The smallest flower beside my path,
In loveliness of bloom,
Some element of comfort hath
To rid my heart of gloom;
But these, of spotless purity,
And fragrant as the rose,
As sad a sight recall to me
As time shall e'er disclose.
Oh, there are pictures on the brain
Sometimes by shadows made,
Till dust is blent with dust again,
That never, never fade;
And things supremely bright and fair
As ever known in life
Suggest the darkness of despair,
And sanguinary strife.
I shut my eyes; 'tis all in vain -
The battle-field appears,
And one among the thousands slain
In manhood's brilliant years;
An elbow pillowing his head,
And on the crimson sand
Syringa-blooms, distained and dead,
Within his rigid hand.
Could she foresee, who from the stem
Had plucked that little spray
Of flowers, that he would cherish them
Unto his dying day?
"Give these to M - - ; - 'tis almost night -
And tell her - that - I love - "
Alas! the letter he would write
Was finished up above.
And so, with each recurring spring,
On Decoration day,
When to our heroes' graves we bring
The blossom-wealth of May,
While martial strains are soft and low,
And music seems a prayer,
Unto a hallowed spot I go,
And leave syringas there.