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The March to the Sea

Not Kenesaw high-arching,
  Nor Allatoona's glen--
Though there the graves lie parching--
  Stayed Sherman's miles of men;
From charred Atlanta marching
  They launched the sword again.
  The columns streamed like rivers
  Which in their course agree,
  And they streamed until their flashing
  Met the flashing of the sea:
  It was glorious glad marching,
  That marching to the sea.
The brushed the foe before them
  (Shall gnats impede the bull?);
Their own good bridges bore them
  Over swamps or torrents full,
And the grand pines waving o'er them
  Bowed to axes keen and cool.
  The columns grooved their channels.
  Enforced their own decree,
  And their power met nothing larger
  Until it met the sea:
  It was glorious glad marching,
  A marching glad and free.

Kilpatrick's snare of riders
  In zigzags mazed the land,
Perplexed the pale Southsiders
  With feints on every hand;
Vague menace awed the hiders
  In forts beyond command.
  To Sherman's shifting problem
  No foeman knew the key;
  But onward went the marching
  Unpausing to the sea:
  It was glorious glad marching,
  The swinging step was free.

The flankers ranged like pigeons
  In clouds through field or wood;
The flocks of all those regions,
  The herds and horses good,
Poured in and swelled the legions,
  For they caught the marching mood.
  A volley ahead! They hear it;
  And they hear the repartee:
  Fighting was but frolic
  In that marching to the sea:
  It was glorious glad marching,
  A marching bold and free.

All nature felt their coming,
  The birds like couriers flew,
And the banners brightly blooming
  The slaves by thousands drew,
And they marched beside the drumming,
  And they joined the armies blue.
  The cocks crowed from the cannon
  (Pets named from Grant and Lee),
  Plumed fighters and campaigners
  In the marching to the sea:
  It was glorious glad marching,
  For every man was free.

The foragers through calm lands
  Swept in tempest gay,
And they breathed the air of balm-lands
  Where rolled savannas lay,
And they helped themselves from farm-lands--
  As who should say them nay?
  The regiments uproarious
  Laughed in Plenty's glee;
  And they marched till their broad laughter
  Met the laughter of the sea:
  It was glorious glad marching,
  That marching to the sea.

The grain of endless acres
  Was threshed (as in the East)
By the trampling of the Takers,
  Strong march of man and beast;
The flails of those earth-shakers
  Left a famine where they ceased.
  The arsenals were yielded;
  The sword (that was to be),
  Arrested in the forging,
  Rued that marching to the sea:
  It was glorious glad marching,
  But ah, the stern decree!

For behind they left a wailing,
  A terror and a ban,
And blazing cinders sailing,
  And houseless households wan,
Wide zones of counties paling,
  And towns where maniacs ran.
  Was it Treason's retribution--
  Necessity the plea?
  They will long remember Sherman
  And his streaming columns free--
  They will long remember Sherman
  Marching to the sea.

(December, 1864.)

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:30 min read

Herman Melville

Herman Melville was an American writer best known for the novel Moby-Dick. more…

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