Daily Archives: September 7, 2017

CCV

 Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

Pride in our heroes of the War for Southern Independence has just about been shamed out of us down here in the South.  Their statues have a hard time staying upright.  But what was the significance of their struggle?  Yes, they were defending slavery (in some cases) or the South’s right to deal with the problem of slavery without Yankee interference (in others).  And slavery needed to end.  I know.  But there was more to it than that.  This is what their memory means to me.  Just call me unreconstructed.

I got to recite this on the porch of the Appomattox Courthouse a few years ago.[Cue Rebel Yell.]

APPOMATTOX

“I’d rather die a thousand deaths,” he’d said;

Well, better he should die them than his men.

Though there was nothing left for them to win,

Still at his word they would have fought and bled

(Or starved, more likely—true—but dead is dead).

 

So Lee, immaculate in his dress grays,

And Grant, unbuttoned, chewing his cigar,

Sat down together there to end the war.

And when they had agreed on every phrase,

They signed it through an inexplicable haze.

 

And Lee stepped out upon the porch that day

And drove his fist into his open hand

Three times while staring out across the land.

And then, since there was nothing more to say,

He mounted Traveler and rode away.

 

And now he’d have to face the thin gray lines.

“It’s Gen’ral Lee!”  With joy they gathered ‘round.

He tried to speak, but could not force a sound,

‘Til slowly in his face they read the signs

And silence fell beneath the somber pines.

Only those nearby could comprehend

The words, “Superior numbers . . . forced to yield . . .

Your horses you may keep to plow your fields . . .

I’ve done the best I could for you, my friends.

You’re heroes all.  Farewell.”  And so it ends:

 

The last gasp of the South that might have been,

The first breath of the South as she would be,

Beaten, bowed—but with a memory:

The independence that she could not win,

The Lost Cause, and the frailty of men.

 

The noblest soldier living could not save

Her from the long defeat or from the tears.

It would protect her for a hundred years

From half the vulgar lies with which men pave

The primrose paths that lead but to the grave.

 

For Lee stepped out upon the porch that day

And drove his fist into his open hand

Three times while staring out across the land.

And then, since there was nothing more to say,

He mounted Traveler and rode away.

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

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