Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VIII. National Spirit
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VIII. National Spirit.  1904.
 
III. War
Song of Marion’s Men
William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878)
 
OUR 1 band is few, but true and tried,
  Our leader frank and bold;
The British soldier trembles
  When Marion’s name is told.
Our fortress is the good greenwood,        5
  Our tent the cypress-tree;
We know the forest round us,
  As seamen know the sea;
We know its walls of thorny vines,
  Its glades of reedy grass,        10
Its safe and silent islands
  Within the dark morass.
 
Woe to the English soldiery
  That little dread us near!
On them shall light at midnight        15
  A strange and sudden fear;
When, waking to their tents on fire,
  They grasp their arms in vain,
And they who stand to face us
  Are beat to earth again;        20
And they who fly in terror deem
  A mighty host behind,
And hear the tramp of thousands
  Upon the hollow wind.
 
Then sweet the hour that brings release        25
  From danger and from toil;
We talk the battle over,
  And share the battle’s spoil.
The woodland rings with laugh and shout,
  As if a hunt were up,        30
And woodland flowers are gathered
  To crown the soldier’s cup.
With merry songs we mock the wind
  That in the pine-top grieves,
And slumber long and sweetly        35
  On beds of oaken leaves.
 
Well knows the fair and friendly moon
  The band that Marion leads,—
The glitter of their rifles,
  The scampering of their steeds.        40
’T is life to guide the fiery barb
  Across the moonlight plain;
’T is life to feel the night-wind
  That lifts his tossing mane.
A moment in the British camp—        45
  A moment—and away
Back to the pathless forest,
  Before the peep of day.
 
Grave men there are by broad Santee,
  Grave men with hoary hairs;        50
Their hearts are all with Marion,
  For Marion are their prayers.
And lovely ladies greet our band
  With kindliest welcoming,
With smiles like those of summer,        55
  And tears like those of spring.
For them we wear these trusty arms,
  And lay them down no more
Till we have driven the Briton
  Forever from our shore.        60
 
Note 1. General Francis Marion, of South Carolina, renowned as a daring patriot partisan leader during the Revolutionary War. [back]
 
 
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