Soldier, Rest!

“Unknown U.S. Soldier”

“Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.”

The hot sky would split with the uproar
That day when they fought;
This rest in the stillness and shadow
Gives time for long thought:
He must think of one strange revelation,
One thrilling surprise—
It is better to think with cool darkness
Laid over your eyes.

Time enough for deep thought while the branches
With winter are dumb;
When the great sun swings far to the Northward
And summer has come:
He lies hushed with the wonderful knowledge
He holds in his breast
And the bright flag droops always above him
To honor his rest.

Rough and reckless and headstrong and violent,
Tingling with life,
Charmed once by the call of the drums
And the sound of the fife—
That day when they waited and waited
And knew they must die,
Where was comfort for him, where was help
Beneath the hot sky?

All the life beating strong in his body
Revolted, out-cried
Against dying; no courage or passion
But only his pride
Sent him on with the others, despairing
And hating it all,
And faint with sick horror at seeing them
Stumble and fall.

Far out on the crest of the battle,
Up, up toward the death—
“To die for one’s country is sweet!”—he remembered,
And then, out of breath.
Met the shock and the pain and the terror
Unflinching and knew
In one instant’s unbearable brightness
It was true! It was true!

–S.H. Kemper, in The Reader.

The Daily Herald (Chicago, Illinois) May 26, 1911

Image from the Wild Oats Sown and Grown blog – interesting post about the flint-lock gun at the link.

THE OLD FLINT-LOCK GUN.

There’s a battered old gun of the time of King George,
That hangs on my grandfather’s wall;
The barrel was wrought in some rude country forge,
And the stock — it just happened, that’s all.

‘Tis rusted and bent, and there’s nary a dent
In this old-fashioned engine of war;
For a fox and for “partridge” it’s not worth a cent,
And I’m sure I’d not trust it for “b’ar.”

But long, long ago, when my grandfather’s dad
Was a strapping young sprout of eighteen,
That ramshackle gun made the Red-coats feel bad,
As they marched through the broad village green.

They say that my ancestor crouched ‘neath a wall,
And rested his piece on a stone,
And rammed it and crammed it with powder and ball,
And peppered away, all alone.

The foe could not stop, for like fate, in the rear
The minutemen followed en masse!
So granddaddy’s dad pegged away without fear,
Till four of the Reds bit the grass.

A brave deed, you say! Well, I never shall boast
Of the family prowess — not I;
But I think there are some who’d have quitted the coast
And let the King’s soldiers march by.

I’m proud of the flint-lock that gleams on the pegs,
In the bright fitful blaze of the fire;
And I’ll venture to say that few men with legs
Would have stuck like my granddaddy’s sire.

All honor to him! And when brave deeds are sung
Of the heroes whose fame we recall,
Let a line be slipped in for the old flint-lock gun,
and the man who pegged over the wall!

Paul Pastnor, in Puck.

Edwardsville Intelligencer (Edwardsville, Illinois) May 29,1889

NOTE: Paul Pastnor was one of Charles Morris’ pen names – see link above.

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