Charleston

By Henry Timrod 1828–1867 Henry Timrod
Calm as that second summer which precedes
       The first fall of the snow,
In the broad sunlight of heroic deeds,
       The City bides the foe.
 
As yet, behind their ramparts stern and proud,
       Her bolted thunders sleep—
Dark Sumter, like a battlemented cloud,
       Looms o’er the solemn deep.
 
No Calpe frowns from lofty cliff or scar
       To guard the holy strand;
But Moultrie holds in leash her dogs of war
       Above the level sand.
 
And down the dunes a thousand guns lie couched,
       Unseen, beside the flood—
Like tigers in some Orient jungle crouched
        That wait and watch for blood.
 
Meanwhile, through streets still echoing with trade,
       Walk grave and thoughtful men,
Whose hands may one day wield the patriot’s blade
       As lightly as the pen.
 
And maidens, with such eyes as would grow dim
       Over a bleeding hound,
Seem each one to have caught the strength of him
       Whose sword she sadly bound.
 
Thus girt without and garrisoned at home,
       Day patient following day,
Old Charleston looks from roof, and spire, and dome,
       Across her tranquil bay.
 
Ships, through a hundred foes, from Saxon lands
       And spicy Indian ports,
Bring Saxon steel and iron to her hands,
       And summer to her courts.
 
But still, along you dim Atlantic line,
       The only hostile smoke
Creeps like a harmless mist above the brine,
       From some frail, floating oak.
 
Shall the spring dawn, and she still clad in smiles,
       And with an unscathed brow,
Rest in the strong arms of her palm-crowned isles,
       As fair and free as now?
 
We know not; in the temple of the Fates
       God has inscribed her doom;
And, all untroubled in her faith, she waits
       The triumph or the tomb.

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 Henry Timrod 1828–1867

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Quatrain, Rhymed Stanza

Biography

Since Henry Timrod's output before the Civil War was limited to verse sufficient only for a single volume—published in December 1859—his literary reputation at the time was modest. The political activities surrounding the formation of a new nation and the impact of the war itself aroused Timrod's poetic imagination, however, and he quickly became widely known as the literary spokesman and eventually as the so-called poet . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Quatrain, Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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