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

Middle States: Monmouth, N. J.

The Spur of Monmouth

By Henry Morford (1823–1881)

’T WAS a little brass half-circlet,

Deep gnawed by rust and stain,

That the farmer’s urchin brought me,

Ploughed up in old Monmouth’s plain;

On that spot where the hot June sunshine

Once a fire more deadly knew,

And a bloodier color reddened

Where the red June roses blew;—

Where the moon of the early harvest

Looked down through the shimmering leaves,

And saw where the reaper of battle

Had gathered his human sheaves:

Old Monmouth, so touched with glory,

So tinted with burning shame,

As Washington’s pride we remember,

Or Lee’s long-tarnished name.

’T was a little brass half-circlet;

And knocking the rust away,

And clearing the ends and the middle

From their burial-shroud of clay,

I saw, through the damp of ages,

And the thick, disfiguring grime,

The buckle-heads and the rowel

Of a spur of the olden time.

And I said, “What gallant horseman,

Who revels and rides no more,

Perhaps twenty years back, or fifty,

On his heel that weapon wore?

Was he riding away to his bridal,

When the leather snapped in twain?

Was he thrown, and dragged by the stirrup,

With the rough stones crushing his brain?”

Then I thought of the Revolution,

Whose tide still onward rolls;

Of the free and the fearless riders,

Of the “times that tried men’s souls.”

What if, in the day of battle

That raged and rioted here,

It had dropped from the foot of a soldier,

As he rode in his mad career?

What if it had ridden with Forman,

When he leaped through the open door,

With the British dragoon behind him,

In his race o’er the granary-floor?

What if—but the brain grows dizzy

With the thoughts of the rusted spur—

What if it had fled with Clinton,

Or charged with Aaron Burr?

But bravely the farmer’s urchin

Had been scraping the rust away;

And, cleaned from the soil that swathed it,

The spur before me lay.

Here are holes in the outer circle;

No common heel it has known,

For each space, I see by the setting,

Once held some precious stone.

And here, not far from the buckle—

Do my eyes deceive their sight?—

Two letters are here engraven,

That initial a hero’s might!—

“G. W.!” Saints of heaven!—

Can such things in our lives occur?

Do I grasp such a priceless treasure?

Was this George Washington’s spur?

Did the brave old Pater Patriæ

Wear that spur, like a belted knight,—

Wear it, through gain and disaster,

From Cambridge to Monmouth fight?

Did it press his steed in hot anger

On Long Island’s day of pain?

Did it drive him at terrible Princeton

’Tween two streams of leaden rain?

And here did the buckles loosen,

And no eye look down to see,

When he rode to blast with the lightning

The defiant eyes of Lee?

Did it fall, unfelt and unheeded,

When that fight of despair was won,

And Clinton, worn and discouraged,

Crept away at the set of the sun?

The lips have long been silent

That could send an answer back;

And the spur, all broken and rusted,

Has it forgotten its rider’s track?

I only know that the pulses

Leap hot, and the senses reel,

When I think that the Spur of Monmouth

May have clasped George Washington’s heel!