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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

Earlier Poems

Hymn of the Moravian Nuns of Bethlehem

  • At the Consecration of Pulaski’s Banner
  • The historical basis of the poem is discussed in a note.

  • WHEN the dying flame of day

    Through the chancel shot its ray,

    Far the glimmering tapers shed

    Faint light on the cowlèd head;

    And the censer burning swung,

    Where, before the altar, hung

    The crimson banner, that with prayer

    Had been consecrated there.

    And the nuns’ sweet hymn was heard the while,

    Sung low, in the dim, mysterious aisle.

    “Take thy banner! May it wave

    Proudly o’er the good and brave;

    When the battle’s distant wail

    Breaks the sabbath of our vale,

    When the clarion’s music thrills

    To the hearts of these lone hills,

    When the spear in conflict shakes,

    And the strong lance shivering breaks.

    “Take thy banner! and, beneath

    The battle-cloud’s encircling wreath,

    Guard it, till our homes are free!

    Guard it! God will prosper thee!

    In the dark and trying hour,

    In the breaking forth of power,

    In the rush of steeds and men,

    His right hand will shield thee then.

    “Take thy banner! But when night

    Closes round the ghastly fight,

    If the vanquished warrior bow,

    Spare him! By our holy vow,

    By our prayers and many tears,

    By the mercy that endears,

    Spare him! he our love hath shared!

    Spare him! as thou wouldst be spared!

    “Take thy banner! and if e’er

    Thou shouldst press the soldier’s bier,

    And the muffled drum should beat

    To the tread of mournful feet,

    Then this crimson flag shall be

    Martial cloak and shroud for thee.”

    The warrior took that banner proud,

    And it was his martial cloak and shroud!