Sheridan's Ride

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Sheridan's Ride
by Thomas Buchanan Read
There never was a boy who did not like "Sheridan's Ride," by T. Buchanan Read (1822-72). The swing and gallop in it take every boy off from his feet. The children never teach this poem to me, because they love to learn it at first sight. It is easily memorised.

    Up from the South at break of day,
    Bringing to Winchester fresh dismay,
    The affrighted air with a shudder bore,
    Like a herald in haste, to the chieftain's door,
    The terrible grumble, and rumble, and roar,
    Telling the battle was on once more,
    And Sheridan twenty miles away.

    And wider still those billows of war
    Thundered along the horizon's bar;
    And louder yet into Winchester rolled
    The roar of that red sea uncontrolled,
    Making the blood of the listener cold
    As he thought of the stake in that fiery fray,
    And Sheridan twenty miles away.

    But there is a road from Winchester town,
    A good, broad highway leading down;
    And there, through the flush of the morning light,
    A steed as black as the steeds of night
    Was seen to pass as with eagle flight;
    As if he knew the terrible need,
    He stretched away with his utmost speed;
    Hills rose and fell; but his heart was gay,
    With Sheridan fifteen miles away.

    Still sprung from those swift hoofs, thundering South,
    The dust, like smoke from the cannon's mouth;
    Or the trail of a comet, sweeping faster and faster,
    Foreboding to traitors the doom of disaster.
    The heart of the steed and the heart of the master
    Were beating like prisoners assaulting their walls,
    Impatient to be where the battle-field calls;
    Every nerve of the charger was strained to full play,
    With Sheridan only ten miles away.

    Under his spurning feet the road
    Like an arrowy Alpine river flowed,
    And the landscape sped away behind
    Like an ocean flying before the wind.
    And the steed, like a bark fed with furnace fire,
    Swept on, with his wild eye full of ire.
    But lo! he is nearing his heart's desire;
    He is snuffing the smoke of the roaring fray,
    With Sheridan only five miles away.

    The first that the General saw were the groups
    Of stragglers, and then the retreating troops.
    What was done--what to do? A glance told him both,
    Then striking his spurs, with a terrible oath,
    He dashed down the line, mid a storm of huzzas,
    And the wave of retreat checked its course there, because
    The sight of the master compelled it to pause.
    With foam and with dust the black charger was gray;
    By the flash of his eye, and the red nostrils' play,
    He seemed to the whole great army to say:
   "I have brought you Sheridan all the way
    From Winchester down to save the day!"

    Hurrah! hurrah for Sheridan!
    Hurrah! hurrah for horse and man!
    And when their statues are placed on high,
    Under the dome of the Union sky,
    The American soldiers' Temple of Fame,
    There with the glorious General's name
    Be it said, in letters both bold and bright:
   "Here is the steed that saved the day,
    By carrying Sheridan into the fight
    From Winchester, twenty miles away!"