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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Middle States: West Point, N. Y.

The Graveyard at West Point

By William Allen Butler (1825–1902)

ON this sweet Sabbath morning, let us wander

From the loud music and the gay parade,

Where sleeps the graveyard, in its silence, yonder,

Deep in the mountain shade.

There, side by side, the dark green cedars cluster,

Like sentries watching by that camp of Death;

There, like an army’s tents, with snow-white lustre,

The gravestones gleam beneath.

But, as we go, no posted guard or picket

Stays our approach across the level grass,

Nor hostile challenge at the simple wicket

Through which our footsteps pass.

Sweet spot, by Nature’s primal consecration,

Sacred to peace and thought and calm repose,

Well in thy breast that elder generation

Their place of burial chose.

And well, to-day, whene’er the sad procession

Moves o’er the plain, with slow and measured tread,

Within thy silent and secure possession

The living leave the dead.

Few are the graves, for here no populous city

Feeds, with its myriad lives, the hungry Fates,

While hourly funerals, led by grief or pity,

Crowd through the open gates.

Here Death is rarer, yet full many a token

Tells of his presence, on these grassy slopes,—

The slab, the stone, the shaft, half reared and broken,

Symbol of shattered hopes.

Here sleep brave men who, in the deadly quarrel,

Fought for their country, and their life-blood poured,

Above whose dust she carves the deathless laurel

Wreathing the victor’s sword.

And here the young cadet, in manly beauty,

Borne from the tents which skirt those rocky banks,

Called from life’s daily drill and perilous duty

To these unbroken ranks.

Here too the aged man, the wife, the maiden,

Together hushed, as on His faithful breast,

Who cried, “Come hither, all ye heavy-laden,

And I will give you rest!”

And little gravestones through the grass are gleaming,

Sown, like the lilies, over forms as fair,

Of whom, to-day, what broken hearts are dreaming,

Through Sabbath song and prayer.

Peace to the sleepers! may the bud and blossom,

Spring’s early bloom and Summer’s sweet increase,

Fail not, while Nature, on her tender bosom,

Folds them and whispers, Peace!

And here at last who could not rest contented?

Beneath,—the river, with its tranquil flood;

Around,—the breezes of the morning, scented

With odors from the wood;

Above,—the eternal hills, their shadows blending

With morn and noon and twilight’s deepening pall;

And overhead,—the infinite heavens, attending

Until the end of all!