After the Battles are over

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After the Battles are over
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
From Poems of Cheer (1910)

After the battles are over,
   And the war drums cease to beat,
And no more is heard on the hillside
The sound of hurrying feet,
Full many a noble action,
   That was done in the days of strife
By the soldier is half forgotten,
   In the peaceful walks of life.

Just as the tangled grasses,
   In Summer's warmth and light,
Grow over the graves of the fallen
   And hide them away from sight,
So many an act of valour,
   And many a deed sublime,
Fade from the mind of the soldier
   O'ergrown by the grass of time

Not so should they be rewarded,
   Those noble deeds of old!
They should live for ever and ever,
   When the heroes' hearts are cold.
Then rally, ye brave old comrades,
   Old veterans, reunite!
Uproot Time's tangled grasses -
   Live over the march, and the fight.

Let Grant come up from the White House,
   And clasp each brother's hand,
First chieftain of the army,
   Last chieftain of the land.
Let him rest from a nation's burdens,
   And go, in thought, with his men,
Through the fire and smoke of Shiloh,
   And save the day again.

This silent hero of battles
   Knew no such word as defeat.
It was left for the rebels' learning,
   Along with the word--retreat.
He was not given to talking,
   But he found that guns would preach
In a way that was more convincing
   Than fine and flowery speech

Three cheers for the grave commander
   Of the grand old Tennessee!
Who won the first great battle -
   Gained the first great victory.
His motto was always "Conquer,"
   "Success" was his countersign,
And "though it took all Summer,"
   He kept fighting upon "that line."

Let Sherman, the stern old General,
   Come rallying with his men;
Let them march once more through Georgia
   And down to the sea again.
Oh! that grand old tramp to Savannah,
   Three hundred miles to the coast,
It will live in the heart of the nation,
   For ever its pride and boast.

As Sheridan went to the battle,
   When a score of miles away,
He has come to the feast and banquet,
   By the iron horse to-day.
Its pace is not much swifter
   Than the pace of that famous steed
Which bore him down to the contest
   And saved the day by his speed.

Then go over the ground to-day, boys
   Tread each remembered spot.
It will be a gleesome journey,
   On the swift-shod feet of thought;
You can fight a bloodless battle,
   You can skirmish along the route,
But it's not worth while to forage,
   There are rations enough without.

Don't start if you hear the cannon,
   It is not the sound of doom,
It does not call to the contest -
   To the battle's smoke and gloom.
"Let us have peace," was spoken,
   And lo! peace ruled again;
And now the nation is shouting,
   Through the cannon's voice, "Amen."

O boys who besieged old Vicksburgh,
   Can time e'er wash away
The triumph of her surrender,
   Nine years ago to-day?
Can you ever forget the moment,
   When you saw the flag of white,
That told how the grim old city
   Had fallen in her might?

Ah, 'twas a bold, brave army,
   When the boys, with a right good will,
Went gaily marching and singing
   To the fight at Champion Hill.
They met with a warm reception,
   But the soul of "Old John Brown"
Was abroad on that field of battle,
   And our flag did NOT go down.

Come, heroes of Look Out Mountain,
   Of Corinth and Donelson,
Of Kenesaw and Atlanta,
   And tell how the day was won!
Hush! bow the head for a moment -
   There are those who cannot come.
No bugle-call can arouse them -
   No sound of fife or drum.

Oh, boys who died for the country,
   Oh, dear and sainted dead!
What can we say about you
   That has not once been said?
Whether you fell in the contest,
   Struck down by shot and shell,
Or pined 'neath the hand of sickness
   Or starved in the prison cell,

We know that you died for Freedom,
   To save our land from shame,
To rescue a perilled Nation,
   And we give you deathless fame.
'Twas the cause of Truth and Justice
   That you fought and perished for,
And we say it, oh, so gently,
   "Our boys who died in the war."

Saviours of our Republic,
   Heroes who wore the blue,
We owe the peace that surrounds us -
   And our Nation's strength to you.
We owe it to you that our banner,
   The fairest flag in the world,
Is to-day unstained, unsullied,
   On the Summer air unfurled.

We look on its stripes and spangles,
   And our hearts are filled the while
With love for the brave commanders,
   And the boys of the rank and file.
The grandest deeds of valour
   Were never written out,
The noblest acts of virtue
   The world knows nothing about.

And many a private soldier,
   Who walks his humble way,
With no sounding name or title,
   Unknown to the world to-day,
In the eyes of God is a hero
   As worthy of the bays
As any mighty General
   To whom the world gives praise.

Brave men of a mighty army,
   We extend you friendship's hand
I speak for the "Loyal Women,"
   Those pillars of our land.
We wish you a hearty welcome,
   We are proud that you gather here
To talk of old times together
   On this brightest day in the year.

And if Peace, whose snow-white pinions
   Brood over our land to-day,
Should ever again go from us,
   (God grant she may ever stay!)
Should our Nation call in her peril
   For "Six hundred thousand more,"
The loyal women would hear her,
   And send you out as before.

We would bring out the treasured knapsack,
   We would take the sword from the wall,
And hushing our own hearts' pleadings,
   Hear only the country's call.
For next to our God is our Nation;
   And we cherish the honoured name
Of the bravest of all brave armies
   Who fought for that Nation's fame.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1919, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.