Image from the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture
DISSOLUTION OF THE UNION.
BY ALBERT PIKE.
Some twenty or thirty years ago one of the most popular of the young poets of America, was Albert Pike of Arkansas. The grace and vigor of his pen, the elegance of his scholarship, and the elevated tone of his thought, gave the brightest promise of an illustrious future. — His patriotism in political life was equally conspicuous, and abundant wealth gave him means to pursue the career of an honorable ambition unfettered. But, unfortunately, a great portion of his wealth was in human chattels, and he was surrounded by, and associated with, men upon whom slave society had produced its usual soul deadening effects. A quarter of a century has passed, and the year 1862 found the same Albert Pike, who commenced his career as the rival of Longfellow, of Holmes and Halleck, a traitor to his country, and leading a horde of Indian savages to massacre, scalp and torture his countrymen.
These remembrances are suggested to us by the following verses, by Mr. Pike, which we find in “The Ladies’ Companion” for 1838, although they were written some years earlier, at the time of the nullification and threatened rebellion of South Carolina. The lines are almost prophetic, and it should seem that to read them to-day ought to make their author throw down his traitorous sword and go out and hang himself.
Down with the stars and stripes from out the sky!
Off with your banner from the bounding deep!
Chain up your eagle from his flight on high!
Bid him no more along the ocean sweep —
Scream to the wind — turn to the sun his eye!
Ay, down with Freedom from her rampart steep,
From promontory tall, and prairie wide,
Where she hath been, till now, so defied!
Listen, how Europe rings from land to land,
With jeer and laugh and bitter, biting scorn!
Lo, kings sit smiling, while the red right hand
Of Treason waves above a country, torn
With strife and tumult — and their armies stand
Ready to darken our yet breaking morn,
Lending their aid to this unhallowed strife,
So lately sprung of Terror into life.
Look on the future with prophetic eye!
Lo, on your plain are armies gathering,
As mist collecting when the storm is nigh —
And such a storm! Along the hill-sides cling
The light-horse — and the swift, patroling spy
Hoevers in front, like birds with restless wing —
While here, the rifleman moves sure, but swift;
And there, the musketeers, unbroken, drift.
The battle! Listen to the musketry!
While ever and anon, amid the roll,
Cries out the cannon! Lo, the cavalry,
Careering down like storms that seek their goal!
And now, as sea doth fiercely dash with sea,
The stern battalions charge, as with one soul —
And now, like seas that break in spray and rain,
The broken bands go floating back again!
The fight is o’er! and here lies many a one,
With bosom crushed by hoof or heavier train,
The hoary head lies glittering in the sun,
Pillowed upon the charger’s misty mane —
And just anear, with hair like moon light spun,
A delicate boy is fallen. Lo, the stain
Of blood around his nostril and his lip,
While just below his heart the gore doth drip.
The banner of your State is laid full low —
Rebellion seems approaching to its end —
And lonely shapes among the carnage go,
Peering into dead eyes with downward bend —
For men are seeking ‘mid the fallen foe,
A son, brother, or, at least a friend —
And ever and anon upon the air,
Rises the piercing wail of wild despair.
Where are you leaders? Where are they who led
Yours souls into this perilous abyss?
The bravest and the best are lying dead,
Shrouded in treason and dark perjuries;
The most of them have basely from ye fled,
Followed by scorn’s unending, general hiss.
Fled into lands that Liberty disowns,
And crouched within the shadow of tall thrones.
Ah, here they come — and with them many a band
Of hireling serfs, sent out by your liege lord
And good ally, the autocrat most grand,
Or august Emperor; he lends this horde,
To bend your brethren unto your command,
And you to his; Now draw again the sword!
Onward! ‘Tis God’s anointe I now that leads —
And he that dieth, for the Emperor bleeds!
And this! oh, God, is this to be our fate?
Disgraced, degraded, humbled and abased —
Sunken forever from our high estate —
To wander over Tyranny’s dark waste,
To crouch like slaves around a Despot’s gate —
Bend at his nod, and at his mandate haste?
Oh, Thou who hast thus far Thy aidance lent,
Avert the doom — Spirit omnipotent!
Turn then! before the final seal be set
To your apostacy — before the flood
Is wakened by your murmur and your fret,
And whelms you in its mighty solitude!
Turn to your duty, ere your land be wet
By the pollution of a brother’s blood —
Ere the avenging angel spread his wing,
And where its shadow falls herb never spring.
Oh, turn! that when some day men make your grave,
They say not, as they pile the parting sod,
“Here lies a traitor!” or, “here lies a slave!”
Turn! lest, henceforth, old men above it nod,
And warn their child to be no traitor knave,
To reverence their country and their God,
And never to deserve so foul a doom,
As that which men have written on your tomb.
Say! are you never troubled in your dreams,
With spirits rising from your fathers’ tombs,
And in the darkness of the moon’s thin gleams,
Warning you all of those eternal dooms,
Which haunt the traitor like devouring beams,
Until his heart is withered or consumes? —
Oh, these must haunt you — these more noble ones —
These heroes, who were Liberty’s best sons!
Had I a sire, who thus from death could rise,
Point to his wounds, and say, with these I bought
That freedom which you now so much despise —
With these I sealed the compact you have sought
To break and mar — Oh, I would close my eyes,
For shame, that I to shame had thus been wrought —
Yea — heap up dust and ashes on my head,
As knave corrupt, or idiot misled.
The Berkshire County Eagle (Pittsfield, Massachusetts) May 7, 1863