| Home | Contents | | Alabama Writers in the 19th Century |
[ADAH Logo] Alabama Moments in American History US/Ala flags
| Quick Summary | Details | Bibliography | Primary Sources |

Primary sources gif
Alabama Writers
in the 19th Century

Introduction: "The Grapevine Song" by Samuel Minturn Peck (1854-1938) and "The Bivouac of the Dead" by Theodore O'Hara (1820-1867) were two widely-known nineteenth-century poems with Alabama associations. One pays nostalgic honor to the carefree joys of childhood and a close relation to nature, while the other pays patriotic honor to men killed in bloody human warfare. Peck, from Tuscaloosa, was trained as a doctor but never practiced medicine; he became Alabama's first Poet Laureate. The "grapevine" in his poem refers to the muscadine vine of his native Alabama woods. O'Hara was born in Kentucky, but later lived in Mobile and commanded Confederate troops from Alabama. In Mobile he was an editor of the Register newspaper in which "The Bivouac of the Dead" was probably first printed. Although it came to be identified with the Civil War, his famous elegy was actually written for soldiers in the Mexican War (1846-1848). Its first stanza appears as an inscription on many battlefield markers and primary monuments at military cemeteries in the United States, including Arlington National Cemetery.

The Grapevine Swing

by Samuel Minturn Peck

When I was a boy on the old plantation Down by the deep bayou,
The fairest spot of all creation,
Under the arching blue;
When the wind came over the cotton and corn
To the long slim loop I'd spring
With brown feet bare, and a hat brim torn,
And swing in the grapevine swing.
Swinging in the grapevine swing,
Laughing where the wild birds sing,
I dream and sigh
For the days gone by
Swinging in the grapevine swing.

Out—o'er the water lilies bonnie and bright,
Back—to the moss-grown trees;
I shouted and laughed with a heart as light
As a wild rose tossed by the breeze.
The mocking bird joined in my reckless glee,
I longed for no angel's wing,
I was just as near heaven as I wanted to be
Swinging in the grapevine swing.
Swinging in the grapevine swing,
Laughing where the wild birds sing—

Oh, to be a boy
With a heart full of joy,
Swinging in the grapevine swing!
I'm weary at noon, I'm weary at night,
I'm fretted and sore of heart,
And care is sowing my locks with white
As I wend through the fevered mart.
I'm tired of the world with its pride and pomp,
And fame seems a worthless thing.
I'd barter it all for one day's romp,
And a swing in the grapevine swing
Swinging in the grapevine swing,
Laughing where the wild birds sing,
I would I were away
From the world to-day
Swinging in the grapevine swing.

The Bivouac of the Dead

by Theodore O'Hara

The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The soldier's last tattoo;
No more on life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame's eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.

No rumor of the foe's advance
Now swells upon the wind;
No troubled thought at midnight haunts
Of loved ones left behind;
No vision of the morrow's strife
The warrior's dream alarms;
No braying horn nor screaming fife
At dawn shall call to arms.

Their shivered swords are red with rust,
Their plumed heads are bowed;
Their haughty banner, trailed in dust,
Is now their martial shroud.
And plenteous funeral tears have washed
The red stains from each brow,
And the proud forms, by battle gashed,
Are free from anguish now.

The neighing troop, the flashing blade,
The bugle's stirring blast,
The charge, the dreadful cannonade,
The din and shout, are past;
Nor war's wild note, nor glory's peal
Shall thrill with fierce delight
Those breasts that never more may feel
The rapture of the fight.
. . .

Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead,
Dear as the blood ye gave,
No impious footstep here shall tread
The herbage of your grave.
Nor shall your glory be forgot
While Fame her record keeps,
Or Honor points the hallowed spot
Where Valor proudly sleeps.
. . . .