Long as man’s
hope insatiate can discern
Or only guess some more inspiring goal 210
Outside of Self, enduring as the pole,
Along whose course the flying axles burn
Of spirits bravely-pitched, earth’s manlier brood;
Long as below we cannot find
The meed that stills the inexorable mind; 215
So long this faith to some ideal Good,
Under whatever mortal name it masks,
Freedom, Law, Country, this ethereal mood
That thanks the Fates for their severer tasks,
Feeling its challenged pulses leap, 220
While others skulk in subterfuges cheap,
And, set in Danger’s van, has all the boon it asks,
Shall win man’s praise and woman’s love,
Shall be a wisdom that we set above
All other skills and gifts to culture dear, 225
A virtue round whose forehead we enwreathe
Laurels that with a living passion breathe
When other crowns grow, while we twine them, sear.
What brings us thronging these high rites to pay,
And seal these hours the noblest of our year, 230
Save that our brothers found this better way?
We sit here in the Promised Land
That flows with Freedom’s honey and milk;
But ’t was they won it, sword in hand,
Making the nettle danger soft for us as silk. 235
We welcome back our bravest and our best;—
Ah me! not all! some come not with the rest,
Who went forth brave and bright as any here!
I strive to mix some gladness with my strain,
But the sad strings complain, 240
And will not please the ear:
I sweep them for a paean, but they wane
Again and yet again
Into a dirge, and die away in pain.
In these brave ranks I only see the gaps, 245
Thinking of dear ones whom the dumb turf wraps,
Dark to the triumph which they died to gain:
Fitlier may others greet the living,
For me the past is unforgiving;
I with uncovered head 250
Salute the sacred dead,
Who went, and who return not.—Say not so!
’Tis not the grapes of Canaan that repay,
But the high faith that failed not by the way;
Virtue treads paths that end not in the grave; 255
No bar of endless night exiles the brave;
And to the saner mind
We rather seem the dead that stayed behind.
Blow, trumpets, all your exultations blow!
For never shall their aureoled presence lack: 260
I see them muster in a gleaming row,
With ever-youthful brows that nobler show;
We find in our dull road their shining track;
In every nobler mood