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Music in Camp - a poem by John Thompson

Music in Camp
by John Thompson

Two armies covered hill and plain 
Where Rappahannock's waters 
Ran deeply crimsoned with the stain 
Of battle's recent slaughters. 

The summer clouds lay pitched like tents 
In meads of heavenly azure; 
And each dread gun of the elements 
Slept in its hid embrasure. 

The breeze so softly blew, it made 
No forest leaf to quiver, 
And the smoke of the random cannonade 
Rolled slowly from the river. 

And now where circling hills looked down 
With cannon grimly planted, 
O'er listless camp and silent town 
The golden sunset slanted; 

When on the fervid air there came 
A strain, now rich, now tender, 
The music seemed itself aflame 
With day's departing splendor. 

A Federal band, which eve and morn 
Played measures brave and nimble, 
Had just struck up with flute and horn 
And lively clash of cymbal. 

Down flocked the soldiers to the bank; 
Till margined by its pebbles, 
One wooded shore was blue with "Yanks," 
And one was gray with "Rebels." 

Then all was still; and then the band 
With movements light and tricksy, 
Made stream and forest, hill and strand, 
Reverberate with "Dixie." 

The conscious stream, with burnished glow, 
Went proudly o'er its pebbles, 
But thrilled throughout its deepest flow 
With yelling of the Rebels. 

Again a pause, and then again 
The trumpet pealed sonorous, 
And Yankee Doodle was the strain 
To which the shore gave chorus. 

The laughing ripple shoreward flew 
To kiss the shining pebbles
Loud shrieked the crowding Boys in Blue 
Defiance to the Rebels. 

And yet once more the bugle sang 
Above the stormy riot; 
No shout upon the evening rang 
There reigned a holy quiet. 

The sad, lone stream its noiseless tread 
Spread o'er the glistening pebbles: 
All silent now the Yankees stood; 
All silent stood the Rebels: 

For each responsive soul had heard 
That plaintive note's appealing, 
So deeply "Home, Sweet Home" had stirred 
The hidden founts of feeling. 

Or blue or gray, the soldier sees, 
As by the wand of fairy, 
The cottage neath the live-oak trees, 
The cottage by the prairie. 

Or cold or warm, his native skies 
Bend in their beauty o'er him: 
Sending the tear-mist in his eyes 
The dear ones stand before him. 

As fades the iris after rain 
In April's tearful weather, 
The vision vanished as the strain 
And daylight died together. 

But memory, waked by music's art 
Expressed in simplest numbers, 
Subdued the sternest Yankee's heart, 
Made light the Rebel's slumbers. 

And fair the form of Music shines, 
That bright, celestial creature, 
Who still 'mid war's embattled lines 
Gave this one touch of nature. 

Music in Camp
by John Thompson

Music in Camp - a poem by John Thompson

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