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
page 1 page 2 page 3 page 4
Complete Issue: National Anti-Slavery Standard (14 November 1863)
Frances D. Gage, "Autumn Days in South Carolina" National Anti-Slavery Standard (14 November 1863): [4]View Poem Image
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FOR THE ANTI SLAVERY STANDARD.[1]

AUTUMN DAYS IN SOUTH CAROLINA.

     

DEDICATED TO MISS CLARA BARTON, THE HEROINE OF THE
POTOMAC.[2]

      The melancholy days have come, the saddest of the year.—Bryant.[3]      
The cool autumnal days have come, the brightest of the
     year;
They bring no gloom to Southern lands, no frost to blight
     and sear.
The fierce, hot suns of Summer days, with all their train of
     ills,
Are past, and still the mocking-bird its wildest carol trills.
The live-oak wears its brightest green within its veil of
     gray;
The wren and sparrow flit and sing as merry as 'twere
     May;
The acorn's fall, like pattering rain, through all the hours,
     keeps time
To twittering loves, and lulls the ear like some old mystic
     rhyme.
Down in the vale the laborer sings, "O, Lord! remember
     me,"*
While gathering in the precious crop, like white foams of
     the sea;
Upon its snowy heaps are found no blood-stains, black and
     grim;
The dark hand labors cheerily—God has remembered him.
The roses of the May put forth their beauty as 'twere
     Spring;
The hollies, from their garnered stores, fresh scarlet
     drapery bring;
The golden Mayflower o'er the sands spreads out its mantle
     bright,
And feathery grasses nod their joy where curlews wing
     their flight.
The orioles fly the frosty North, and in the Yupon rest; Unmindful of October winds, they fearless build their nest While from the broad magnolia's stem the blue-jay plucks
     the seed,
And cries discordant thanks to Him who answers thus his
     need.
The timid rabbit from the hedge springs out, without a
     dread;
The sportsman hears no rustling leaves, to tell him of its
     tread;
The soft winds sigh among the pines, and whisper in the
     dells,
And woo to life with gentlest touch the heather's purple
     bells.
Upon the leaves the pure dew falls, the grass springs 'neath
     the feet,
And from October's kissing suns the orange gathers sweet; The wild bigonia blooms afresh, while free hands break
     the corn,
And song and laughter close the day, where Ceres fills her
     horn.[4]
The waves come dancing to the shore, like maidens in their
     glee,
And play upon the whitened sand their sweetest minstrelsy. Oh, sunny South! where Winter days are bright as North-
     ern
June,
Where Nature touches golden harps, through all the year
     in tune!
'Tis sad to think that war should spread its pall o'er all thy
     lands,
And the sweet flowers thy Winter brings be plucked by
     bloody hands;
That birds should hush their cheery notes, scared by the
     cannon's roar,
Death-freighted, carrying sounds of woe to every island
     shore.
Oh, sunny South, so long accursed with slavery's cruel ruth, Is this the winter of thy years? Will war renew thy youth? And when its withering days are past, and treason's work
     is done,
And every slave a freeman stands to shout a victory won;
Oh sunny South! will not these days be by thy poets sung, And thousand harps to sing thy praise in numbers sweet
     be strung?
And thou shalt teach us of that land, through all life's care-
     worn hours,
Where we shall meet the loved and lost among perpetual
     flowers;
Where wrong no more shall wring the cry of agony and
     fear
From hearts oppressed, but truth and love make Spring
     through all the year.
      *A favorite song of the negroes.[6]

