The Colonel even has remarked this charming thoughtful girl,
And gives to his fine gray moustache the customary twirl;
A handsome man, with uniform whose gilded lustre shines
From clanking spur to epaulette with stars and golden lines;
He knows how potent is the spell such ornaments impart
To make of soldiers demi-gods in woman’s gentle heart.
“The Flag! The Flag!” The crowd is thrilled to see it now advance!
Hail, Colors of the Fatherland! Hail, Banner of Fair France!
Hail, wounded emblem of the brave; blood-red, and heaven’s blue,
And purest white,—the noble Flag, now waving in our view!
Standard sublime, that moves all hearts, as now thy
Our dead seem shrouded in thy folds, stirred by the breath of souls!
The color-bearer, young as Hope, and still a charming boy,
In rhythm to the beating hearts and symphony of joy,
Sways gently, as he bears it on, the emblem of a land
Whose sons will in united ranks all enemies withstand.
The young lieutenant, on whose face the standard’s shadow falls,
Knows well it makes him pass admired between those human walls,
And that its presence lifts him high above the rank and file,
And gains for him a sentiment worth many a pretty smile.
“That girl has smiled”, the Colonel thinks, “but on whom’? Who can tell?”
“It is the bearer of the flag, on whom her favor fell”,
Exclaims the Captain, who then adds, “Great Heavens! worse than this,
She has not only smiled, but now she really throws a kiss!”
The Colonel, somewhat bent with years, sits up and
swells his chest;
“A charming girl” a sergeant cries, and tries to look his best;
Each soldier, if a comrade laughs, a rival seems to fear;
The chief of a battalion looks, and makes his charger rear.
While several soldiers thus assume an air of martial pride,
The color-bearer, whom the band has quite electrified,
Caresses with a trembling hand the down upon his lip,
In doing which he rashly lets the tattered banner dip.
But she has seen within its folds, thus torn with shell and shot,
The soul of one she dearly loved, who, dead at Gravelotte,
Returned no more, but sleeps to-day within an unknown grave ...
The maiden’s kiss was for the Flag, the death-shroud of the brave.
(Translated from the poem by Jean Aicard, entitled “Le Baiser au Drapeau".)
Idly one day in a foreign town
In a churchyard’s shade I sat me down
By the side of a little cross of stone
On which was a woman’s name alone.
A cypress whispered in my ear
That all was now neglected here;
“Emily’s Grave” was all I read;
Nothing more on the cross was said;
Neither a name, nor Bible verse,
Nor date relieved the inscription terse,—
So strange this seemed, my blood turned cold