The Conquered Banner

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Furling the Flag 2
Furl that Banner, for ’tis weary;
Round its staff ’tis drooping dreary;
Furl it, fold it, it is best;
For there’s not a man to wave it,
And there’s not a sword to save it,
And there’s no one left to lave it
In the blood that heroes gave it;
And its foes now scorn and brave it;
Furl it, hide it–let it rest!

Take that banner down! ’tis tattered;
Broken is its shaft and shattered;
And the valiant hosts are scattered
Over whom it floated high.
Oh! ’tis hard for us to fold it;
Hard to think there’s none to hold it;
Hard that those who once unrolled it
Now must furl it with a sigh.

Furl that banner! furl it sadly!
Once ten thousands hailed it gladly.
And ten thousands wildly, madly,
Swore it should forever wave;
Swore that foeman’s sword should never
Hearts like theirs entwined dissever,
Till that flag should float forever
O’er their freedom or their grave!

Furl it! for the hands that grasped it,
And the hearts that fondly clasped it,
Cold and dead are lying low;
And that Banner–it is trailing!
While around it sounds the wailing
Of its people in their woe.

For, though conquered, they adore it!
Love the cold, dead hands that bore it!
Weep for those who fell before it!
Pardon those who trailed and tore it!
But, oh! wildly they deplored it!
Now who furl and fold it so.

Furl that Banner! True, ’tis gory,
Yet ’tis wreathed around with glory,
And ’twill live in song and story,
Though its folds are in the dust;
For its fame on brightest pages,
Penned by poets and by sages,
Shall go sounding down the ages–
Furl its folds though now we must.

Furl that banner, softly, slowly!
Treat it gently–it is holy–
For it droops above the dead.
Touch it not–unfold it never,
Let it droop there, furled forever,
For its people’s hopes are dead!

Father Abram J. Ryan, Poet-Priest of the Confederacy

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2 Comments

  1. One of the great issues in theology is the interplay between freewill and the omnipotence of God. One of my favorite poets, Richard Hovey, saw the Hand of God in the events of American history in his poem Unmanifest Destiny (1898):

    To what new fates, my country, far

    And unforeseen of foe or friend,

    Beneath what unexpected star

    Compelled to what unchosen end.

    Across the sea that knows no beach,

    The Admiral of Nations guides

    Thy blind obedient keels to reach

    The harbor where thy future rides!

    The guns that spoke at Lexington

    Knew not that God was planning then

    The trumpet word of Jefferson

    To bugle forth the rights of men.

    To them that wept and cursed Bull Run,

    What was it but despair and shame?

    Who saw behind the cloud the sun?

    Who knew that God was in the flame?

    Had not defeat upon defeat,

    Disaster on disaster come,

    The slave’s emancipated feet

    Had never marched behind the drum.

    There is a Hand that bends our deeds

    To mightier issues than we planned;

    Each son that triumphs, each that bleeds,

    My country, serves It’s dark command.

    I do not know beneath what sky

    Nor on what seas shall be thy fate;

    I only know it shall he high,

    I only know it shall be great.

    Hovey was born in 1864 in Normal, Illinois, the son of Charles and Harriet Hovey. His father was one of the founders of Illinois State University in Normal, teaching the first classes and serving as President of the University from 1857-1861. Charles Hovey enlisted in the Union Army rising to the rank of Brigadier General of Volunteers with a brevet promotion to Major General.

    Richard Hovey had a brief life, dying after routine abdominal surgery in 1900 at the age of 35. At his death he was professor of English literature at Barnard College and a lecturer at Columbia. He left behind him numerous poems, plays and his unfinished magnum opus, a reworking of the Arthurian Legends in verse. He had completed five of a projected nine volumes at his untimely death. For graduates of Dartmouth, he is probably best remembered for providing the lyrics in 1885 for the school song, which he entitled Men of Dartmouth. Outside of Dartmouth Hovey is largely forgotten today, a victim both of his early death and changing literary fashions. However, I will always remember him fondly for his poem, set forth above, which brings to life elegantly the simple, and true phrase of Lincoln: The Almighty has His own purposes.

    I doubt if God is done with the United States of America yet.

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