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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

The Battle-Field

By William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878)

[From Poetical Works of William Cullen Bryant. Edited by Parke Godwin. 1883.]

ONCE this soft turf, this rivulet’s sands,

Were trampled by a hurrying crowd,

And fiery hearts and armèd hands

Encountered in the battle-cloud.

Ah! never shall the land forget

How gushed the life-blood of her brave—

Gushed, warm with hope and courage yet,

Upon the soil they fought to save.

Now all is calm, and fresh, and still;

Alone the chirp of flitting bird,

And talk of children on the hill,

And bell of wandering kine are heard.

No solemn host goes trailing by

The black-mouthed gun and staggering wain;

Men start not at the battle-cry,

Oh, be it never heard again!

Soon rested those who fought; but thou

Who minglest in the harder strife

For truths which men receive not now,

Thy warfare only ends with life.

A friendless warfare! lingering long

Through weary day and weary year,

A wild and many-weaponed throng

Hang on thy front, and flank, and rear.

Yet nerve thy spirit to the proof,

And blench not at thy chosen lot.

The timid good may stand aloof,

The sage may frown—yet faint thou not.

Nor heed the shaft too surely cast,

The foul and hissing bolt of scorn;

For with thy side shall dwell, at last,

The victory of endurance born.

Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again;

The eternal years of God are hers;

But Error, wounded, writhes in pain,

And dies among his worshippers.

Yea, though thou lie upon the dust,

When they who helped thee flee in fear,

Die full of hope and manly trust,

Like those who fell in battle here.

Another hand thy sword shall wield,

Another hand the standard wave,

Till from the trumpet’s mouth is pealed

The blast of triumph o’er thy grave.