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SERENADES IN VIRGINIA: SUMMER, 1863 / Andrew Hudgins This poem is spoken in the voice of the Georgia poet Sidney Lanier and is from a book-length sequence based on his life. 1 Hearing about a lady who was said to be astonishingly beautiful and lived not thirty minutes ride from camp, we went to serenade her charms, only to be denied by a summer rain, a gully washer that got in my flute before Td played a single bar. So we took Clifford's extra'guitar string, tied a note to their doorknob, and left. Soon after that, we were invited back for meals that made us laugh with glee. The table bowed beneath their weight— Virginia ham, stuffed eggs, roast hens, and piles of biscuits I sopped full of honey then ate with a spoon when they fell apart. And when they insisted that we spend the night a very pleasant yellow slave brought us mint juleps as we rose. To stop our wagging signal flags the Federals sent a regiment of several hundred men. But we smelled out the trap and answered it with such ferocity that they, thank God, did not perceive we numbered less than twenty men. Across a mile of vines, summac, and a second growth of pine, which we relinquished inch by inch, we poured great quantities of lead into their lines and watched their men fall down. It seemed almost a lark. The Missouri Review · 37 But I see clear in memory what I ignored back then: the dull inhuman thud of lead on flesh, the buckling of a shot man's knee's, the outward fling of arms, the short arc the head inscribes before it hits the ground. The war had been over for two years before I understood they were human too. to his father But in the rush and scrabble of the raid we lost Aurora Leigh, Les Miserables, volumes of Shelly, Coleridge, and Keats, and one by Heine. Secure at any price the works of Uhland, Schelling, Tieck. Because my flute was in my haversack it wasn't lost. Don't fear for me. Miss Hankins was a handsome girl. Not pretty—handsome. Her forehead was too broad, her lips too thin for pretty. But she was full of life, possessed a mind that almost rivaled mine, and had a solemn faith—in me. That is to say she never laughed at me. One night as we sat talking in the swing, I made, for her, a rough translation of Heine's "Du bist wie eine Blume" and when an insect landed on my hand I brushed it off and said, "Firefly, fly thou away and know that once in midst of summer greenness thou didst light upon a poet's hand." And Ginna Hankins never cracked a smile. Is it any wonder then that after the war I asked her to become my wife? She didn't want her brothers to be left home without a woman there. 38 ¦ The Missouri Review Andrew Hudgins Within a month I was engaged to Mary Day. I couldn't wait. To this day we still correspond. to W. A. Hopson I should have answered long ago but I've indulged myself so thoroughly in chills and fever I've had little time to spend on food or drink or correspondence. Miss H. is here and presses me to send her warmest sentiments and say that she is full of humble satisfaction that your single friend in Franklin of her sex is cross-eyed, dull, and otherwise devoid of grace because (she adds) you'll have less call to tarry there. We need your bass to add a bottom to our sing-a-longs. When Cliff and I discuss the war we talk of lovely women, serenades, the moon-lit dashes on the beach, the brushes of our force with their patrols, with whom we clashed with more elan than consequence. We had enough hair's breadth escapes to keep our spirits high. What a God-forsaken war it would have been if we'd run short of decent horses! But there are many things we don't recall. Like Hopson...


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