Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
By William Ray (1771–1827)
          Just on the brow of Onondaga Hill, close by the great western turnpike, at the skirt of a wood, is a grave, rendered more gloomy and solemn by a deep gulf below, which has a tombstone with the following inscription—“In memory of Capt. Benjamin Branch, of the 1st Regt. U. S. Light Artillery, a native of Virginia, who died in the 27th year of his age, Oct. 10, 1814, on his march to the frontier.”

TRAVELLER, pause—a moment stay,
Nature’s impulse soft obey;
Ere you from the spot depart,
Read this tombstone—read your heart;
Learn the lesson each can give,        5
Death is sure to all that live;
Death is given to save from death
What is dearer far than breath,
Save the soul from earthly fears,
Days of grief and nights of tears,        10
From the grave’s dark prison chains,
From eternal hopeless pains!
What a blessing! what a prize!
’Tis the daybreak of the skies!
Transformation how sublime,        15
To eternity from time!
Not to astonish’d angels given,
O! phenomenon of heaven!
But the blessing, though so dear,
Mortals shun, for mortals fear,        20
Dread to pass that awful gate,
Open’d by the key of fate;
Blackness, darkness all within,
What a thunder-cloud is sin;
Whence tremendous threatenings roll!        25
Flash upon the dying soul!
Till the beams of mercy shine,
Then, O sun! O sun divine!
Darkness thou shalt chase away,
All is morning—cloudless day.        30
Here a youth unheeded lies,
Once the joy of parents’ eyes;
Here a heart now lifeless, cold,
Once so feeling, once so bold;
Ardent, hopeful, courting fame,        35
Burning with the patriot’s flame;
Lo! extinguish’d all its fires,
Lo! the branch of hope expires!
Withers in a foreign grave,
Such the laurels of the brave!        40
Was there, when he died of late—
Is there none to mourn his fate?
No fond brother’s tender soul,
While the tears of anguish roll,
No kind sister’s raining eyes        45
Looking to the northern skies?
No deep-wounded parents’ breast,
Darting, sobbing a request,
“Tell me, must our hopes be o’er?
Tell me, does he live no more?        50
Where is then his body laid?
Had it decent honours paid?
When he saw the summons come,
Did he think on us and home?
In his illness did he find        55
Strangers pitiful and kind?
Did the cause he served obtain
Mitigation of his pain?
Will his grateful country show
Due respect for all our wo?        60
Bind our broken hearts, and cheer
Our sad spirits with a tear?”
Yes, his grateful country knows
All his worth, and all your woes.

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