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Edgar Lee Masters (1868–1950). Spoon River Anthology. 1916.

196. Many Soldiers

THE IDEA danced before us as a flag;

The sound of martial music;

The thrill of carrying a gun;

Advancement in the world on coming home;

A glint of glory, wrath for foes;

A dream of duty to country or to God.

But these were things in ourselves, shining before us,

They were not the power behind us,

Which was the Almighty hand of Life,

Like fire at earth’s centre making mountains,

Or pent up waters that cut them through.

Do you remember the iron band

The blacksmith, Shack Dye, welded

Around the oak on Bennet’s lawn,

From which to swing a hammock,

That daughter Janet might repose in, reading

On summer afternoons?

And that the growing tree at last

Sundered the iron band?

But not a cell in all the tree

Knew aught save that it thrilled with life,

Nor cared because the hammock fell

In the dust with Milton’s Poems.