House portals

The careless eyes behold

Three iron bombs uplifted,

Adusk in summer gold.

In dreamy mood I wandered

At Sabbath sunset there,

While the wide city’s murmur

Hummed vaguely everywhere:

“Black seeds of desolation,”

I said, “by War’s red hand

Sown in the fierce sirocco

Over the wasted land!

“Unholy with the holy,

What do ye here to-day,

Symbols of awful battle,

In Sabbath’s peaceful ray?”

Angel of Dust and Darkness!

I heard thy woful breath,

With noise of all earth’s battles,

Answer: “Let there be Death!”

I thought of many a midnight,

Where sprang terrific light

Over wide woods and marshes;

Fierce fireflies fit the night.

I saw beleaguered bastions

Leap up in red dismay,

Wide rivers all transfigured

Awake in dreadful day.

Asleep in peaceful sunshine

Glimmered the warlike things:

Into their hollow horror

Flew tenderest summer wings!

Deep in the awful chambers

Of the gigantic Death,

The wrens their nests had builded

And dwelt with loving breath.

Angel of Resurrection!

Over all buried strife

I heard thy bird-song whisper,

Sweetly, “Let there be Life!”