Page images
PDF
EPUB

Glad banners are waving, hands clapping and hurrying feet Thronging after the laurel-crowned victors, I stand on the

field of defeat In the shadow, with those who are fallen, and wounded, and

dying, and there Chant a requiem low, place my hand on their pain-knotted

brows, breathe a prayer, Hold the hand that is helpless and whisper, "They only the

victory win Who have fought the good fight and have vanquished the

demon that tempts us within, Who have held to their faith unseduced by the prize that the

world holds on high, Who have dared for a high cause to suffer, resist, fight-if

need be, to die.” Speak, History! Who are life's victors? Unroll the long

annals and say, Are they those whom the world called the victors,—who

won the success of a day? The martyrs, or Nero? The Spartans who fell at Ther

mopylæ's tryst, Or the Persians and Xerxes? His judges, or Socrates? Pilate, or Christ?

William Wetmore Story (1819-1895)

“THEY WENT FORTH TO BATTLE BUT THEY

ALWAYS FELL”

THEY went forth to battle but they always fell;

Their eyes were fixed above the sullen shields; Nobly they fought and bravely, but not well, And sank heart-wounded by a subtle spell.

They knew not fear that to the foeman yields,

They were not weak, as one who vainly wields
A futile weapon; yet the sad scrolls tell
How on the hard-fought field they always fell.

It was a secret music that they heard,

A sad sweet plea for pity and for peace; And that which pierced the heart was but a word, Though the white breast was red-lipped where the sword

Pressed a fierce cruel kiss, to put surcease

On its hot thirst, but drank a hot increase. Ah, they by some strange troubling doubt were stirred, And died for hearing what no foeman heard.

They went forth to battle but they always fell:

Their might was not the might of lifted spears;
Over the battle-clamor came a spell
Of troubling music, and they fought not well.

Their wreaths are willows and their tribute, tears;

Their names are old sad stories in men's ears; Yet they will scatter the red hordes of Hell, Who went to battle forth and always fell.

Shaemas O Sheel (18

THE MASTERS

Oh, Masters, you who rule the world,

Will you not wait with me awhile,
When swords are sheathed and sails are furled,

And all the fields with harvest smile?
I would not waste your time for long,

I ask you but, when you are tired,
To read how by the weak, the strong

Are weighed and worshiped and desired.

When weary

of the Mart, the Loom,
The Withering-house, the Riffle-blocks,
The Barrack-square, the Engine-room,

The pick-axe, ringing on the rocks,-
When tents are pitched and work is done,

While restful twilight broods above,
By fresh-lit lamp, or dying sun,

See in my songs how women love.

We shared your lonely watch by night,

We knew you faithful at the helm,
Our thoughts went with you through the fight,

That saved a soul, or wrecked a realm;

Ah, how our hearts leapt forth to you,

In pride and joy, when you prevailed, And when you died, serene and true:

-We wept in silence when you failed!

Oh, brain, that did not gain the gold!

Oh, arm, that could not wield the sword,
Here is the love, that is not sold,
Here are the hearts to hail

you

Lord!

You played and lost the game? What then?

The rules are harsh and hard, we know;
You, still, oh, brothers, are the men

Whom we in secret reverence so.
Your work was waste? Maybe your share

Lay in the hour you laughed and kissed;
Who knows but that your son shall wear

The laurels that his father missed?

Ay, you who win, and you who lose,

Whether you triumph,--or despair,When your returning footsteps choose

The homeward track, our love is there. For, since the world is ordered thus,

To you, the fame, the stress, the sword, We can but wait, until to us

You give yourselves, for our reward.

To Whaler's deck and Coral beach,

To lonely Ranch and Frontier-Fort,
Beyond the narrow bounds of speech

I lay the cable of my thought.
I fain would send my thanks to you,

(Though who am I, to give you praise?) Since what you are, and work you

do
Are lessons for our easier ways.
'Neath alien stars your camp-fires glow,

I know you not, -your tents are far.
My hope is but in song to show
How honored and how dear you are.

Laurence Hope (1865-1904)

THE KINGS

A MAN said unto his Angel:
“My spirits are fallen low,
And I cannot carry this battle:
O brother! where might I go?

“The terrible Kings are on me
With spears that are deadly bright;
Against me so from the cradle
Do fate and my fathers fight.”

Then said to the man his Angel:
“Thou wavering witless soul,
Back to the ranks! What matter
To win or to lose the whole,

“As judged by the little judges
Who hearken not well, nor see?
Not thus, by the outer issue,
The Wise shall interpret thee.

“Thy will is the sovereign measure
And only event of things:
The puniest heart, defying,
Were stronger than all these Kings.

“Though out of the past they gather,
Mind's Doubt and Bodily Pain,
And pallid Thirst of the Spirit
That is kin to the other twain,

“And Grief, in a cloud of banners,
And ringleted Vain Desires,
And Vice with the spoils upon him
Of thee and thy beaten sires, -

“While Kings of eternal evil
Yet darken the hills about,
Thy part is with broken saber
To rise on the last redoubt;

To fear not sensible failure,
Nor covet the game at all,
But fighting, fighting, fighting,
Die, driven against the wall!”

Louise Imogen Guiney (1861–

FAILURES

THEY bear no laurels on their sunless brows,

Nor aught within their pale hands as they go;

They look as men accustomed to the slow
And level onward course 'neath drooping boughs.
Who may these be no trumpet doth arouse,

These of the dark processionals of woe,

Unpraised, unblamed, but whom sad Acheron's flow
Monotonously lulls to leaden drowse?
These are the Failures. Clutched by Circumstance,

They were—say not too weak!—too ready prey
To their own fear whose fixed Gorgon glance

Made them as stone for aught of great essay;
Or else they nodded when their Master-Chance
Wound his one signal, and went on his way.

Arthur Upson (1877-1908)

[ocr errors]

THE MEN OF OLD

I KNOW not that the men of old

Were better than men now,
Of heart more kind, of hand more bold,

Of more ingenuous brow:
I heed not those who pine for force

A ghost of Time to raise,
As if they thus could check the course

Of these appointed days.

Still it is true, and over-true,

That I delight to close
This book of life self-wise and new,

And let my thoughts repose

« PreviousContinue »