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The Bivouac of the Dead
a poem by Theodore O'Hara

The Bivouac of the Dead
by Theodore O'Hara

The muffled drum's sad roll has beat 
The soldier's last tattoo; 
No more on life's parade shall meet 
That brave and fallen few. 
On fame's eternal camping ground 
Their silent tents are spread, 
And glory guards, with solemn round, 
The bivouac of the dead. 

No rumor of the foe's advance 
Now swells upon the wind; 
No troubled thought at midnight haunts 
Of loved ones left behind; 
No vision of the morrow's strife 
The warrior's dream alarms; 
No braying horn, nor screaming fife, 
At dawn shall call to arms. 

Their shivered swords are red with rust, 
Their plumèd heads are bowed; 
Their haughty banner, trailed in dust, 
Is now their martial shroud. 
And plenteous funeral tears have washed 
The red stains from each brow, 
And the proud forms, by battle gashed, 
Are free from anguish now. 

The neighing troop, the flashing blade, 
The bugle's stirring blast, 
The charge, the dreadful cannonade, 
The din and shout are past; 
Nor war's wild note nor glory's peal 
Shall thrill with fierce delight 
Those breasts that never more may feel 
The rapture of the fight. 

Like the fierce northern hurricane 
That sweeps his great plateau, 
Flushed with the triumph yet to gain, 
Came down the serried foe. 
Who heard the thunder of the fray 
Break o'er the field beneath, 
Knew well the watchword of that day 
Was "Victory or death." 

Long had the doubtful conflict raged 
O'er all that stricken plain, 
For never fiercer fight had waged 
The vengeful blood of Spain; 
And still the storm of battle blew, 
Still swelled the gory tide; 
Not long, our stout old chieftain knew, 
Such odds his strength could bide. 

'T was in that hour his stern command 
Called to a martyr's grave 
The flower of his beloved land, 
The nation's flag to save. 
By rivers of their father's gore 
His first-born laurels grew, 
And well he deemed the sons would pour 
Their lives for glory too. 

Full many a norther's breath has swept 
O'er Angostura's plain 
And long the pitying sky has wept 
Above the mouldering slain. 
The raven's scream, or eagle's flight, 
Or shepherd's pensive lay, 
Alone awakes each sullen height 
That frowned o'er that dread fray. 

Sons of the Dark and Bloody Ground, 
Ye must not slumber there, 
Where stranger steps and tongues resound 
Along the heedless air; 
Your own proud land's heroic soil 
Shall be your fitter grave; 

She claims from war his richest spoil 
The ashes of her brave. 
So, 'neath their parent turf they rest, 
Far from the gory field, 
Borne to a Spartan mother's breast, 
On many a bloody shield; 
The sunshine of their native sky 
Smiles sadly on them here, 
And kindred eyes and hearts watch by 
The heroes' sepulchre. 

Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead, 
Dear as the blood ye gave; 
No impious footstep here shall tread 
The herbage of your grave; 
Nor shall your glory be forgot 
While Fame her record keeps, 
Or Honor points the hallowed spot 
Where Valor proudly sleeps. 

Yon marble minstrel's voiceless stone, 
In deathless song shall tell, 
When many a vanished age hath flown 
The story how ye fell; 
Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter's blight, 
Nor Time's remorseless doom, 
Shall dim one ray of glory's light 
That gilds your deathless tomb. 

The Bivouac of the Dead
by Theodore O'Hara
 


The Bivouac of the Dead - a poem by Theodore O'Hara
 

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