Scholarly Editing

The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing

2013, Volume 34

"Will not these days be by thy poets sung": Poems of the Anglo-African and National Anti-Slavery Standard, 1863–1864

Edited by Elizabeth Lorang and R. J. Weir
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Complete Issue: National Anti-Slavery Standard (13 June 1863)
Mary Clemmer Ames, "Our Volunteer" National Anti-Slavery Standard (13 June 1863): [4]View Poem Image
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OUR VOLUNTEER.

We gather round the twilight hearth, Beneath the evening's pallid flame, And softening every sound of mirth, We murmur the beloved name.
We try to still the voice of care, And cheerily say: "One year to-day The dulcet drum, and bugle blare, Allured our darling far away."
And stifling back the crowding tear, We murmur, while our prayers ascend: "Our Father's saved the boy a year; He'll surely save him to the end."
His grand dog smoothes sad, drooping ears Along my hand in mute regret; His wistful eyes half read my fears: "Old boy!" you miss your master yet?
The ringing voice, the eye of fire, The lithe young form, the step of pride, That once made all your heart's desire? Old pet, they're sunder'd from you wide.
Your gay bark in the hunt is hushed— A dearer meaning now you take, As everything his hand has touched Is cherished sacred for his sake.
Ah, does he think of home to-night, And how we sit and talk of him, Repeat his words with fond delight, With voices low, and eye-lids dim?
We wonder when, with faces white, Must be the next terrific fray; And if the march began last night, And where our army is to-day.
We listen to a dear young voice Sing words of love to music wed; So mournful, we may not rejoice; He loved that song in summers fled.
It says: "O, take me home to die!"[1] What tender pain its rhythms yield; Not thus, not thus, O Lord, we cry, Send back our boy from war's red field!
O, leave us not lest we repine, If this the "glory" Thou shalt mete; To die for Truth makes death divine, To die for Country, it is sweet!
We love Thee, 'neath the heavy rod; We trust Thee, in the nation's night; Our only help and hope is God, That Thou at last will crown the right.
The paradise of spring-time hours He loved. In all her azure space, Mid all the Summer pomp of flowers, We'll yearn in vain to see his face.
In wasting march, in bloody fight, All, all in love, yet half in fear, We pray from morning until night, That God will save Our Volunteer.
Springfield Republican.[3]

Notes

  1. This line appears in Isaac Baker Woodbury's "Take Me Home to Die, or, The Last Request," a popular song that circulated before and during the war. A host of Civil War songs echoed similar sentiments.Go back
  2. Born in New York, Mary Clemmer (1831?–1884) moved with her family to Massachusetts in 1847. She attended Westfield Academy before her family's state of financial crisis pushed her into an early marriage with the Reverend Daniel Ames. "All that was spiritually right in this relation, called a marriage," an early biographer wrote, "was its final legal annulment" ("Miss Whiting," quoted by Edmund Hudson, An American Woman's Life and Work: A Memorial of Mary Clemmer [Boston: Ticknor, 1886], 42). In the 1850s her husband moved several times from state to state. Clemmer lived for a period in New York, and began to contribute letters to the Utica Morning Herald and Samuel Bowles's Springfield Republican—probably with a view to securing financial independence. During the same period, her friendship with celebrated poet sisters Alice and Phoebe Cary allowed her to develop a network of literary associations.
     
    Before the outbreak of war, Clemmer joined Ames in Harpers Ferry, Virginia, where he was working as a government storekeeper. She was still there when Confederates captured the town in 1862. After a brief spell as a prisoner of war, she turned to nursing and writing in Washington, DC. Her first novel, Victoire, was published in 1864. The following year, she separated from Ames (they would divorce in 1874). The New York Independent published the first of Clemmer's famous Washington letters in March 1866; in the same year, she was able to "[undertake] the entire support of herself and her father and mother" (43). Clemmer's letters concentrated on political news and social issues instead of "society" comings and goings. Her column lasted for more than twenty years.
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  3. Samuel Bowles, III (1826–1878) founded the Daily Republican in 1844, having worked with his father on the Weekly Republican (est. 1824). Antislavery Whig Bowles opposed disunion and the extension of slavery, but he had little sympathy with Garrisonian abolitionists or their concept of a "higher law." Provoked by the Kansas-Nebraska Act, however, he attacked the Fugitive Slave Law and called for slavery's opponents to form a political union (George S. Merriam, Life and Times of Samuel Bowles [New York: The Century Co., 1885], 1:121). Bowles threw his support behind the Republican Party. His paper "not only upheld without faltering the Union and the war; it supported with equal steadiness the government of President Lincoln" (349). By 1860, the Daily Republican had a circulation of 5,700 (179).Go back