Sheridan at Cedar Creek

By Herman Melville 1819–1891 Herman Melville

(October, 1864)

Shoe the steed with silver
     That bore him to the fray,
When he heard the guns at dawning—
               Miles away;
When he heard them calling, calling—
          Mount! nor stay:
               Quick, or all is lost;
               They’ve surprised and stormed the post,
               They push your routed host—
     Gallop! retrieve the day!
House the horse in ermine—
     For the foam-flake blew
White through the red October;
     He thundered into view;
They cheered him in the looming;
     Horseman and horse they knew.
               The turn of the tide began,
               The rally of bugles ran,
               He swung his hat in the van;
     The electric hoof-spark flew.
Wreathe the steed and lead him—
     For the charge he led
Touched and turned the cypress
     Into amaranths for the head
Of Philip, king of riders,
     Who raised them from the dead.
               The camp (at dawning lost)
               By eve recovered—forced,
               Rang with laughter of the host
      At belated Early fled.
Shroud the horse in sable—
     For the mounds they heap!
There is firing in the Valley,
     And yet no strife they keep;
It is the parting volley,
     It is the pathos deep.
               There is glory for the brave
               Who lead, and nobly save,
               But no knowledge in the grave
     Where the nameless followers sleep.

Source: “Words for the Hour”: A New Anthology of American Civil War Poetry, edited by Faith Barrett and Cristanne Miller (University of Massachusetts Press, 2005)

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Poet Herman Melville 1819–1891

Subjects Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Herman  Melville


Although chiefly known for his magisterial novel Moby-Dick and for other prose works, Herman Melville was also a fascinating poet who turned to the art after his serious fiction failed to find appreciative readers. His eccentric verse displays the complexity of thought and verbal richness of his novels, which has led some critics to rank him just below Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson among 19th-century American poets.

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SUBJECT Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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