by: Theodore O'Hara (1820-1867)

      HE muffled drum's sad roll has beat
      The soldier's last tattoo;
      No more on Life's parade shall meet
      That brave and fallen few.
      On Fame's eternal camping-ground
      Their silent tents are spread,
      And Glory guards, with solemn round,
      The bivouac of the dead.
      No rumor of the foe's advance
      Now swells upon the wind;
      No troubled thought at midnight haunts
      Of loved ones left behind;
      No vision of the morrow's strife
      The warrior's dream alarms;
      No braying horn nor screaming fife
      At dawn shall call to arms.
      Their shivered swords are red with rust;
      Their plumèd heads are bowed;
      Their haughty banner, trailed in dust,
      Is now their martial shroud.
      And plenteous funeral tears have washed
      The red stains from each brow,
      And the proud forms, by battle gashed,
      Are free from anguish now.
      The Neighing troop, the flashing blade,
      The bugle's stirring blast,
      The charge, the dreadful cannonade,
      The din and shout, are past;
      Nor war's wild note, nor glory's peal,
      Shall thrill with fierce delight
      Those breasts that nevermore may feel
      The rapture of the fight.
      Like the fierce northern hurricane
      That sweeps his great plateau,
      Flushed with the triumph yet to gain,
      Came down the serried foe.
      Who heard the thunder of the fray
      Break o'er the field beneath,
      Knew well the watchword of that day
      Was "Victory or Death."
      Long had the doubtful conflict raged
      O'er all that stricken plain,
      For never fiercer fight had waged
      The vengeful blood of Spain;
      And still the storm of battle blew,
      Still swelled the glory tide;
      Not long, our stout old chieftain knew,
      Such odds his strength could bide.
      'T was in that hour his stern command
      Called to a martyr's grave
      The flower of his belovèd land,
      The nation's flag to save.
      By rivers of their fathers' gore
      His first-born laurels grew,
      And well he deemed the sons would pour
      Their lives for glory too.
      Full many a norther's breath has swept
      O'er Angostura's plain,
      And long the pitying sky has wept
      Above its mouldered slain.
      The raven's scream or eagle's flight,
      Or shepherd's pensive lay,
      Alone awakes each sullen height
      That frowned o'er that dread fray.
      Sons of the dark and bloody ground,
      Ye must not slumber there,
      Where stranger steps and tongues resound
      Along the heedless air.
      Your own proud land's heroic soil
      Shall be your fitter grave;
      She claims from war his richest spoil--
      The ashes of her brave.
      Thus 'neath their parent turf they rest,
      Far from the glory field,
      Borne to a Spartan mother's breast
      On many a bloody shield;
      The sunshine of their native sky
      Smiles sadly on them here,
      And kindred eyes and hearts watch by
      The heroes' sepulcher.
      Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead!
      Dear as the blood ye gave;
      No impious footstep here shall tread
      The herbage of your grave;
      Nor shall your story be forgot,
      While Fame her record keeps,
      Or Honor points the hallowed spot
      Where Valor proudly sleeps.
      Yon marble minstrel's voiceless stone
      In deathless song shall tell,
      When many a vanished age hath flown,
      The story how ye fell;
      Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter's blight,
      Nor Time's remorseless doom,
      Shall dim one ray of glory's light
      That gilds your deathless tomb.

"The Bivouac of the Dead" is reprinted from The Little Book of American Poets: 1787-1900. Ed. Jessie B. Rittenhouse. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1915.




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