Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
1638. For Decoration Day
By Rupert Hughes

BUT do we truly mourn our soldier dead,
Or understand at all their precious fame—
We that were born too late to feel the flame
That leapt from lowly hearths, and grew, dispread,
And, like a pillar of fire, our armies led?        5
Or you that knew them—do the long years tame
The memory-anguish? Are they more than name?
Oh, let no stinted grief profane their bed!
Let tears bedew each wreath that decks the lawn
Of every grave! and raise a solemn prayer        10
That their battalioned souls be joined to fare
Dim roads, beyond the trumpets of the dawn,
Yet perfumed, somehow, by our flowers that heap
The peaceful barracks where their bodies sleep.

AND now the long, long lines of the Nation’s graves
Grow longer; and the venerate slopes reveal
The fresh spring turf gashed thick with tombs to seal
Away another army of our braves.
So hang black garlands from the architraves
Of all the capitols. The dying peal        20
Of bugles wails their final Taps. So kneel
And give the dead the due their virtue craves.
Thank God, the olden sinew still is bred;
The milk of American mothers still is sweet;
The sword of Seventy-six is sharp and bright;        25
The Flag still floats unblotted with defeat!
But ah the blood that keeps its ripples red,
The starry lives that keep its field alight;
The pangs of women and the tears they’ve bled
The Lord enlarge our spirits till we feel        30
The greatness of these spirits upward fled.
A kind of genius it has been that fed
Them strength to be, above all passions, leal.
They put aside the velvet for the steel,
Left love, and hope, and ease at home; and sped        35
To the wilderness of war and every dread.
Their blood is mortar for our commonweal;
Their deeds its decoration and its boast.
So mix with dirges, triumph; smiles, with tears.
Make sorrow perfect with exultant pride—        40
Our vanished armies have not truly died;
They march to-day before the heavenly host;
And history’s veterans raise a storm of cheers,
As the Yankee troops—with glory armed and shod—
In Grand Review swing past the throne of God.        45


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