The Virginia Scaffold

Rear on high the scaffold-altar! all the world will turn to see
How a man has dared to suffer that his brothers may be free!
Rear it on some hill-side looking North and South and East and West,
Where the wind from every quarter fresh may blow upon his breast,
And the sun look down unshaded from the chill December sky,
Glad to shine upon the hero who for Freedom dared to die!

All the world will turn to see him;—from the pines of wave-washed Maine
To the golden rivers rolling over California's plain,
And from clear Superior's waters, where the wild swan loves to sail,
To the Gulf-lands, summer-bosomed, fanned by ocean's softest gale,—
Every heart will beat the faster in its sorrow or its scorn,
For the man nor courts nor prisons can annoy, another morn!
And from distant climes and nations men shall Westward gaze and say,
“He who periled all for Freedom on the scaffold dies to-day.”

Never offering was richer nor did temple fairer rise
For the gods serenely smiling from the blue Olympian skies;
Porphyry or granite column did not statelier cleave the air
Than the posts of yonder gallows with the cross-beam waiting there;
And the victim, wreathed and crowned, not for Dian nor for Jove,
But for Liberty and Manhood, comes, the sacrifice of Love.

They may hang him on the gibbet; they may raise the victor's cry
When they see him darkly swinging like a speck against the sky;
Ah! the dying of a hero that the right may win its way,
Is but sowing seed for harvest in a warm and mellow May!
Now his story shall be whispered by the firelight's evening glow,
And in fields of rice and cotton when the hot noon passes slow,
Till his name shall be a watchword from Missouri to the sea,
And his planting find its reaping in the birthday of the Free!

Christ, the crucified, attend him! Weak and erring though he be,
In his measure he has striven, suffering Lord! to love like Thee!
Thou the vine,—Thy friends the branches,—is he not a branch of Thine,
Though some dregs from earthly vintage have defiled the heavenly wine?
Now his tendrils lie unclaspèd, bruised, and prostrate on the sod,—
Take him to Thine upper garden where the husbandman is God!
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