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

Introductory to Southern States


By James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)

(From Under the Old Elm)

VIRGINIA gave us this imperial man

Cast in the massive mould

Of those high-statured ages old

Which into grander forms our mortal metal ran;

She gave us this unblemished gentleman:

What shall we give her back but love and praise

As in the dear old unestranged days

Before the inevitable wrong began?

Mother of States and undiminished men,

Thou gavest us a country, giving him,

And we owe alway what we owed thee then:

The boon thou wouldst have snatched from us again

Shines as before with no abatement dim.

A great man’s memory is the only thing

With influence to outlast the present whim

And bind us as when here he knit our golden ring.

All of him that was subject to the hours

Lies in thy soil and makes it part of ours:

Across more recent graves,

Where unresentful Nature waves

Her pennons o’er the shot-ploughed sod,

Proclaiming the sweet Truce of God,

We from this consecrated plain stretch out

Our hands as free from afterthought or doubt

As here the united North

Poured her embrownëd manhood forth

In welcome of our savior and thy son.

Through battle we have better learned thy worth,

The long-breathed valor and undaunted will,

Which, like his own, the day’s disaster done,

Could, safe in manhood, suffer and be still.

Both thine and ours the victory hardly won;

If ever with distempered voice or pen

We have misdeemed thee, here we take it back,

And for the dead of both don common black.

Be to us evermore as thou wast then,

As we forget thou hast not always been,

Mother of States and unpolluted men,

Virginia, fitly named from England’s manly queen!