Stars & Stripes: SCENES 15-17

SCENE 15: Virginia

Moses, a northern gentleman, is visiting an old student friend, Alexander, in the south. They are touring a plantation with another southern gentleman called Julius

Alexander
Welcome to my Lake Prasias, & I
Am Alexander, master of my mine,
Only a thousand acres of good land,
About a manor-house, situated fine,
A hundred negroes, & a spritely band
Of friends to pass time by
With a large lib’ry all I’ll ever need –
Down here slavery’s indispensable,
I find your ways incomprehensible,
My friend, we think it better to secede.

Julius
Aye, look at how the Cuffees smile & wave
Whenever we ride by them; ‘Nigger Jones
& Nigger Solomon, a fine morning
To y’all…’ Moses, the North’s propp’d up by loans
But all we hope for here, every dawning
Is work, freeman & slave;
Easy it seems to criticize our ways,
But this is how it works down here, & work
It definitely does, for who dare shirk
Beneath the sphinx that is their master’s gaze.

Moses
I beg your understanding my brothers,
But traveling the South my soul is strain’d
You say these men contented with their lot
But how can one seize change when one is chain’d?
I’m seeing, it seems, a Gordian Knot –
Me & worried mothers
Who fear the woeful sword-arm words of War,
Fearing betrayal of Christian feelings
Are hoping Senatorial dealings
All natural equalities restore.

Alexander
That may be what they’re thinkin’ with the frosts,
But struggle Blacks up there for rooves & food,
While here, in these Christian plantations,
The spirit from the savage is unglued,
Allowing its moral elevations;
Shining, living ripostes
To the sneerings of your superiors,
Unfortunately heavily misled,
A negro’s happy working & well fed,
Befitting intellect’s inferiors!

Moses
Alex, your peculiar institution,
I never can praise, if it does persist,
A fight there’ll be ’til slavery is drain’d
Of all its force (those lips they must be kiss’d,
Those peachy cheeks vermillion ingrain’d
My soul’s absolution!);
Brothers, who’s that fascinating slave-girl
With eyes of leaping deer? (Luminous rich
In me I feel that rampant red-hot itch
To see her hair’s long gloss without a curl!)

Spirit
‘Neath celestial gaze was Moses bent,
Begs his host to take home Evelina,
Of course this was refus’d in jiffin flash,
But when the man that all the world dost comb
Then soulmate finds, they’ll rabid be, & rash,
That night to her he went –
The door is open, the master away,
As Samson from his Gazan whore departs
At midnight, & the waiting trap outsmarts,
Let liberty flee from the barns today!

They eloped all night, Northerner & Slave,
He lustful, she sensing ends of despair,
Whose crime was race, her perfect facial hue,
To some a blatant shade more dark than fair,
As thro’ the swamps a fugitive she flew,
Down pathways wild & brave
Into the rugged space that loves the soul
They fled by night, by day they doss like mice,
With free & onward impulse flight did roll
Towards the Big North Star that leads to Paradise.

She steps into a blaze of sight & sound,
Bearded bounty hunters crawl every kerb,
New Bedford’s abolitionist stronghold
The machinations of the South perturb,
Whose graduates no longer can be sold,
Stood on this holy ground,
Diplomas etch-scarr’d in their very backs –
Just an hour since stepping off the carriage
A lady & her rescuer seal marriage
With sterile kiss, for now, til daylight starr’d.

They woke up lovers in a handsome bed,
He drew the flaxen curtains back, & wide,
Celebrating thrice, they’d outwitted
The South, will all its puerile poison pride;
& now them married, she manumitted,
So many tears were shed
Last night as she made love to him & love
It was, tho’ less desire & more to please
A ‘friend’ who’d saved her life… soft summer’s breeze
Indrifts thro’ large bay windows, from above.

DEAR EVELINA

Moses
Way down in the meadow where the lily first blows,
Where the wind from the mountains ne’er ruffles the rose;
Lives fond Evelina, the sweet little dove,
The pride of the valley, the girl that I love.
Dear Evelina, sweet Evelina,
My love for thee shall never, never die.
Dear Evelina, sweet Evelina,
My love for thee shall, never, never die.

She’s soft as a rose, like a lamb she is meek,
And she never was known to put paint on her cheek;
In the most graceful curls hangs her raven black hair,
And she never requires perfumery there.
Dear Evelina, sweet Evelina,
My love for thee shall never, never die.
Dear Evelina, sweet Evelina,
My love for thee shall, never, never die.

Evelina and I, one fine evening in June,
Took a walk all alone by the light of the moon.
The planets all shone, for the heavens were clear,
And I felt round the heart most tremendously queer.
Dear Evelina, sweet Evelina,
My love for thee shall never, never die.
Dear Evelina, sweet Evelina,
My love for thee shall, never, never die.

