After the battles are over,
And the war drums cease to beat,
And no more is heard on the hillside
The sound of hurrying feet;
Full many a noble action,
That was done in the days of strife,
By the soldier is half forgotten,
In the peaceful walks of life.
Just as the tangled grasses,
In Summer's warmth and light,
Grow over the graves of the fallen
And hide them away from sight,
So many an act of valour,
And many a deed sublime,
Fade from the mind of the soldier,
O'ergrown by the grass of time.
Not so should they be rewarded,
Those noble deeds of old;
They should live for ever and ever,
When the heroes' hearts are cold.
Then rally, ye brave old comrades,
Old veterans, reunite!
Uproot Time's tangled grasses---
Live over the march, and the fight.
Let Grant come up from the White House,
And clasp each brother's hand,
First chieftain of the army,
Last chieftain of the land.
Let him rest from a nation's burdens,
And go, in thought, with his men,
Through the fire and smoke of Shiloh,
And save the day again.
This silent hero of battles
Knew no such word as defeat.
It was left for the rebel's learning,
Along with the word---retreat.
He was not given to talking,
But he found that guns would preach
In a way that was more convincing
Than fine and flowery speech.
Three cheers for the grave commander
Of the grand old Tennessee!
Who won the first great battle---
Gained the first great victory.
His motto was always "Conquer,"
"Success" was his counter-sign,
And "though it took all Summer,"
He kept fighting upon "that line."
Let Sherman, the stern old General,
Come rallying with his men;
Let them march once more through Georgia
And down to the sea again.
Oh! that grand old tramp to Savannah,
Three hundred miles to the coast,
It will live in the heart of the nation,
Forever its pride and boast.
As Sheridan went to the battle,
When a score of miles away,
He has come to the feast and banquet,
By the iron horse, to-day.
Its pace is not much swifter
Than the pace of that famous steed
Which bore him down to the contest
And saved the day by his speed.
Then go over the ground to-day, boys,
Tread each remembered spot.
It will be a gleesome journey,
On the swift-shod feet of thought;
You can fight a bloodless battle,
You can skirmish along the route,
But it's not worth while to forage,
There are rations enough without.
Don't start if you hear the cannon,
It is not the sound of doom,
It does not call to the contest---
To the battle's smoke and gloom.
"Let us have peace," was spoken,
And lo! peace ruled again;
And now the nation is shouting,
Through the cannon's voice, "Amen."
O boys who besieged old Vicksburg,
Can time e'er wash away
The triumph of her surrender,
Nine years ago to-day?
Can you ever forget the moment,
When you saw the flag of white,
That told how the grim old city
Had fallen in her might?
Ah, 'twas a bold brave army,
When the boys, with a right good will,
Went gaily marching and singing
To the fight at Champion Hill.
They met with a warm reception,
But the soul of "Old John Brown"
Was abroad on that field of battle,
And our flag did NOT go down.
Come, heroes of Look Out Mountain,
Of Corinth and Donelson,
Of Kenesaw and Atlanta,
And tell how the day was won!
Hush! bow the head for a moment---
There are those who cannot come;
No bugle-call can arouse them---
Nor sound of fife or drum.
O boys who died for the country,
O dear and sainted dead!
What can we say about you
That has not once been said?
Whether you fell in the contest,
Struck down by shot and shell,
Or pined 'neath the hand of sickness
Or starved in the prison cell,
We know that you died for Freedom,
To save our land from shame,
To rescue a perilled Nation,
And we give you deathless fame,
'Twas the cause of Truth and Justice
That you fought and perished for,
And we say it, oh, so gently,
"Our boys who died in the war."
Saviours of our Republic,
Heroes who wore the blue,
We owe the peace that surrounds us---
And our Nation's strength to you.
We owe it to you that our banner,
The fairest flag in the world,
Is to-day unstained, unsullied,
On the Summer air unfurled.
We look on its stripes and spangles,
And our hearts are filled the while
With love for the brave commanders,
And the boys of the rank and file.
The grandest deeds of valour
Were never written out,
The noblest acts of virtue
The world knows nothing about.
And many a private soldier,
Who walks in his humble way,
With no sounding name or title,
Unknow to the world to-day,
In the eyes of God is a hero
As worthy of the bays,
As any mighty General
To whom the world gives praise.
Brave men of a mighty army,
We extend you friendship's hand!
I speak for the "Loyal Women,"
Those pillars of our land.
We wish you a hearty welcome,
We are proud that you gather here
To talk of old times together
On this brightest day in the year.
And if Peace, whose snow-white pinions,
Brood over our land to-day,
Should ever again go from us
(God grant she may ever stay!)
Should our Nation call in her peril
For "Six hundred thousand more,"
The loyal women would hear her,
And send you out as before.
We would bring out the treasured knapsack,
We would take the sword from the wall.
And hushing our own heart's pleadings,
Hear only the country's call.
For, next to our God, is our Nation;
And we cherish the honoured name,
Of the bravest of all brave armies
Who fought for that Nation's fame.
Poetical works of Ella Wheeler Wilcox. by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Edinburgh : W. P. Nimmo, Hay, & Mitchell, 1917.
|Back to Poem Index|