James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

October 12

“Gone Forward”

By Margaret J. Preston (1820–1897)

  • General Robert E. Lee died October 12, 1870. His last words were: “Let the tent be struck!”

  • YES, “Let the tent be struck”: Victorious morning

    Through every crevice flashes in a day

    Magnificent beyond all earth’s adorning;

    The night is over; wherefore should he stay?

    And wherefore should our voices choke to say,

    “The General has gone forward!”

    Life’s foughten field not once beheld surrender,

    But with superb endurance, present, past,

    Our pure Commander, lofty, simple, tender,

    Through good, through ill, held his high purpose fast,

    Wearing his armor spotless,—till at last

    Death gave the final “Forward!”

    All hearts grew sudden palsied: Yet what said he,

    Thus summoned?—“Let the tent be struck!”—

    For when

    Did call of duty fail to find him ready

    Nobly to do his work in sight of men,

    For God’s, and for his country’s sake—and then

    To watch, wait, or go forward?

    We will not weep,—we dare not!—Such a story

    As his large life writes on the century’s years

    Should crowd our bosoms with a flush of glory,

    That manhood’s type, supremest that appears

    To-day, he shows the ages. Nay, no tears

    Because he has gone forward!

    Gone forward?—Whither?—Where the marshalled legions,

    Christ’s well-worn soldiers, from their conflicts cease,—

    Where Faith’s true Red-Cross Knights repose in regions

    Thick studded with the calm white tents of peace,—

    Thither, right joyful to accept release,

    The General has gone forward!