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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

His Battles o’er Again

By David Humphreys (1752–1818)

[Born in Derby, Conn., 1752. Died at New Haven, Conn., 1818. “On the Happiness of America.”—Miscellaneous Works. 1804.]

THERE some old warrior, grown a village sage,

Whose locks are whitened with the frosts of age,

While life’s low-burning lamp renews its light,

With tales heroic shall beguile the night;

Shall tell of battles fought, of feats achieved,

And sufferings ne’er by human heart conceived;

Shall tell the adventures of his early life,

And bring to view the fields of mortal strife;

What time the matin trump to battle sings,

And on his steed the horseman swiftly springs,

While down the line the drum, with thundering sound,

Wakes the bold soldier, slumbering on the ground;

Alarmed he starts; then sudden joins his band,

Who, ranged beneath the well-known banner, stand:

Then ensigns wave, and signal flags unfurled,

Bid one great soul pervade a moving world;

Then martial music’s all-inspiring breath,

With dulcet symphonies, leads on to death,

Lights in each breast the living beam of fame,

Kindles the spark, and fans the kindled flame:

Then meets the steadfast eye, the splendid charms

Of prancing steeds, of plumed troops and arms:

Reflected sunbeams, dazzling, gild afar

The pride, the pomp, and circumstance of war;

Then thick as hailstones, from an angry sky,

In vollied showers, the bolts of vengeance fly;

Unnumbered deaths, promiscuous, ride the air,

While, swift descending, with a frightful glare,

The big bomb bursts; the fragments scattered round,

Beat down whole bands, and pulverize the ground.

Then joins the closer fight on Hudson’s banks;

Troops strive with troops; ranks, bending, press on ranks:

O’er slippery plains the struggling legions reel;

Then livid lead and Bayonne’s glittering steel,

With dark-red wounds their mangled bosoms bore;

While furious coursers, snorting foam and gore,

Bear wild their riders o’er the carnaged plain,

And, falling, roll them headlong on the slain.

To ranks consumed, another rank succeeds;

Fresh victims fall; afresh the battle bleeds;

And naught of blood can stanch the opened sluice;

Till night, o’ershadowing, brings a grateful truce.

Thus will the veteran tell the tale of wars,

Disclose his breast, to count his glorious scars;

In mute amazement hold the listening swains;

Make freezing horror creep through all their veins;

Or oft, at freedom’s name, their souls inspire

With patriot ardor and heroic fire.