Three years have gone by, since the day that I saw her
& still every day I’ll do anything for her
Shes pretty & savvy, she’s cunning & clever
I’ve sworn that I’ll love her for ever and ever.
Dear Evelina, sweet Evelina,
My love for thee shall never, never die.
Dear Evelina, sweet Evelina,
My love for thee shall, never, never die.

Spirit
Fruit falls from flowing orchards, this nation
Bless’d with abundance, broad bays full of fish,
There are fiddles, music, there is dancing,
But there is future’s mad convulsive coil
Wrapp’d about a bulbous, prime-for-lancing
Boil, desperate to burst;
Parisians applauded Libertie
As we have too, but as a man begats
A child upon a woman, bureaucrats
Determine if that child enchain’d or free!

A storm is coming & the hour is late,
Lincoln’s stove pipe flung gladly to that ring,
Where clear majorities of each free state
Thro’ Electoral College crowns him king;
Inauguration day feels very wrong,
Sharpshooter rooves, groove cannons guard the grounds,
While raucous New Yorkers, one million strong,
Await the next day’s daily, as newshounds
Down-scribble Lincoln’s verbal bravery
“I’ll stand by my duty to end all slavery!”


SCENE 16: Washington DC

President Abraham Lincoln assembles his first cabinet meeting

Lincoln
Sate stoic in heroic cabinet,
A fine welcome gentlemen, each solid stone;
Like the schisming sons of Mahomet
Our country inharmonious has grown,
So let us ban all states from secession
Tho’ bloodshed leaves a streak’d red in its drag,
I would embrace my assassination
Before a single star torn from this flag –
The question of the slaves lets leave for now,
Until the South is muzzl’d – but, men, how?

William H Seward
Yes, Mr President, live up to we must
The requirements of these higher stations,
Held with grave honour & the nation’s trust,
Push rivalries aside, & pretensions,
Press thro’ the resulting referendum
That set ye first among us to unseat
Dark princes of bondage, we shall send ’em
Back to Hell, daemon rebels in defeat,
When nothing short of total victory
Shall set this nation’s future truly free

V.P. Hannibal Hamlin
Gentlemen, gentlemen, be careful please,
The South’s fighting spirit mighty vicious,
Their politicians ruthless with real ease,
Cold as lizards, Lucifer ambitious,
Determin’d to found future settlements
More than lily-white, each stagnating pool,
For this lets stand, at last, like statesmen hence,
Drag fickle, eager mischief to life’s school,
From lounging on verandas in the shade
Perpetuating slavery’s dog-craz’d trade.

Salmon P Chaise
Tho’ nations may off-tangent time to time
Are strain’d vendettas better to avoid?
When understanding duty flows sublime
Thro’ dangerous intensities employ’d,
The South’s fire-eating nationalism
Doth hurry them for wars in golden glee,
Happy to contend a cataclysm
From whose sure slaughter all the old ghosts flee,
Whom each midwinter Valley Forge convene
In phantom conversations flesh unseen.

Lincoln
This union perpetual – it is so!
No state has any right to self-withdraw,
Let our stern protestations melt the snow
Which covers up the South’s unsacred flaw,
That is to make a newborn babe a slave –
For this they’d carve the land’s vivisection
Let passions rage on heart’s shore wave on wave –
Better that mystic memories’ affection,
Patriot-forg’d on battlefields so young,
Compose a common chorus, by all-comers sung.

Enter the Spirit of America

Spirit
There’ll be no going back, this damag’d land
A mad experiment gone badly wrong,
Must push some reset button – understand
There’ll be no slave-hymns in its unborn song,
Now enter Lee, a general by name,
Pacing Arlington’s corridors perplex’d,
A Union command was his for fame,
To take it, tho’, his soul grows heavy vex’d,
& knows his sword could never draw in arms
Against native Virginian towns & farms.


SCENE 17: The Front

Enter General Lee at the head of the Confederate Army

THE SOUTHERN WAGON

General Lee
Come, all ye sons of freedom, and join our Southern band,
We are going to fight the enemy and drive them from our land.
Justice is our motto and providence our guide,
So jump on the wagon, and we’ll all take a ride.

Wait for the wagon! The dissolution wagon!
The South is the wagon, and we’ll all take a ride.
Wait for the wagon! The dissolution wagon!
The South is the wagon, and we’ll all take a ride.

Secession is our watchword, our rights we all demand;
To defend our family, we pledge our hearts and hands;
Jeff Davis is our president, with Stephens by his side;
Brave Beauregard, our General, will join us in the ride.
Wait for the wagon! The dissolution wagon!
The South is the wagon, and we’ll all take a ride.
Wait for the wagon! The dissolution wagon!
The South is the wagon, and we’ll all take a ride.

