Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > America
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX.  1876–79.
 
Middle States: Monmouth, N. J.
The Spur of Monmouth
Henry Morford (1823–1881)
 
’T WAS a little brass half-circlet,
  Deep gnawed by rust and stain,
That the farmer’s urchin brought me,
  Ploughed up in old Monmouth’s plain;
On that spot where the hot June sunshine        5
  Once a fire more deadly knew,
And a bloodier color reddened
  Where the red June roses blew;—
 
Where the moon of the early harvest
  Looked down through the shimmering leaves,        10
And saw where the reaper of battle
  Had gathered his human sheaves:
Old Monmouth, so touched with glory,
  So tinted with burning shame,
As Washington’s pride we remember,        15
  Or Lee’s long-tarnished name.
 
’T was a little brass half-circlet;
  And knocking the rust away,
And clearing the ends and the middle
  From their burial-shroud of clay,        20
I saw, through the damp of ages,
  And the thick, disfiguring grime,
The buckle-heads and the rowel
  Of a spur of the olden time.
 
And I said, “What gallant horseman,        25
  Who revels and rides no more,
Perhaps twenty years back, or fifty,
  On his heel that weapon wore?
Was he riding away to his bridal,
  When the leather snapped in twain?        30
Was he thrown, and dragged by the stirrup,
  With the rough stones crushing his brain?”
 
Then I thought of the Revolution,
  Whose tide still onward rolls;
Of the free and the fearless riders,        35
  Of the “times that tried men’s souls.”
What if, in the day of battle
  That raged and rioted here,
It had dropped from the foot of a soldier,
  As he rode in his mad career?        40
 
What if it had ridden with Forman,
  When he leaped through the open door,
With the British dragoon behind him,
  In his race o’er the granary-floor?
What if—but the brain grows dizzy        45
  With the thoughts of the rusted spur—
What if it had fled with Clinton,
  Or charged with Aaron Burr?
 
But bravely the farmer’s urchin
  Had been scraping the rust away;        50
And, cleaned from the soil that swathed it,
  The spur before me lay.
Here are holes in the outer circle;
  No common heel it has known,
For each space, I see by the setting,        55
  Once held some precious stone.
 
And here, not far from the buckle—
  Do my eyes deceive their sight?—
Two letters are here engraven,
  That initial a hero’s might!—        60
“G. W.!” Saints of heaven!—
  Can such things in our lives occur?
Do I grasp such a priceless treasure?
  Was this George Washington’s spur?
 
Did the brave old Pater Patriæ        65
  Wear that spur, like a belted knight,—
Wear it, through gain and disaster,
  From Cambridge to Monmouth fight?
Did it press his steed in hot anger
  On Long Island’s day of pain?        70
Did it drive him at terrible Princeton
  ’Tween two streams of leaden rain?
 
And here did the buckles loosen,
  And no eye look down to see,
When he rode to blast with the lightning        75
  The defiant eyes of Lee?
Did it fall, unfelt and unheeded,
  When that fight of despair was won,
And Clinton, worn and discouraged,
  Crept away at the set of the sun?        80
 
The lips have long been silent
  That could send an answer back;
And the spur, all broken and rusted,
  Has it forgotten its rider’s track?
I only know that the pulses        85
  Leap hot, and the senses reel,
When I think that the Spur of Monmouth
  May have clasped George Washington’s heel!
 
 
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