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.
 
Western States: Tennessee, the River
On the Shores of the Tennessee
Ethel Lynn Beers (1827–1879)
 
“MOVE my arm-chair, faithful Pompey,
  In the sunshine bright and strong,
For this world is fading, Pompey,—
  Massa won’t be with you long;
And I fain would hear the south-wind        5
  Bring once more the sound to me,
Of the wavelets softly breaking
  On the shores of Tennessee.
 
“Mournful though the ripples murmur,
  As they still the story tell,        10
How no vessels float the banner
  That I ’ve loved so long and well.
I shall listen to their music,
  Dreaming that again I see
Stars and Stripes on sloop and shallop        15
  Sailing up the Tennessee.
 
“And, Pompey, while old Massa ’s waiting
  For Death’s last despatch to come,
If that exiled, starry banner
  Should come proudly sailing home,        20
You shall greet it, slave no longer;—
  Voice and hand shall both be free
That shout and point to Union colors
  On the waves of Tennessee.”
 
“Massa ’s berry kind to Pompey;        25
  But ole darkey ’s happy here,
Where he ’s tended corn and cotton
  For ’ese many a long-gone year.
Over yonder Missis’ sleeping,—
  No one tends her grave like me;        30
Mebbie she would miss the flowers
  She used to love in Tennessee.
 
“’Pears like she was watching, Massa—
  If Pompey should beside him stay;
Mebbie she ’d remember better        35
  How for him she used to pray;
Telling him that way up yonder
  White as snow his soul would be,
If he served the Lord of Heaven
  While he lived in Tennessee.”        40
 
Silently the tears were rolling
  Down the poor old dusky face,
As he stepped behind his master,
  In his long-accustomed place.
Then a silence fell around them,        45
  As they gazed on rock and tree
Pictured in the placid waters
  Of the rolling Tennessee;
 
Master, dreaming of the battle
  Where he fought by Marion’s side,        50
When he bid the haughty Tarleton
  Stoop his lordly crest of pride;
Man, remembering how yon sleeper
  Once he held upon his knee,
Ere she loved the gallant soldier,        55
  Ralph Vervair of Tennessee.
 
Still the south-wind fondly lingers
  Mid the veteran’s silver hair;
Still the bondman close beside him
  Stands behind the old arm-chair.        60
With his dark-hued hand uplifted,
  Shading eyes, he bends to see
Where the woodland, boldly jutting,
  Turns aside the Tennessee.
 
Thus he watches cloud-born shadows        65
  Glide from tree to mountain crest,
Softly creeping, aye and ever
  To the river’s yielding breast.
Ha! above the foliage yonder
  Something flutters wild and free!        70
“Massa! Massa! Hallelujah!
  The flag ’s come back to Tennessee!”
 
“Pompey, hold me on your shoulder,
  Help me stand on foot once more,
That I may salute the colors        75
  As they pass my cabin door;
Here ’s the paper signed that frees you,
  Give a freeman’s shout with me,—
‘God and Union!’ be our watchword
  Evermore in Tennessee.”        80
 
Then the trembling voice grew fainter,
  And the limbs refused to stand;
One prayer to Jesus,—and the soldier
  Glided to that better land.
When the flag went down the river        85
  Man and master both were free,
While the ringdove’s note was mingled
  With the rippling Tennessee.
 
 
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