Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
After the Battle
Richard Chenebix Trench (1807–86)
WE crown’d the hard-won heights at length,
  Baptiz’d in flame and fire;
We saw the foeman’s sullen strength,
  That grimly made retire—
Saw close at hand, then saw more far        5
  Beneath the battle-smoke
The ridges of his shatter’d war,
  That broke and ever broke.
But one, an English household’s pride,
  Dear many ways to me,        10
Who climb’d that death-path by my side,
  I sought, but could not see.
Last seen, what time our foremost rank
  That iron tempest tore;
He touch’d, he scal’d the rampart bank—        15
  Seen then, and seen no more.
One friend to aid, I measur’d back
  With him that pathway dread;
No fear to wander from our track—
  Its waymarks English dead.        20
Light thicken’d: but our search was crown’d,
  As we too well divin’d;
And after briefest quest we found
  What we most fear’d to find.
His bosom with one death-shot riven,        25
  The warrior-boy lay low;
His face was turn’d unto the heaven,
  His feet unto the foe.
As he had fallen upon the plain,
  Inviolate he lay;        30
No ruffian spoiler’s hand profane
  Had touch’d that noble clay.
And precious things he still retain’d,
  Which, by one distant hearth,
Lov’d tokens of the lov’d, had gain’d        35
  A worth beyond all worth.
I treasur’d these for them who yet
  Knew not their mighty wo;
I softly seal’d his eyes, and set
  One kiss upon his brow.        40
A decent grave we scoop’d him, where
  Less thickly lay the dead,
And decently compos’d him there
  Within that narrow bed.
O theme for manhood’s bitter tears:        45
  The beauty and the bloom
Of less than twenty summer years
  Shut in that darksome tomb!
Of soldier-sire the soldier-son;
  Life’s honor’d eventide        50
One lives to close in England, one
  In maiden battle died:
And they, that should have been the mourn’d,
  The mourners’ parts obtain:
Such thoughts were ours, as we return’d        55
  To earth its earth again.
Brief words we read of faith and prayer
  Beside that hasty grave;
Then turn’d away, and left him there,
  The gentle and the brave:        60
I calling back with thankful heart,
  With thoughts to peace allied,
Hours when we two had knelt apart
  Upon the lone hillside;
And, comforted, I prais’d the grace        65
  Which him had led to be
An early seeker of that Face
  Which he should early see.


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