Herman Melville

(1 August 1819 – 28 September 1891 / New York City, New York)

The Released Rebel Prisoner - Poem by Herman Melville

June, 1865

Armies he's seen--the herds of war,
But never such swarms of men
As now in the Nineveh of the North--
How mad the Rebellion then!

And yet but dimly he divines
The depth of that deceit,
And superstitution of vast pride
Humbled to such defeat.

Seductive shone the Chiefs in arms--
His steel the nearest magnet drew;
Wreathed with its kind, the Gulf-weed drives--
'Tis Nature's wrong they rue.

His face is hidden in his beard,
But his heart peers out at eye--
And such a heart! like a mountain-pool
Where no man passes by.

He thinks of Hill--a brave soul gone;
And Ashby dead in pale disdain;
And Stuart with the Rupert-plume,
Whose blue eye never shall laugh again.

He hears the drum; he sees our boys
From his wasted fields return;
Ladies feast them on strawberries,
And even to kiss them yearn.

He marks them bronzed, in soldier-trim,
The rifle proudly borne;
They bear it for an heirloom home,
And he--disarmed--jail-worn.

Home, home--his heart is full of it;
But home he never shall see,
Even should he stand upon the spot:
'Tis gone!--where his brothers be.

The cypress-moss from tree to tree
Hangs in his Southern land;
As weird, from thought to thought of his
Run memories hand in hand.

And so he lingers--lingers on
In the City of the Foe--
His cousins and his countrymen
Who see him listless go.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, April 19, 2010

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