Battle Days

A poem by George Parsons Lathrop

I

Veteran memories rally to muster
Here at the call of the old battle days:
Cavalry clatter and cannon's hoarse bluster:
All the wild whirl of the fight's broken maze:
Clangor of bugle and flashing of sabre,
Smoke-stifled flags and the howl of the shell,
With earth for a rest place and death for a neighbor,
And dreams of a charge and the deep rebel yell.
Stern was our task in the field where the reaping
Spared the ripe harvest, but laid our men low:
Grim was the sorrow that held us from weeping:
Awful the rush of the strife's ebb and flow.
Swift came the silence - our enemy hiding
Sudden retreat in the cloud-muffled night:
Swift as a hawk-pounce our hill-and-dale riding;
Hundreds on hundreds we caught in their flight!
Hard and incessant the danger and trial,
Laid on our squadrons, that gladly bore all,
Scorning to meet with delay or denial
The summons that rang in the battle-days' call!


II

Wild days that woke to glory or despair,
And smote the coward soul with sudden shame,
But unto those whose hearts were bold to dare
All things for honor brought eternal fame: -
Lost days, undying days!
With undiminished rays
Here now on us look down,
Illumining our crown
Of leaves memorial, wet with tender dew
For those who nobly died
In fierce self-sacrifice of service true,
Rapt in pure fire of life-disdaining pride;
Men of this soil, who stood
Firm for their country's good,
From night to night, from sun to sun,
Till o'er the living and the slain
A woful dawn that streamed with rain
Wept for their victory dearly won.


III

Days of the future, prophetic days, -
Silence engulfs the roar of war;
Yet, through all coming years, repeat the praise
Of those leal comrades brave, who come no more!
And when our voices cease,
Long, long renew the chant, the anthem proud,
Which, echoing clear and loud
Through templed aisles of peace,
Like blended tumults of a joyous chime,
Shall tell their valor to a later time.
Shine on this field; and in the eyes of men
Rekindle, if the need shall come again,
That answering light that springs
In beaconing splendor from the soul, and brings
Promise of faith well kept and deed sublime!

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