The Song of Michael Gideon
Michael Gideon, in the woods he hid,
With many of his kith and kin.
From their homes were driven,
By foemen with clubs and bricks –
Inbreakers, young and rude,
Invaders, old and crude –
Because they loved the Confederate gen’ral
Whose statue did watch o’er the town.
Now beset it is by foemen in their fetid camp,
Awaiting its doom and fate.
Michael Gideon, in the dark of night,
He fished in the stream for fear of the mob,
Michael Gideon, his food he ate
As the plight he turned it o’er in his mind.
Tired from thought, on a tree log he sat.
With groaning prayer, Heaven’s help he besought.
Then still he sat, silent before God.
Then light he saw, radiance all around.
A bright angel he beheld.
Bewildered, to his knees he fell.
‘Rise, Michael Gideon, and be not afraid.
‘The Lord has heard the prayers of you all.
‘The Lord knows your afflictions
‘And will now deliver you from them.
‘Take this sword, and gather the men.
‘In their hands place only flags
‘Bearing Saint Andrew’s Cross.
‘You at their head, lead them
‘To the invader’s camp,
‘And say together with mighty voice,
‘ “A sword for the Lord
‘ “And the General!”
‘Shout these words, but touch not
‘An hair of their heads,
‘And you will see your deliverance.’
At this he vanished; night-dark returned.
Michael Gideon, the sword he held.
The blade, clear as crystal,
Gathered the light of the moon and stars
And shone with beauty gentle.
The hilt, smooth and silver,
Calmed and strengthened the one who held it.
Forth he strode, the men he gathered.
Out they went, together they sallied.
Scalawags round the Gen’ral were crowding.
To destroy his memory, for this they were yearning.
Michael Gideon and his host approached.
Black-skinned and white, they uplifted their cry,
‘A sword for the Lord
‘And the General!’
Again and again they shouted,
As forward they went, and new wonder they saw:
A flame round the blade was blazing,
Holy fire from Heaven to frighten the foe.
The fire of the sword, to the host it spread.
The fire of the sword, in their eyes it burned.
When the sight they beheld,
And the yelling they heard,
Struck with terror they were,
And their evil plans forgot.
In their confusion and fear,
They trampled each other.
In their confusion and fear,
They fled far away.
The townsmen lifted a mighty shout
Of thanks to God, and cleansed the statue
And square of all befouling.
Then heartily they cheered for the Gen’ral they loved.
Michael Gideon took his sword,
The flame now gone, and with priestly blessing
Laid it in church atop the altar
For safe-keeping against an evil day.
Michael Gideon, the statue he saved,
The foes away he chased.
Michael Gideon, no praise he seeks,
Only to plow his fields and teach Old Greek.
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Walt Garlington is a chemical engineer turned writer (and, when able, a planter). He makes his home in Louisiana and is editor of the 'Confiteri: A Southern Perspective' web site.