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The Black Regiment
a poem by George H. Boker

The Black Regiment
by George H. Boker

Dark as the clouds of even, 
Ranked in the western heaven, 
Waiting the breath that lifts 
All the dread mass, and drifts 
Tempest and falling brand 
Over a ruined land; 
So still and orderly, 
Arm to arm, knee to knee, 
Waiting the great event, 
Stands the black regiment. 

Down the long dusky line 
Teeth gleam and eyeballs shine; 
And the bright bayonet, 
Bristling and firmly set, 
Flashed with a purpose grand, 
Long ere the sharp command 
Of the fierce rolling drum 
Told them their time had come, 
Told them what work was sent 
For the black regiment. 

"Now," the flag-sergeant cried, 
"Though death and hell betide, 
Let the whole nation see 
If we are fit to be 
Free in this land; or bound 
Down, like the whining hound, 
Bound with red stripes of pain 
In our old chains again!" 
O, what a shout there went 
From the black regiment! 

"Charge!" Trump and drum awoke, 
Onward the bondmen broke; 
Bayonet and sabre-stroke 
Vainly opposed their rush. 
Through the wild battle's crush. 
With but one thought aflush, 
Driving their lords like chaff, 
In the guns' mouths they laugh; 
Or at the slippery brands 
Leaping with open hands, 
Down they tear man and horse, 
Down in their awful course; 
Trampling with bloody heel 
Over the crashing steel, 
All their eyes forward bent, 
Rushed the black regiment. 

"Freedom!" their battle-cry, 
"Freedom! or leave to die!" 
Ah! and they meant the word, 
Not as with us 'tis heard, 
Not a mere party shout: 
They gave their spirits out; 
Trusted the end to God, 
And on the gory sod 
Rolled in triumphant blood. 

Glad to strike one free blow, 
Whether for weal or woe; 
Glad to breathe one free breath, 
Though on the lips of death. 
Praying alas! in vain!
That they might fall again, 
So they could once more see 
That burst to liberty! 
This was what "freedom" lent 
To the black regiment. 

Hundreds on hundreds fell; 
But they are resting well; 
Scourges and shackles strong 
Never shall do them wrong. 
O, to the living few, 
Soldiers, be just and true! 
Hail them as comrades tried; 
Fight with them side by side; 
Never, in field or tent, 
Scorn the black regiment. 

The Black Regiment
by George H. Boker


The Black Regiment - a poem by George H. Boker
 

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