Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
The Battle-field
By William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878)
 
ONCE this soft turf, this rivulet’s sands,
  Were trampled by a hurrying crowd,
And fiery hearts and armed hands
  Encounter’d in the battle cloud.
 
Ah! never shall the land forget        5
  How gush’d the life-blood of her brave—
Gush’d, warm with hope and courage yet,
  Upon the soil they fought to save.
 
Now, all is calm, and fresh, and still,
  Alone the chirp of flitting bird,        10
And talk of children on the hill,
  And bell of wandering kine are heard.
 
No solemn host goes trailing by
  The black-mouth’d gun and staggering wain,
Men start not at the battle-cry,        15
  O be it never heard again.
 
Soon rested those who fought; but thou
  Who minglest in the harder strife
For truths which men receive not now,
  Thy warfare only ends with life.        20
 
A friendless warfare! lingering long
  Through weary day and weary year.
A wild and many-weapon’d throng
  Hang on thy front, and flank, and rear.
 
Yet, nerve thy spirit to the proof,        25
  And blench not at thy chosen lot.
The timid good may stand aloof,
  The sage may frown—yet faint thou not.
 
Nor heed the shaft too surely cast,
  The hissing, stinging bolt of scorn;        30
For with thy side shall dwell, at last,
  The victory of endurance born.
 
Truth, crush’d to earth, shall rise again;
  The eternal years of God are hers;
But Error, wounded, writhes with pain,        35
  And dies among his worshippers.
 
Yea, though thou lie upon the dust,
  When they who help’d thee flee in fear,
Die full of hope and manly trust,
  Like those who fell in battle here.        40
 
Another hand thy sword shall wield,
  Another hand the standard wave,
Till from the trumpet’s mouth is peal’d
  The blast of triumph o’er thy grave.
 
 
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