Notes

  1. "Autumn Days in South Carolina" also appeared in the November 14, 1863 issue of the Anglo-African. The Anglo-African printing is virtually identical to the Standard text. The Anglo-African printing omits a semi-colon at the end of line 18, following "nest," and drops the "r" of "their" in line 29.Go back
  2. Clara Barton (1821–1912) pioneered the provision of emergency relief at the front during the Civil War. Working without an organizational affiliation, she began to take urgently needed supplies forward to the Army of the Potomac in the winter of 1861–62. Later in 1862, she assisted casualties and medics under fire. In early April 1863, Barton set out for Hilton Head, South Carolina, ostensibly accompanying her quartermaster brother, David. Senator Henry Wilson, an influential supporter of Barton's activities, had secured the post for David so that Barton herself could pursue her own relief work (Elizabeth Brown Pryor, Clara Barton: Professional Angel [Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987], 110–11). During her months on the Sea Islands, she became great friends with reformer Frances Dana Gage. Barton's biographer Elizabeth Pryor argues that Gage's influence on Clara is "impossible to overestimate"; her views on race and gender equality evolved as a result of her friendship, and "she began to view herself as an active proponent of woman suffrage" (120–21). Barton provided relief to troops on Morris Island in the summer of 1863, but General Quincy A. Gillmore dismissed her from the field in September; after a difficult autumn of anxiety and inaction, she left Hilton Head on December 31. Later in life, Barton played a crucial part in establishing the American National Red Cross.Go back
  3. William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878), acclaimed poet and editor-in-chief of the New York Evening Post. Gage takes her epigraph from Bryant's poem "The Death of the Flowers," written after the death of Bryant's sister.Go back
  4. Gage represents the Roman goddess of grain, harvests, and agriculture with a cornucopia or "horn of plenty."Go back
  5. By the time the war began, Ohioan Frances Dana Barker Gage (1808–1884) had established herself as a leading advocate of women's rights and abolition, in the reform press and on the platform. A laudatory biographical sketch in Eminent Women of the Age (1868) describes how she found time "to read, and write for leading journals, and often to speak, too, on temperance, slavery, and woman's rights" while raising a family of eight ([Elizabeth Cady Stanton], "Frances D. Gage," in Eminent Women of the Age; Being Narratives of the Lives and Deeds of the Most Prominent Women of the Present Generation, by James Parton, et al. [Hartford, CT: Betts, 1868], 383). Gage contributed to journals such as the Ladies' Repository, the Ohio Cultivator, the Lily: A Monthly Journal Devoted to Temperance and Literature, the Saturday Visitor, and the National Anti-Slavery Standard—a mixture of titles linked by her reform agendas and regional affiliations. In the early 1850s Gage also presided over a number of statewide and national women's rights conventions, including the Akron convention of 1851, where Sojourner Truth challenged the patriarchy and delegates' racial prejudices. Gage's recollections of Truth's speech were published in the Standard halfway through the war (National Anti-Slavery Standard, May 2, 1863, [4]).
     
    In 1862 Gage and her daughter Mary joined the Northern mission to educate the freedpeople and prove the moral and economic superiority of free labor on South Carolina's Sea Islands. Gage stayed on Parris Island for over a year, without an official title or salary, as "supervisor" to approximately 500 freedmen, women, and children. During this period, she supplied the New York Independent and the National Anti-Slavery Standard with "South Carolina correspondence." She returned to the North in the winter of 1863 and embarked on a lecture tour to raise relief funds. A week before the National Anti-Slavery Standard published "Autumn Days in South Carolina," the editor urged lyceum organizers to book Gage. "Her usual topic will be 'Home Life among the Freedmen,' and we assure the lecture managers that from the stores of her experience and observation she will present matter of deep interest and importance" (National Anti-Slavery Standard, November 7, 1863, [2]). In as much as it contributed to Gage's public profile, the poem functioned as an advertisement. Gage continued her war work as "an unsalaried agent of the Sanitary Commission" in Memphis, Vicksburg, and Natchez ([Stanton], "Frances D. Gage," 384–85).
    Go back
  6. In an article on the Port Royal experiment, H. G. Spaulding offers words and music for the chorus of this song or a variant. See "Under the Palmetto," Continental Monthly 4 (1863): 188–204.Go back