A Second Review of the Grand Army

A poem by Francis Bret Harte

I read last night of the grand review
In Washington’s chiefest avenue,
Two hundred thousand men in blue,
I think they said was the number,
Till I seemed to hear their trampling feet,
The bugle blast and the drum’s quick beat,
The clatter of hoofs in the stony street,
The cheers of people who came to greet,
And the thousand details that to repeat
Would only my verse encumber,
Till I fell in a reverie, sad and sweet,
And then to a fitful slumber.

When, lo! in a vision I seemed to stand
In the lonely Capitol. On each hand
Far stretched the portico, dim and grand
Its columns ranged like a martial band
Of sheeted spectres, whom some command
Had called to a last reviewing.
And the streets of the city were white and bare,
No footfall echoed across the square;
But out of the misty midnight air
I heard in the distance a trumpet blare,
And the wandering night-winds seemed to bear
The sound of a far tattooing.

Then I held my breath with fear and dread
For into the square, with a brazen tread,
There rode a figure whose stately head
O’erlooked the review that morning,
That never bowed from its firm-set seat
When the living column passed its feet,
Yet now rode steadily up the street
To the phantom bugle’s warning:

Till it reached the Capitol square, and wheeled,
And there in the moonlight stood revealed
A well-known form that in State and field
Had led our patriot sires:
Whose face was turned to the sleeping camp,
Afar through the river’s fog and damp,
That showed no flicker, nor waning lamp,
Nor wasted bivouac fires.

And I saw a phantom army come,
With never a sound of fife or drum,
But keeping time to a throbbing hum
Of wailing and lamentation:
The martyred heroes of Malvern Hill,
Of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville,
The men whose wasted figures fill
The patriot graves of the nation.

And there came the nameless dead, the men
Who perished in fever swamp and fen,
The slowly-starved of the prison pen;
And, marching beside the others,
Came the dusky martyrs of Pillow’s fight,
With limbs enfranchised and bearing bright;
I thought perhaps ’twas the pale moonlight
They looked as white as their brothers!

And so all night marched the nation’s dead,
With never a banner above them spread,
Nor a badge, nor a motto brandished;
No mark save the bare uncovered head
Of the silent bronze Reviewer;
With never an arch save the vaulted sky;
With never a flower save those that lie
On the distant graves for love could buy
No gift that was purer or truer.

So all night long swept the strange array,
So all night long till the morning gray
I watched for one who had passed away;
With a reverent awe and wonder,
Till a blue cap waved in the length’ning line,
And I knew that one who was kin of mine
Had come; and I spake and lo! that sign
Awakened me from my slumber.

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