Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  Saturninus

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


By Katherine Eleanor Conway (1853–1927)

[Born in Rochester, N. Y., 1853. Died in Boston, Mass., 1927.]

HE might have won the highest guerdon that heaven to earth can give,

For whoso falleth for justice—dying, he yet shall live.

He might have left us his memory to flame as a beacon light,

When clouds of the false world’s raising shut the stars of heaven from sight.

He might have left us his name to ring in our triumph song

When we stand, as we’ll stand at to-morrow’s dawn, by the grave of a world-old wrong.

For he gave thee, O mother of valiant sons—thou fair, and sore oppressed,

The love of his youth and his manhood’s choice—first-fruits of his life, and best.

Thine were throb of his heart and thought of his brain and toil of his strong right hand;

For thee he braved scorn and reviling and loss of gold and land,

Threat and lure and false-hearted friend, and blight of a broken word—

Terrors of night and delay of light—prison and rack and sword.

For thee he bade death defiance—till the heavens opened wide,

And his face grew bright with reflex of light from the face of the Crucified.

And his crown was in sight and his palm in reach and his glory all but won,

And then—he failed—God help us! with the worst of dying done.

Only to die on the treacherous down by the hands of the tempters spread—

Nay, nay—make way for the strangers! we have no right in the dead.

But oh, for the beacon quenched, that we dreamed would kindle and flame!

And oh, for the standard smirched and shamed, and the name we dare not name!

Over the lonesome grave the shadows gather fast;

Only the mother, like God, forgives, and comforts her heart with the past.

The Boston Pilot. 1885.