By George Taylor Lee
[Note: George Taylor Lee (1848–1933) was the eldest son of Lucy Penn Taylor and Charles Carter Lee, the oldest brother of Robert E. Lee. Among George Taylor Lee’s published works are The Puritan Maid: A Poem (1904), A Virginia Feud: The Story of a Mountain Lassie (1908), America’s Vision: A Message to All Freemen of Every Name and Clime (1918), and the following poem, published in the 19 September 1901 issue of the Atlanta Constitution (vol. 34, p. 6).] President William McKinley was assassinated on 6 September 1901 and died eight days later.
Our Dead President
Weep, oh, Columbia! Be thou bowed down
With grief; and more, grief mixt with bitter shame!
Unequal laws have snatched stars from thy crown,
And unchecked license stained thy glorious name:
For, born to brood the brotherhood of man,
Thou‘st nourished in thy bosom class and caste;
And in thine arms, where freemen‘s rule began,
Thou‘st nursed the fiend to deal it death at last.
Yes! Wring thy hands! Where richest fruits are found,
There also deadliest poison-weeds do grow;
And, ’mid the fruitage of thy choicest ground,
Are sprung up tares, that gender deepest woe.
Thou brought‘st forth children to be kings, all kings,
And rule, with equity, thy wide domain
By chosen servants, sheltered ’neath thy wings,
And yet—alas!—the chief of these lies slain.
Where is thy might, oh, Country, Mother mine?
Is justice, pity-drunk, at baneful rest?
Can freedom‘s torch with sun-like glory shine
When fed by blood filched from a freeman‘s breast?
Can freedom live, if freedom must enthrone
Their ruler on a seat begirt with steel,
And give him might his service to disown,
And force his masters at his feet to kneel?
Thou‘st pitied all by law or want opprest,
And thousands have found freedom in thy land;
Shall these aim poisoned arrows at thy breast,
Or pierce thy heart with vile, ungrateful hand?
Shall thy kind laws, which made these people free
In word and act, in which thy children trust,
Be wiped out by Disorder‘s licensee,
And thy grand fabric crumble into dust?
Come, dry thine eyes! Stretch forth thy flaming spear!
Gird on the armor of thy righteous laws!
And, o‘er our honored chieftain‘s gory bier,
Vow once again to fight for freedom‘s cause!
For freedom lives in law and law in love,
And love is naught lest justice wield her sword;
So wail thy slaughtered son, like mournful dove,
But flash the lightnings of thy wrath abroad!
Write this decree upon the vaults of blue,
And on the storm-black clouds, with pen of fire:
That all men stand in equal love to you,
Though placed in humble walks or stations higher;
And he, who plans the blood of man to shed,
Rule to destroy, on him thy wrath be hurled:
Thus shalt thou make atonement to the dead,
And give an added blessing to the world.