“Your men and you on the crest were first,
And the last foe left was I,
In the crackle of rifles I dropped and cursed,
Lightning-struck as the cheer outburst
And the hot charge panted nigh.
“You saw me writhe at the side of the trench;
You bade—I know not what;
With one last gnash, with one last wrench,
I sped my last, sure shot.
“The thing that lies on the sodden ground
Like a wrack of the whirlwind’s track,
Your men have made of the body of me,
But they could not call you back!
“In that black game I won, I won!
But had you worked your will,
Speak now the shame that you would have done
In the blockhouse under the hill!”
“God judge my men!” said the fair young
“He knows you tried them sore.
Had He given me power to bide an hour
I had wrought that they forebore.
“I bade them, ere your bullet brought
This swift, this sweet release,
To bear your body out of the fire
That you might rest in peace.”
Said the grim dark soul, “Farewell, farewell,
Farewell ’twixt you and me
Till they set red Judas free from Hell
To kneel at the Lord Christ’s knee!”
“Not so, not so,” said the fair young
“But reach me out your hand:
We two will kneel at the Lord Christ’s knee,
And he that was hanged on the cruel tree
Will remember and understand.
“We two will pray at the Lord Christ’s
That never on earth again
The breath of the hot brute guns shall cloud
The sight in the eyes of men!”
The clean stars came into the sky,
The perfect night was still;
Yet rose to heaven the old blood-cry
From the blockhouse under the hill.
By day Golgotha sleeps, but when night comes
The army rallies to the beating drums;
Columns are formed and banners wave
O’er armies summoned from the grave.
The wheat field waves with reddened grain
And the wounded wail and writhe in pain.
The hard-held Bloody Angle drips anew
And Pickett charges with a ghostly crew,
While where the road to the village turns
Stands the tall shadow of old John Burns!
Rheims is down in fire and smoke,
The hour of God is at the stroke,
Round and round the ruined place,—
Jesus, Mary, give us grace!
There are two riders clad in mail
Silver as the moon is pale.
One is tall as a knight’s spear,
The younger one is lowlier.
Small and slim and like a maid—
Steeds and riders cast no shade.
Who are then these cavaliers?
There was a sound as Heaven dropt tears.
Who are those who ride so light,
Soundless in the flaming light,