The Two Armies

By Henry Timrod 1828–1867 Henry Timrod
Two armies stand enrolled beneath
The banner with the starry wreath;
One, facing battle, blight and blast,
Through twice a hundred fields has passed;
Its deeds against a ruffian foe,
Steam, valley, hill, and mountain know,
Till every wind that sweeps the land
Goes, glory laden, from the strand.
 
The other, with a narrower scope,
Yet led by not less grand a hope,
Hath won, perhaps, as proud a place,
And wears its fame with meeker grace.
Wives march beneath its glittering sign,
Fond mothers swell the lovely line,
And many a sweetheart hides her blush
In the young patriot’s generous flush.
 
No breeze of battle ever fanned
The colors of that tender band;
Its office is beside the bed,
Where throbs some sick or wounded head.
It does not court the soldier’s tomb,
But plies the needle and the loom;
And, by a thousand peaceful deeds,
Supplies a struggling nation’s needs.
 
Nor is that army’s gentle might
Unfelt amid the deadly fight;
It nerves the son’s, the husband's hand,
It points the lover’s fearless brand;
It thrills the languid, warms the cold,
Gives even new courage to the bold;
And sometimes lifts the veriest clod
To its own lofty trust in God.
 
When Heaven shall blow the trump of peace,
And bid this weary warfare cease,
Their several missions nobly done,
The triumph grasped, and freedom won,
Both armies, from their toils at rest,
Alike may claim the victor’s crest,
But each shall see its dearest prize
Gleam softly from the other’s eyes.

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 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 Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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