Our wagon is big enough, the running gear is good;
Stuffed ’round the sides with cotton, and made of Southern wood.
Carolina is the driver, with Georgia by her side,
Virginia holds the flag up, and we’ll all take a ride.
Wait for the wagon! The dissolution wagon!
The South is the wagon, and we’ll all take a ride.
Wait for the wagon! The dissolution wagon!
The South is the wagon, and we’ll all take a ride.

There are Tennessee and Texas also in the ring;
They wouldn’t have a government where cotton wasn’t king.
Alabama and Florida have long ago replied;
Mississippi and Louisiana are anxious for the ride.
Wait for the wagon! The dissolution wagon!
The South is the wagon, and we’ll all take a ride.
Wait for the wagon! The dissolution wagon!
The South is the wagon, and we’ll all take a ride.

North Carolina and Arkansas are slow,
They must hurry or we’ll leave e’m and then where would they go?
Kentucky and Maryland each won’t make up their mind,
So I reckon after all we’ll have to take e’m up behind.
Wait for the wagon! The dissolution wagon!
The South is the wagon, and we’ll all take a ride.
Wait for the wagon! The dissolution wagon!
The South is the wagon, and we’ll all take a ride.

Tennessee Missouri are eager for the fray;
They can whip the Yankee boys three to one, they say;
And when they get in conflict with Davis by their side,
They’ll pitch into the Yankee boys and then you’ll see them slide.
Wait for the wagon! The dissolution wagon!
The South is the wagon, and we’ll all take a ride.
Wait for the wagon! The dissolution wagon!
The South is the wagon, and we’ll all take a ride.

Exit the Confederates / Enter the Union army led by Stonewall Jackson

THE BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC

Stonewall Jackson
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps,
His day is marching on.

I have read His fiery gospel writ in rows of burnished steel!
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you My grace shall deal!
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,”
Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him; be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me;
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free!
While God is marching on.

Spirit
The stumbling, fumbling Union advance
To meet the foe in blood’s effusion cold,
Upon the field men take a handsome stance,
With limbs & hearts so beautiful & bold,
But stop! What is that sound that stuns the soul,
Like feedback from a concert’s microphones,
The rebel foxhunt yell, the banshee squall,
Driving corkscrew sensations up backbones,
Enhastening the deaths of razzl’d youth,
Via carnage raging, chastening, uncouth.

Enter the charging Confederates / battle begins

Spirit
The national edifice is on fire,
At last the past is heap’d upon a pyre
Those utterances of grief & despair
First heard at Manassas’ murderous maul
Transmorph into clarions everywhere,
“Fight for your country, boys, men heed the call!”
Up in the North the Stars & Stripes are flown
From home to home, ‘the flag that makes you free,’
Sing epauletted brothers to the zone
Of war, fateful days face futurity,
As manacle still into human bites
God’s truth filling with anima of knights
At Shiloh fandango daffodillies,
One hundred thousand cramm’d in tension taut,
Tennessee’s dense, tense, teocallic woods
Explode with unexpected confrontations,
Sickening spectacles, kill or be kill’d,
Until Night’s onset halts halts this cranage crude
Hawks schnibbling into mangl’d death-bed flesh.

Enter Thomas, a Union Soldier, who finds the body of James, his comrade, on the field

Thomas
I am a soldier and my speech is rough and plain
I’m not much used to writing and I hate to give you pain
But I promised I would do it and he thought it might be so
If it came from one who loved him it perhaps would ease the blow
& by this time you must have guessed the truth I fain will hide
And you’ll pardon me for rough soldier words while I tell you how he died

It was in the mortal battle, it rained the shot and shell
I was standing close beside him and I saw him when he fell
So I took him in my arms and laid him on the grass
It was going against orders but they thought to let it pass

James
“This day I wanted so to live, I seemed so young to go.
This week I passed my birthday. I was just nineteen, you know.
When I thought of all I planned to do it seemed so hard to die
But now I pray to God for grace and all my cares gone by.”

Thomas
And here his voice grew weaker as he partly raised his head
And whispered

James
“Goodbye, mother,” and your soldier boy was dead

Thomas
I carved another headboard as skillful as I could
And if you wish to find it I can tell you where it stood
I send you back his hymn book and the cap he used to wear
The lock I cut the night before of his bright, curly hair
I send you back his Bible. In the hour before he died
I turned its leaves together and read it by his side
I’ll keep the belt he was wearing, he told me so to do
It had a hole upon the side just where the ball went through

So now I’ve done his bidding, there’s nothing more to tell
But I shall always mourn with you the boy we loved so well

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