Admetus and other poems
THE DAY OF DEAD SOLDIERS.
May 30, 1869.
WELCOME, thou gray and fragrant Sabbath-day,
To deathless love and valor dedicate!
Glorious with the richest flowers of May,
With early roses, lingering lilacs late,
With vivid green of grass and leaf and spray,
Thou bringest memories that far outweigh
The season's joy with thoughts of death and fate.
What words may paint the picture on the air
Of this broad land to-day from sea to sea?
The rolling prairies, purple valleys rare,
And royal mountains, endless rivers free,
Filled full with phantoms flitting everywhere,
Pale ghosts of buried armies, slowly there
From countless graves uprising silently.
A calm, grave day,—the sunlight does not shine
But thin, gray clouds bedrape the sky o'erhead.
The delicate air is filled with spirits fine,
The temperate breezes whisper of the dead.Page 192
What visions and what memories divine,
O holy Sabbath flower-day, are thine,
Painted in light against a field of red!
Behold the fairest spots in all the land,
To-day in this mid-season of fresh flowers,
Are heroes' graves, —by many a tender hand
Sprinkled With odorous, radiant-colored showers;
By mild, moist breezes delicately fanned,
Sending o'er distant towns their perfumes bland,
Loading with sweet aroma sunless hours.
Who knows what tremulous, dusky hands set free,
Deck quaintly with gay flowers the graves unknown?
What wealth of bloom is shed exuberantly,
On the far grave in Illinois alone,
Where the last hero, sleeping peacefully,
Beyond detraction and mistrust, doth lie,
By the glad winds of prairies overblown?
With hymns and prayer be this day sanctified,
And consecrate to heroes' memories;
Not with wild, violent grief for those who died,
O wives and mothers, but with patience wise,
Calm resignation, and a thankful pride,
That they have left their land a fame so wide,
So rich a page of thrilling histories.