04. March 2013 · Comments Off on A Poem – From Edgar Lee Masters · Categories: Random Book and Media Musings

(I knew this poem from an anthology collection that I had as a kid – it was called The Magic Circle – and I suppose my sister wound up with it, although most of our childhood books wound up in my possession, as I was the first of the four of us to produce offspring. Something – never mind what – reminded me of it, and my daughter had never, ever heard of this poem before. It turns out to be very obscure and finding it by routine googlectomy took some time.)

Achilles Deatheridge 

“Your name is Achilles Deatheridge?
How old are you, my boy?”
“I’m sixteen past and I went to the war
From Athens, Illinois.”

“Achilles Deatheridge, you have done
A deed of dreadful note.”  “It comes of his wearing a battered hat,
And a rusty, wrinkled coat.”

“Why didn’t you know how plain he is?
And didn’t you ever hear, He goes through the lines by day or night
Like a sooty cannoneer?”

“You must have been half dead for sleep,
For the dawn was growing bright.”
“Well, Captain, I had stood right there
Since six o’clock last night.”

“I cocked my gun at the swish of the grass
And how am I at fault
When a dangerous looking man won’t stop
When a sentry hollers halt?”

“I cried out halt and he only smiled
And waved his hand like that.
Why, any Johnnie could wear the coat
And any fellow the hat.”

“I hollered halt again and he stopped
And lighted a fresh cigar.
I never noticed his shoulder badge,
And I never noticed a star.”

“So you arrested him? Well, Achilles,
When you hear the swish of the grass  If it’s General Grant inspecting the lines
Hereafter let him pass.”


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