Our Heroic Dead.

A poem by James Barron Hope

I.

A King once said of a Prince struck down,
"Taller he seems in death."
And this speech holds truth, for now as then
'Tis after death that we measure men,
And as mists of the past are rolled away
Our heroes, who died in their tattered grey,
Grow "taller" and greater in all their parts
Till they fill our minds as they fill our hearts.
And for those who lament them there's this relief -
That Glory sits by the side of Grief,
Yes, they grow "taller" as the years pass by
And the World learns how they could do and die.


II.

A Nation respects them. The East and West,
The far-off slope of the Golden Coast,
The stricken South and the North agree
That the heroes who died for you and me -
Each valiant man, in his own degree,
Whether he fell on the shore or sea,
Did deeds of which
This Land, though rich
In histories may boast,
And the Sage's Book and the Poet's Lay
Are full of the deeds of the Men in Grey.


III.

No lion cleft from the rock is ours,
Such as Lucerne displays,
Our only wealth is in tears and flowers,
And words of reverent praise.
And the Roses brought to this silent Yard
Are Red and White. Behold!

They tell how wars for a kingly crown,
In the blood of England's best writ down,
Left Britain a story whose moral old
Is fit to be graven in text of gold:
The moral is, that when battles cease
The ramparts smile in the blooms of peace.

And flowers to-day were hither brought
From the gallant men who against us fought;
York and Lancaster! - Grey and Blue!
Each to itself and the other true -
And so I say
Our Men in Grey
Have left to the South and North a tale
Which none of the glories of Earth can pale.


IV.

Norfolk has names in the sleeping host
Which fill us with mournful pride -
Taylor and Newton, we well may boast,
McPhail, and Walke, and Selden, too,
Brave as the bravest, as truest true!
And Grandy struck down ere his May became June,
A battle-flag folded away too soon,
And Williams, than whom not a man stood higher,
'Mid the host of heroes baptized in fire.
And Mallory, whose sires aforetime died,
When Freedom and Danger stood side by side.
McIntosh, too, with his boarders slain,
Saunders and Jackson, the unripe grain,
And Taliaferro, stately as knight of old,
A blade of steel with a sheath of gold.
And Wright, who fell on the Crater's red sod,
Giving life to the Cause, his soul to GOD.
And there is another, whose portrait at length
Should blend graces of Sidney with great Raleigh's strength.
Ah, John Randolph Tucker![1] To match me this name
You must climb to the top of the Temple of Fame!

These are random shots o'er the men at rest,
But each rings out on a warrior's crest.
Yes, names like bayonet points, when massed,
Blaze out as we gaze on the splendid past.


V.

That past is now like an Arctic Sea
Where the living currents have ceased to run,
But over that past the fame of Lee
Shines out as the "Midnight Sun:"
And that glorious Orb, in its march sublime,
Shall gild our graves till the end of time!

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