Strong men fast asleep,
With coverlets wrought of clay,
Do soft dreams over you creep
Of friends who are here to-day?
Do you know, O men low lying
In the hard and chilly bed,
That we, the slowly dying,
Are giving a day to the dead?
Do you know that sighs for your deaths
Across our heart-strings play,
E’en from the last faint breaths
Of the sweet lipped month of May?
When you fell, at duty’s call,
Your fame it glittered high,
As leaves of the somber fall
Grow brighter, though they die;
Men of the silent bands,
Men of the half-told days,
Lift up your specter hands
And take our hearts bouquets.
Women whose rich graves deck
The work of strife’s red spade,
Shining wrecks of the wreck
This tempest of war has made,
You whose sweet, pure love
Round every suffering twined,
Whose hearts like the sky above
Bent o’er all human kind.
Who walked through hospital streets
‘Twixt white abodes of pain,
Counting the last heart beats
Of men who were slowly slain,
Whose deeds were so sweet and gracious,
Wherever your light feet trod,
That every step seemed precious,
As if it were that of God;
Whose eyes so divinely beamed,
Whose touch was so tender and true.
That the dying soldier dreamed
Of the purest love he knew.
O, martyrs of more than duty!
Did you think in this day’s sad beauty
That we could forget your graves?
Men who fell at a loss,
Who died ‘neath failure’s frown,
Who carried strife’s red cross
And gained not victory’s crown,
Whose long fight was so brave
That it won our sad applause,
Who sleep in a hero’s grave,
Though clutched by the corpse of a
Sleep sweet, with no misgiving, [cause.
By bitter memories fed,
That we, your foes while living,
Can be your foes when dead.
Your fault shall not e’en be spoken—
You paid for it on the pall;
The shroud is forgiveness’ token,
And death makes saints of all.
Men of the dark-hued race,
Whose freedom meant—to die—
Who lie with pain wrought face
Upturned to the peaceful sky.
Whose day of jubilee,
So many years o’erdue,
Came—but only to be
A day of death to you.
Men who died in sight
Of the long-sought promised land.
Would that these flowers were bright
As your deeds are true and grand.
Boys, whose glossy hair
Grows gray in the age of the grave,
Who lie so humble there
Because you were strong and brave;
You whose lives cold set
Like a winter’s sun ill-timed,
Whose hearts ran down ere yet
The noon of your lives had chimed—
Do you know your fathers are near,
The wrecks of their pride to meet?
Do you know your mothers are here
To throw their hearts at your feet?
Do you know the maiden hovers
O’er you with bended knee.
Dreaming what royal lovers
Such lovers as you would be?
Ruins of youthful graces,
Strong buds crushed in the spring,
Lift up your phantom faces
And see the flowers we bring!
Sleep well, O sad-browed city!
Whatever may betide,
Not under a nation’s pity
But mid a nation’s pride.
The vines that round you clamber
Brightest shall be and best;
You sleep in the honor chamber,
Each one a royal guest.
And aye in realms of glory
Shine bright your starry claims—
Angels have heard your story,
And God knows all your names.
— Will Carleton