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On a Natural Monument


In a field of Georgia*


No trophy this--a Stone unhewn,
  And stands where here the field immures
The nameless brave whose palms are won.
Outcast they sleep; yet fame is nigh--
  Pure fame of deeds, not doers;
Nor deeds of men who bleeding die
  In cheer of hymns that round them float:
In happy dreams such close the eye.
But withering famine slowly wore,
  And slowly fell disease did gloat.
Even Nature's self did aid deny;
They choked in horror the pensive sigh.
  Yea, off from home sad Memory bore
(Though anguished Yearning heaved that way),
Lest wreck of reason might befall.
  As men in gales shun the lee shore,
Though there the homestead be, and call,
And thitherward winds and waters sway--
As such lorn mariners, so fared they.
But naught shall now their peace molest.
  Their fame is this: they did endure--
Endure, when fortitude was vain
To kindle any approving strain
Which they might hear. To these who rest,
  This healing sleep alone was sure.


* Written prior to the founding of the National Cemetery at Andersonville, where 15,000 of the reinterred captives now sleep, each beneath his personal head-board, inscribed from records found in the prison-hospital. Some hundreds rest apart and without name. A glance at the published pamphlet containing the list of the buried at Andersonville conveys a feeling mournfully impressive. Seventy-four large double-columned page in fine print. Looking through them is like getting lost among the old turbaned head-stones and cypresses in the interminable Black Forest of Scutari, over against Constantinople.


Herman Melville