To The South


O subtle, musky, slumbrous clime!
O swart, hot land of pine and palm,
Of fig, peach, guava, orange, lime,
And terebinth and tropic balm!
Land where our Washington was born,
When truth in hearts of gold was worn;
Mother of Marion, Moultrie, Lee,
Widow of fallen chivalry!
No longer sadly look behind,
But turn and face the morning wind,
And feel sweet comfort in the thought:
‘With each fierce battle’s sacrifice
I sold the wrong at awful price,
And bought the good; but knew it not.’

Cheer up! Reach out! Breathe in new life!
Brood not on unsuccessful strife
Against the current of the age;
The Highest is thy heritage!
Leave off this death’s-head scowl at Fate,
And into thy true heart sink this:
‘God loves to walk where Freedom is!’

There is no sweet in dregs and lees;
There is no fruit on girdled trees.
Plant new vineyards, sow new fields,
For bread and wine the Future yields;
Out of free soil fresh spathes shall start;
Now is the budding-time of Art!

But hark! O hear! My senses reel!
Some grand presentiment I feel!
A voice of love, bouquet of truth,
The quick sound of the feet of youth!

Lo! from the war-cloud, dull and dense,
Loyal and chaste and brave and strong,
Comes forth the South with frankincense,
And vital freshness in her song.
The weight is fallen from her wings;
To find a purer air she springs
Out of the Night into the Morn,
Fair as cotton, sound as corn.

Hold! Shall a Northman, fierce and grim,
With hoary beard and boreal vim,
Thus fling, from some bleak waste of ice,
Frost-crystals of unsought advice
To those who dwell by Coosa’s stream,
Or on dark hummocks plant the cane
Beside the lovely Pontchartrain,
Or in gay sail-boats drift and dream
Where Caribbean breezes stray
On Pensacola’s drowsy bay?

Not so! I am a Southerner;
I love the South; I dared for her
To fight from Lookout to the sea,
With her proud banner over me:
But from my lips thanksgiving broke,
As God in battle thunder spoke,
And that Black Idol, breeding drouth
And dearth of human sympathy
Throughout the sweet and sensuous South,
Was, with its chains and human yoke,
Blown hellward from the cannon’s mouth,
While Freedom cheered behind the smoke!

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