The Broken Mug
The Broken Mug, John Esten Cooke ( 1865 )
My mug is broken, my heart is sad;
What woes can fate still hold in store?
The friend I cherished a thousand days
Is smashed to pieces on the floor;
Is shattered, and to Limbo gone;
I’ll see my mug no more!
Relic, it was, of joyous hours,
Whose golden memories still allure–
When coffee made of rye we drank,
And gray was all the dress we wore;
When we were paid some cents a month,
But never asked for more!
In marches long, by day and night,
In raids, hot charges, shocks of war,
Strapped on the saddle at my back
This faithful comrade still I bore–
This old companion, true and tried
I’ll never carry more!
Bright days, when young in heart and hope
The pulse leaped at the words “La Gloire!”
When the gray people cried, “hot fight!
Why we have one to four!”
When but to see the foeman’s face
Was all they asked –no more.
From the Rapidan to Gettysburg–
“Hard bread”, behind, “sour krout” before–
This friend went with the cavalry
And heard the jarring cannon roar
In front of Cemetery Hill–
Good Heavens! how they did roar!
Then back again, the foe behind,
Back to the “Old Virginia shore” —
Some dead and wounded left–some holes
In flags the sullen graybacks bore:
This mug had made the great campaign,
And we’d have gone once more!
Alas! we never went again!
The red cross banner, slow but sure,
“Fell back”–we bade to sour krout
(Like the lover of Lenore)
A long, sad, lingering farewell–
To taste its joys no more.
But still we fought, and ate hard bread,
Or starved–good friend our woes deplore!
And still this faithful friend remained
Riding behind me as before–
The friend on march, in bivouac,
When others were no more.
How oft we drove the horsemen blue
In Summer bright or winter frore!
How oft before the Southern charge
Thro’ field and wood the bluebirds tore!
I’m harmonized” today, but think
I’d like to charge once more.
Oh Yes! we’re all “fraternal” now,
Purged of our sins we’re clean and pure,
Congress will “reconstruct” us soon —
But no gray people on that floor!
I’m harmonized –“so called”–but long
To see those times once more!
Gay days! the sun was brighter then,
And we were happy, though so poor!
That past comes back as I behold
My shattered friend upon the floor,
My splintered, useless, ruined mug,
From which I’ll drink no more.
How many lips I’ll love for aye,
While heart and memory endure,
Have touched this broken cup and laughed–
How they did laugh!—in days of yore!
Those days we’d call “a beauteous dream
If they had been no more!”
Dear comrades, dead this many a day,
I saw you weltering in your gore
After those days, amid the pines
On the Rappahannock shore!
When the joy of life was much to me,
But your warm hearts were more!
Yours was the grand heroic nerve
That laughs amid the storm of war–
Souls that “loved much” your native land,
Who fought and died therefor!
You gave your youth, your brains, your arms,
Your blood –you had no more!
You lived and died true to your flag!
And now your wounds are healed, but sore
Are many hearts that think of you
Where you have “gone before.”
Peace, comrade! God bound up those forms–
They are “whole” forevermore!
Those lips this broken vessel touched,
His, too!–the man’s we all adore–
That cavalier of cavaliers,
Whose voice will ring no more–
Whose plume will float amid the storm
Of battle nevermore!
Not on this idel page I write
That name of names, shrined in the core
Of every heart! Peace! foolish pen!
Hush! words so cold and poor!
His sword is rust; the blue eyes dust,
His bugle sounds no more!
Yet even here write this: He charged!
As Rupert in the years before,
And when his stern, hard work was done,
His griefs, joys, battles o’er–
His mightily spirit rode the storm,
And led his men once more!
He lies beneath his native sod,
Where violets spring, or frost is hoar,
He recks not–charging squadrons watch
His raven plume no more!
That smile we’ll see, that voice we’ll hear,
That hand we’ll touch no more!
My foolish mirth is quenched in tears;
Poor fragments strewed upon the floor,
You are a type of nobler things
That find their use no more —
Things glorious once, now trodden down–
That make us smile no more!
Of courage, pride, high hopes, stout hearts–
Hard, stubborn nerve, devotion pure.
Beating his wings against the bars,
The prisoned eagle tried to soar!
Outmatched, overwhelmed, we struggled still–
Bread failed–we fought no more!
Lies in the dust the shattered staff
That bore aloft on sea and shore
That blazing flag, amid the storm!
And none are now so poor!
So poor to do it reverence
Now when it flames no more!
But it is glorious in the dust,
Sacred till time shall be no more.
Spare it, fierce editors, your scorn!
The dread “Rebellion’s o’er!
Furl the great flag, hide cross and star.
Thrust into darkness star and bar,
But, look! across the ages far
It flames forever more!