Verse > Anthologies > Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. > Yale Book of American Verse
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Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. (1838–1915). Yale Book of American Verse.  1912.
 
Theodore O'Hara. 1820–1867
 
147. Bivouac of the Dead
 
THE MUFFLED drum's sad roll has beat 
  The soldier's last tattoo; 
No more on Life's parade shall meet 
  That brave and fallen few. 
On Fame's eternal camping-ground         5
  Their silent tents are spread, 
And Glory guards, with solemn round, 
  The bivouac of the dead. 
  
No rumor of the foe's advance 
  Now swells upon the wind;  10
No troubled thought at midnight haunts 
  Of loved ones left behind; 
No vision of the morrow's strife 
  The warrior's dream alarms; 
No braying horn nor screaming fife  15
  At dawn shall call to arms. 
  
Their shivered swords are red with rust, 
  Their plumèd heads are bowed; 
Their haughty banner, trailed in dust, 
  Is now their martial shroud.  20
And plenteous funeral tears have washed 
  The red stains from each brow, 
And the proud forms, by battle gashed, 
  Are free from anguish now. 
  
The neighing troop, the flashing blade,  25
  The bugle's stirring blast, 
The charge, the dreadful cannonade, 
  The din and shout, are past; 
Nor war's wild note nor glory's peal 
  Shall thrill with fierce delight  30
Those breasts that nevermore may feel 
  The rapture of the fight. 
  
Like the fierce northern hurricane 
  That sweeps his great plateau, 
Flushed with the triumph yet to gain,  35
  Came down the serried foe. 
Who heard the thunder of the fray 
  Break o'er the field beneath, 
Knew well the watchword of that day 
  Was "Victory or Death."  40
  
Long had the doubtful conflict raged 
  O'er all that stricken plain, 
For never fiercer fight had waged 
  The vengeful blood of Spain; 
And still the storm of battle blew,  45
  Still swelled the gory tide; 
Not long, our stout old chieftain knew, 
  Such odds his strength could bide. 
  
'T was in that hour his stern command 
  Called to a martyr's grave  50
The flower of his beloved land, 
  The nation's flag to save. 
By rivers of their fathers' gore 
  His first-born laurels grew, 
And well he deemed the sons would pour  55
  Their lives for glory too. 
  
Full many a norther's breath has swept 
  O'er Angostura's plain, 
And long the pitying sky has wept 
  Above its mouldered slain.  60
The raven's scream, or eagle's flight, 
  Or shepherd's pensive lay, 
Alone awakes each sullen height 
  That frowned o'er that dread fray. 
  
Sons of the Dark and Bloody Ground,  65
  Ye must not slumber there, 
Where stranger steps and tongues resound 
  Along the heedless air. 
Your own proud land's heroic soil 
  Shall be your fitter grave:  70
She claims from war his richest spoil— 
  The ashes of her brave. 
  
Thus 'neath their parent turf they rest 
  Far from the gory field, 
Borne to a Spartan mother's breast  75
  On many a bloody shield; 
The sunshine of their native sky 
  Smiles sadly on them here, 
And kindred eyes and hearts watch by 
  The heroes' sepulchre.  80
  
Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead! 
  Dear as the blood ye gave; 
No impious footstep here shall tread 
  The herbage of your grave; 
Nor shall your glory be forgot  85
  While Fame her record keeps, 
Or Honor points the hallowed spot 
  Where Valor proudly sleeps. 
  
Yon marble minstrel's voiceless stone 
  In deathless song shall tell,  90
When many a vanished age hath flown, 
  The story how ye fell; 
Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter's blight, 
  Nor Time's remorseless doom, 
Shall dim one ray of glory's light  95
  That gilds your deathless tomb. 
 
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