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In prose of all kinds the South stood still, perhaps retrograded; but she
“Lisped in numbers, for the numbers came !" The thousand tragical incidents and picturesque situations of a war like this offered rare motives to the true poet, and tempting opportunities to the rhymster of low degree.
Magazines, albums, and newspaper corners overflowed with the effusions of these latter, on all subjects, and of all lengths.
But occasionally in a great crisis of the war, or when a heavy calamity bore upon the whole people, some mightier one lifted his voice and spoke words that live. These I have endeavored to preserve in more durable form than the pressure of the times when they were uttered could allow. Some of them were comparatively unknown, even in the South; partly, that grave and absorbing duties of the hour weighed upon the public mind; but more, I imagine, from want of some general medium of circulation.
Many again found their way to the camps, were at once adopted by the soldiers, and became
" Familiar in their mouths as household words."
Bu as with the
ular poems of most revolutions, these were the “taking” songs of a lower order—ephemera that have lived out the day for which they were born.
In this effort to show the quality, and not the quantity, of Southern poetry, few even of the most popular of these have been introduced.
Where possible, I have had each poem carefully corrected by its author.
I have been warned that in certain quarters the poems are considered rebellious-incendiary, even—and as tending to re
vive a bitterness now buried and still. To these irrationals I have no word to say. I ask no favor at their hands, having sufficient confidence in my adopted children to trust them to stand alone.
If poems, born of revolution, bore no marks of the bitter need that crushed them from the hearts of their authors, they would have no value whatever, intrinsic or historical.
The feelings that prompted them live no longer. The South put her cause in the hands of the God of Battles. She has made no murmur since his decree was spoken.
A people who have accepted the inevitable with the dignified quiet of hers, can be taught no wrong by the repetition, in perfect peace, of words spoken to them while yet in the heat of a bitter struggle.
The effect of the war has been to raise the Southern character in the opinion of the North; and the feeling that the South is a conquered province-abject and bound—is fast dying out in the breadth of the land. These poems may aid in this good work; but read at every fireside in the South, they are to-day as harmless as the “Lays of Ancient Rome.”
Their authors, whatever they may have been, are now simply private citizens. I shall not invade their sancta to search for the motives that impelled them. That they wrote honestly, none who read their words can doubt; and I am well content to leave them in the hands of the public, saying only :
* By their works shall ye know them."
T. C. DE L
BALTIMORE, MD., February 15, 1866.
Index of Poems and Anthors
THERE'S LIFE IN THE OLD LAND ET, James R. Randall,
John R. Thompson, .