34 - The Eagle of the Blue
The Eagle of the BlueA possible source for Melville's poem is "The Eagle of the Eighth Wisconsin" in The Rebellion Record, Vol. 8 (1865), 59. [https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A2001.05.0092%3Achapter%3D152]. Edmund Clarence Stedman included Melville's poem in his 1900 An American Anthology, 1787-1900, 236.
Aloft he guards the starry folds
Who is the brother of the star;
The bird whose joy is in the wind
Exulteth in the war.
No painted plume—a sober hue,
His beauty is his power;
That eager calm of gaze intent
Foresees the SibylSee "Sibylline" in "Formerly a Slave"
Austere, he crowns the swaying perch,
Flapped by the angry flag;
The hurricane from the battery sings,
But his claw has known the crag.
Amid the scream of shells, his scream
Runs shrilling; and the glare
Of eyes that brave the blinding sun
The vollied flame can bear.
The pride of quenchless strength is his—
Strength which, though chained, avails;
The very rebel looks and thrills—
The anchored Emblem hails.
Though scarred in many a furious fray,
No deadly hurt he knew;
Well may we think his years are charmed—
The Eagle of the Blue.
[Melville's] Note l, page 122.
Among the Northwestern regiments there would seem to have been more than one which carried a living eagle as an added ensign. The bird commemorated here was, according to the account, borne aloft on a perch beside the standard; went through successive battles and campaigns; was more than once under the surgeon's hands; and at the close of the contest found honorable repose in the capital of Wisconsin, from which state he had gone to the wars.