Pieces People Ask For/On the Shores of Tennessee

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For other versions of this work, see On the Shores of Tennessee.


"Move my arm-chair, faithful Pompey,
In the sunshine bright and strong,
For this world is fading, Pompey—
Massa won't be with you long;
And I fain would hear the south wind
Bring once more the sound to me,
Of the wavelets softly breaking
On the shores of Tennessee.

"Mournful though the ripples murmur,
As they still the story tell,
How no vessels float the banner
That I've loved so long and well,
I shall listen to their music,
Dreaming that again I see
Stars and strips on sloop and shallop
Sailing up the Tennessee;

"And, Pompey, while old Massa's waiting
For Death's last despatch to come,
If that exiled starry banner
Should come proudly sailing home,
You shall greet it, slave no longer—
Voice and hand shall both be free
That shout and point to Union colors
On the waves of Tennessee."

"Massa's berry kind to Pompey;
But old darkey's happy here,
Where he's tended corn and cotton
For dese many a long gone year.
Over yonder Missis' sleeping—
No one tends her grave like me:
Mebbe she would miss the flowers
She used to love in Tennessee."

"'Pears like, she was watching Massa—
If Pompey should beside him stay,
Mebbe she'd remember better
How for him she used to pray;
Telling him that way up yonder
White as snow his soul would be,
If he served the Lord of heaven
While he lived in Tennessee."

Silently the tears were rolling
Down the poor old dusky face,
As he stepped behind his master,
In his long accustomed place.
Then a silence fell around them,
As they gazed on rock and tree
Pictured in the placid waters
Of the rolling Tennessee,—

Master, dreaming of the battle
Where he fought by Marion's side,
When he bid the haughty Tarleton
Stoop his lordly crest of pride,—

Man, remembering how yon sleeper
Once he held upon his knee,
Ere she loved the gallant soldier,
Ralph Vervair of Tennessee.

Still the south wind fondly lingers
'Mid the veteran's silver hair;
Still the bondman close beside him
Stands behind the old arm-chair,
With his dark-hued hand uplifted,
Shading eyes, he bends to see
Where the woodland, boldly jutting,
Turns aside the Tennessee.

Thus he watches cloud-born shadows
Glide from tree to mountain crest,
Softly creeping, aye and ever
To the river's yielding breast.
Ha! above the foliage yonder
Something flutters wild and free!
"Massa! Massa! Hallelujah!
The flag's come back to Tennessee!"

"Pompey, hold me on your shoulder;
Help me stand on foot once more,
That I may salute the colors
As they pass my cabin door.
Here's the paper signed that frees you;
Give a freeman's shout with me—
'God and Union' be our watchword
Evermore in Tennessee!"

Then the trembling voice grew fainter,
And the limbs refused to stand;
One prayer to Jesus—and the soldier
Glided to the better land.
When the flag went down the river,
Man and master both were free;
While the ring-dove's note was mingled
With the rippling Tennessee.

E. L. Beers.