Page images
PDF
EPUB

Each articulate sound produces a mental impression, and when the sound is repeated, the corresponding impression is repeated, and its impressiveness augmented. Alliteration also gives ease to the verse, as the repetition of similar sounds is easier for the vocal organs than the pronunciation of dissimilar ones.

The alliterating tendency of the Anglo-Saxon language has produced a very marked effect upon the English. Alliteration is constantly employed by our poets, and it is impossible to find any of the striking passages of poetical beauty in which this element is absent.

THE STORY OF LUTHER VAN HARMAN.
TOLD BY A GRANDFATHER IN 1920.

BY J. W.

"Come, grandpa, tell us a story."
“What, still another? my children.

Really so many I've told you,
You should be tired of hearing.
No? Well just so I expected.
'Only one more of my stories.'
Grandpa, you think, has a chest full,
So when I bend back the hinges,

Dive to the bottom to find it.

What sort of story will please you?
Tales of the witches and goblins,
Raw-head and bloody-bones battles-
Of the black spirit of murder,
Who carries a bell and a mirror,
Comes in the silence of sleep

To the man who has murdered another;

Rings the bell under his ear

And over his eyes holds the mirror;

So when the felon awakes

He sees in the image before him

Two horrid spectres of death

The murdered man and the demon

The terrible demon Corcidal,
Who binds in a horrible dungeon,
Together with Cain and with Judas,
The spirits of all who do murder.
Or shall I tell of the fairies,

The nymphs of the wonderful ocean,
Where lancus, for quarreling with Circe,
Was changed to a sea-monster scaly,
And all through the month of December
Is bound on the rocks by the Neriads,
While Halcyon lays eggs on the water.
Not satisfied yet? Ah, I see it.
You want to hear of the war times-
The old days of bloodshed and battle,
When all the wide land was distracted,
From Maine to the borders of Texas,
When a million of people were soldiers.
Oh, those were the days of trial
To the loyal men on the border.
For often across the Potomac,

When night was a cover for treason—
At Martinsburg fords or at Hancock-
The partizan hordes of Virginia
Would raid on their infamous errand
Of pillage and plunder and rapine,
Through the fir-covered Cumberland ranges,
Through Maryland's narrow dominion,
Into populous rich Pennsylvania.

My locks have grown gray with the winter
Of age, and the frosts of life's evening
Have wrinkled my face and my forehead.
Yet still I remember distinctly
The terrible scenes of my childhood.
And even now I can see them,
The parties of fear-stricken farmers
Who fled with their horses and cattle
To gloomy defiles of the mountains
Still hoping the rebel invaders
In passing would leave unmolested

The houses where women and children,
And men who were aged and feeble,
Were left alone and defenceless,
Still foolishly, vainly expecting

That the feudal and chivalric Southron,
Though a rebel, would spare non-combatants.
It occurred in the month of October.
Sixty-two was the year, I am thinking.
Yes, now I distinctly remember,
On a dark, rainy night in October,
That memorable night in October,
Was fought on the Maryland mountain
The skirmish of which I shall tell you.
In a place now deserted and lonely,
Some miles from the Southern border,
There then stood the town of Green Castle.
The mountains rose lofty about it,

Like sentinels watching above it,
And fair as the valleys of Canaan

Stretched out at their base lay the corn-fields.
'Twas here on a night in October,
That memorable night in October,

A messenger sprang from his courser,
Foam-covered and jaded by travel,

And cried to the crowd which had gathered,

Had gathered in haste at his coming:

"The rebels, the rebels are coming,

Five thousand have crossed the Potomac,

And Moseby's infernal guerillas

Are riding at haste to surprise you.

A fresh horse I need for my errand,

To rouse all the towns in the valley.
Thanks, thanks; be ye loyal and valiant.
God help us to stand by the Union!"
So saying, he vaulted the saddle

Of the horse which had quickly been brought him.

For a moment they saw him departing,

Heard the clatter of hoofs on the lime stone,

Then his form was lost in the darkness,

The tramp of his steed in the distance.

Then rose from the people assembled
A cry, like the cry of the Hebrews,
In the desert of Kadish Barnea,
When back from the land of the Jordan
The spies brought the terrible tidings-
"The Anakims also we saw there."
They all were confused and discordant,
Each planning, contending, objecting,
But all were in favor of fleeing-
Escaping with horses and cattle,
To save what they could from the robber,
Well judging it madness and folly
To hope for successful resistance,
A hundred men 'gainst a thousand.

Then out spake old Luther Van Harman,
The much esteemed smith of the village,
A German by birth, but as loyal
As any man in the nation-

"What mean ye by prating and gabbling,
Like geese or the frogs in the mill pond-
It is not by talking, but doing,
That we shall escape the disaster.

So let every man give attention,
To save from destruction and ruin

That thing which to each one is dearest.
All you who love wealth more than country,
Go halter your horses together,

Go gather the herd of your barn yards,
Go hide in some cave of the mountain,
Where, safe from the tempest of danger,
You may fatten, companions well chosen,
The swine and their owners together.
You men who have women and children,
See to it that they are protected,
The Lord has entrusted them to you.
To my heart there is nothing dearer
Than our glorious flag and its honor.
For it I have fought 'gainst the Britain,
Encountered the Mexican lances,

This, this is my last care of earth,
To my duty I will not be recreant.
My sons are all grown up to manhood,
My wife yonder lies in the church yard,
It would shame me to meet her in Heaven,
If here I had acted the coward.

Now, all who will aid me in fighting,

Come stand in the torch-light beside me."
For a moment the silence was breathless,

When the blacksmith had ceased from his speaking.
Then forth from the crowd of faint-hearted
Came only two who were willing

To go with the gallant old German
To barter their lives for their honor,
A handfull of men 'gainst an army.
They hastened away through the darkness,
Through the driving rain and the midnight,
Three freemen determined and stalwart,
Whose hearts were as firm and as trusty
As the steel of the daggers they carried.
There was in those days a straight by-path
Which led through the Maryland Mountain
(Perhaps it is still there, I know not).
On each side the cliffs towered steeply,
With scarcely a foothold or cranny.
The wheelway between them was narrow,
And much interrupted by gullies,
Washed through by the rains of the autumn.
The road was not used by the farmers,
Though the most direct to the southward,
But they with their well laden wagons,
Preferred a more circuitous journey,
With faster driving and better.

So the pass was neglected and weed-grown,
And now half choaked up by boulders,
Not more than two horsemen at most
Could ride abreast through the passage.
Toward this defile with all haste

Went Van Harman and his companions,

« PreviousContinue »