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INDIANOLA

A Poem by Jeff McLemore
Transcribed and submitted by Maggie Van Ostrand
About this poem:
The Story of Indianola
by Maggie Van Ostrand
On my bookshelf sat a slim volume of poems by one Jeff McLemore.... The name of the book, published in 1904, is "Indianola and Other Poems,"... more
I
When some fair maid, the flower of her race,
Whose charms proclaim her Queen of Love and Grace,
By Fate's dread hand is hurled into the grave;
Or without warming sinks beneath the wave;
The dark'ning sorrow of her hapless end
Falls like a pall o'er each devoted friend.
No tears are shed -- our deep and silent grief
In bitter groans can only seek relief;
And as we watch that pulseless form so fair,
And view death's beauty slowly settling there,
A thought of terror steals across the heart
Quick as the flash the thunder clouds impart.
Then kneeling down we look to Heaven and pray;
"Oh, God! restore to us this silent clay!
Give back that smile, if but one fleeting hour,
That we once more might feel its tender power."
But all is still, that form is cold in death,
And chilled forever is that fleeting breath;
No more, no more those lips will ever speak --
No more will blush that cold and marble cheek.
No more will glow that dull and listless eye --
No more that breast will heave a lingering sigh.
Like flowers that bloom, yet fade at set of sun,
Her life's dream ended ere it scarce begun.
II
So, Indianola, has it been with thee,
Thou once fair city by the moonlit sea!
Thy fame is ended and they beauty fled --
Bleak memory calls thee from the silent dead.
Thy streets are nameless, and the sea-weeds grow
Along thy walks where life was wont to flow.
Forever dead! fore'er thy dream is o'er! --
Thou liv'st alone on Memory's barren shore.
The sun that sets, yet sets to rise again,
Will smile the same, ye smile on thee in vain;
While moonbeams dancing as the billows roar,
Will seem as bright, yet dance on thee no more.
III
'Tis eve! -- Beside the murmuring sea,
A thousand hearts beat light and free;
A thousand voices fill the air,
And all is peace and pleasure there.
On the still bosom of the bay
The white-winged vessels calmly lay;
The night-birds skim the rippling waves,
Sweet echoes come from Ocean's caves;
And Indianola fair and bright,
Sits peaceful there in the pale moonlight.
The lamp's burn bright in Pleasure's halls,
While Beauty from her bower calls;
Fond pleasure decks each throbbing brow,
The lover tells his plighted vow;
All, all is joy and peace serene
Till sleep, sweet sleep, falls o'er the scene,
Then hushed, and still, and heavenly fair,
Is that loved city sleeping there.
IV
'Tis morn! -- The radiant eastern sky
Is tinted with the rainbow's dye;
The swan-like vessels rest at ease,
Scarce swaying in the fresh'ning breeze;
The song-birds sing from every tree,
Or bathe their plumage in the sea;
While hurrying footsteps tread the main,
And Indianola wakes again.
Yes, wakes once more to busy life,
But wakes, alas! for war and strife;
For bugle calls sound from afar,
The herald of approaching war.
The echo leaps from mouth to mouth:
"Awake! ye heroes of the South!"
And Indianola's sons go forth
To fight the tumults from the North.
How swift they went, 'tis vain to tell!
For home they fought, and fighting fell
And falling, died in manhood's prime.
To sleep in some far, distant clime.
Oh, Indianola! could I trace
The glory of that glorious race
Thou gav'st, when came thy country's call,
Or view each hero in his fall,
In deathless strains my song would be
For those who died for thine and thee!
V
O'er the fathomless waters of the dark, blue ocean,
Like the song of a bird when its mate is no more;
When its carols are filled with a soul-sad emotion
As it fain would call back from the echoless shore,
One note it had known of the song that is ended--
When it sighs for that death which can bring only rest,
So the echo of sweet peace in that moment was blended
While hope turned to grief in each fond Southern breast.
And in that dark hour, though the storm clouds were over,
And the stars breaking through them seemed ray-less and dead,
Indianola sat there like a grief-stricken lover
When her hero is fallen and all hope is fled
She wept for those sons that so proudly she gave
For a cause, which though lost, was made doubly more dear;
Like a heart-broken mother who weeps at the grave
Of her heart's fondest treasure, she wept o'er their bier.
Then she turned from a scene that she gazed on with dread,
She had shed all the tears that she well now might shed;
War's wild strife is over -- the bugle-calls cease --
Like a dismantled warrior she clasps hands with sweet Peace.
The rose that was withered its verdant leaves spread,
The violet so modest once more lifts its head,
The sun shines again on that once blighted shore,
And fair Indianola like the rose blooms once more
VI
Tis night! -- a dark and angry cloud
Hangs o'er the city like a shroud;
The lightning's quick and lurid glare
On each pale face reveals despair;
The storm has come! -- Wild Ocean's roar
Breaks with a shriek upon the shore.
Brave men stand palsied, trembling, pale --
The mother's prayer, the infant's wail,
Commingle with mad Ocean's rage
And form a scene on history's page
More awful than the poet's pen
Can write; nor can the tongues of men
Relate that picture of despair
Which in a moment settled there;
And many a loved one found a grave
Fore'er beneath the maddening wave.
VII
Once more 'tis morn, the bright sun smiles
In splendor o'er those storm-wrecked isles
That stand like sentries in the bay
Near by where Indianola lay.
All desolate and bleak they stand,
Death's shadow traced on every hand,
While round them moans the plaintive sea,
As if it felt some sympathy,
For the dread terror it had brought
To those within its tempest caught.
Yet on the beach the scene seems saddest,
For there old Ocean's waves were maddest;
And though the sun shines there as bright,
To those who live it seems as night.
O'er Indianola hangs a pall
Dark as the dreary clouds that fall
O'er battle-fields where thousands slain
Lie there to rise no more again.
Death and Destruction hover round, The Ocean chants a dreary sound;
The father weeps above his child,
The mother, in distraction wild,
Seeks out her babe, but seeks in vain,
Then wrings her hands in woe and pain.
The proud, the humble share the same,
So with the sick, the blind the lame;
No peace is there save with the dead,
All hope for those who live is fled;
And Indianola from her throne
Is claimed by Ocean as its own.
No brush can paint, no pen can write,
The sorrow of that dismal night,
When storm-wrecked Indianola lay
A spectre by the lonely bay.
VIII
This is the tale as it was told to me
By one who dwelt there by the treacherous sea,
A sad, sad tale, no matter what we say,
Though poorly told in this still poorer lay.
The story of a city once as fair
As her loved maids who dwelt in pleasure there.
Swept from the earth without a moment's thought,
Torn from her throne by Ocean's tireless wave;
A memory of the ruin Terror wrought --
Sunk, sunk forever in a nameless grave!
More on Indianola:
  • The Story of Indianola by Maggie Van Ostrand
    On my bookshelf sat a slim volume of poems by one Jeff McLemore.... The name of the book, published in 1904, is "Indianola and Other Poems,"...
  • Indianola Remnants by Mike Cox
    Indianola, once the “Queen City of the West,” recovered from a killer hurricane in 1875 but it did not survive a second devastating storm in 1886. Modern day visitors find few remnants of the once prosperous Calhoun County seaport, but they’re looking in the wrong place. If you want to see some of Indianola’s stately Victorian houses, just go to Victoria or Cuero... more
  • Indianola, Texas
  • Book
    Indianola and Matagorda Island: 1837-1887
    Book
    Indianola: The Mother of Western Texas
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