Page:Pieces People Ask For.djvu/173

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
55
THE READING-CLUB.

Now he sees a planter's dwelling in Appomattox vale:
The earth is piled in breastworks, 'tis rent with iron hail;
What villages of canvas for men in blue or gray,
What lines of halting columns, in grave or grim array!

Within appear two chieftains, of heroes full a score,
The victors and the vanquished: thank God, the war is o'er!
"The olive-branch shall shield you, the sun of peace shall shine!
This flag," so says the leader, "this aegis still is thine!"

No lion mien and bearing, no eagle's eye of pride;
As modest as a schoolboy, the conqueror seeks to hide—
Hide his speechless joy of triumph by generous act and word,—
He feeds the conquered army! The beggar seems the lord.

The reveille has sounded; 'twill never sound again!
For days, in martial splendor, three hundred thousand men,
From Vicksburg and from Shiloh, Antietam and the sea,
From Shenandoah's Valley and Gettysburg's green lea,—

Those cannoneers of Ruin, that hurricane of horse,
With Pestilence behind them, and Carnage in their course;
Those, those — when Pickett's cohorts were charging wave on wave,—
That stood like granite ledges, the bravest of the brave;

With drums, with banners flying, with triumph in each eye,
The grand review are marching. He sees them passing by
As saw in dream, Napoleon, from that triumphal arch,
That night in phantom phalanx his splendid heroes march.

'Twas like a shield all gory, that sun of Austerlitz!
No bloody, ghostly phantom before our hero flits!
Ye idols of the people, who lead an army well,
Shall wield a nation's sceptre, in capitols shall dwell!

Past ages grim and hoary their victors loved to crown:
The flaming sword of conquest still wins sublime renown.
All echo and re-echo the glories of the brave;
All, all, a grateful country! bedew the soldier’s grave.

C. G. Fall.