A Memorial Day Poem by T. O  

rm_alamo1235 59M
487 posts
5/28/2006 8:35 am

Last Read:
7/19/2006 8:31 pm

A Memorial Day Poem by T. O


BIVOUAC OF THE DEAD"
THEODORE O'HARA

The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The soldier's last tattoo;
No more on life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame's eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.

No rumor of the foe's advance
Now swells upon the wind;
Nor troubled thought at midnight haunts
Of loved ones left behind;
No vision of the morrow's strife
The warrior's dream alarms;
No braying horn nor screaming fife
At dawn shall call to arms.

Their shriveled swords are red with rust,
Their plumed heads are bowed,
Their haughty banner, trailed in dust,
Is now their martial shroud.
And plenteous funeral tears have washed
The red stains from each brow,
And the proud forms, by battle gashed
Are free from anguish now.

The neighing troop, the flashing blade,
The bugle's stirring blast,
The charge, the dreadful cannonade,
The din and shout, are past;
Nor war's wild note nor glory's peal
Shall thrill with fierce delight
Those breasts that nevermore may feel
The rapture of the fight.

Like the fierce northern hurricane
That sweeps the great plateau,
Flushed with the triumph yet to gain,
Came down the serried foe,
Who heard the thunder of the fray
Break o'er the field beneath,
Knew well the watchword of that day
Was "Victory or death!"

Long had the doubtful conflict raged
O'er all that stricken plain,
For never fiercer fight had waged
The vengeful blood of Spain;
And still the storm of battle blew,
Still swelled the gory tide;
Not long, our stout old chieftain knew,
Such odds his strength could bide.

Twas in that hour his stern command
Called to a martyr's grave
The flower of his beloved land,
The nation's flag to save.
By rivers of their father's gore
His first-born laurels grew,
And well he deemed the sons would pour
Their lives for glory too.

For many a mother's breath has swept
O'er Angostura's plain --
And long the pitying sky has wept
Above its moldered slain.
The raven's scream, or eagle's flight,
Or shepherd's pensive lay,
Alone awakes each sullen height
That frowned o'er that dread fray.
Sons of the Dark and Bloody Ground
Ye must not slumber there,
Where stranger steps and tongues resound
Along the heedless air.

Your own proud land's heroic soil
Shall be your fitter grave;
She claims from war his richest spoil --
The ashes of her brave.
Thus 'neath their parent turf they rest,
Far from the gory field,
Borne to a Spartan mother's breast
On many a bloody shield;
The sunshine of their native sky
Smiles sadly on them here,
And kindred eyes and hearts watch by
The heroes sepulcher.

Rest on embalmed and sainted dead!
Dear as the blood ye gave;
No impious footstep shall here tread
The herbage of your grave;
Nor shall your glory be forgot
While fame her records keeps,
Or Honor points the hallowed spot
Where Valor proudly sleeps.

Yon marble minstrel's voiceless stone
In deathless song shall tell,
When many a vanquished ago has flown,
The story how ye fell;
Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter's blight,
Nor Time's remorseless doom,
Shall dim one ray of glory's light
That gilds your deathless tomb.


THEODORE O'HARA'S
"BIVOUAC OF THE DEAD"

Although stanzas from Theodore O’Hara’s elegiac poem, “Bivouac of the Dead,” are inscribed on iron tablets found throughout some of the oldest units of this country’s national cemeteries, there is little public recognition of this poet-soldier and his long-lived literary contribution to the memorialization of fallen troops. O’Hara’s military service bridged the period from the Mexican War, whose action inspired the poem, to the Civil War, which led him to places where some of the first cemeteries were created.

An elegy, or elegiac poem, expresses feelings of melancholy, sorrow or lamentation–especially for a person or persons who are dead. It may seem unusual that verse written about heroes of the relatively remote Mexican conflict was appropriated for the Civil War more than a decade later, but “Bivouac” had captivated the attention of a patriotic nation and would continue to do so for decades to come. Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs (1816-92) recognized its solemn appeal and directed that lines from “Bivouac” grace the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery.

JaniSux 46F

5/28/2006 11:16 am

Wow! Amazing poet, he really places you right there with them. I've never heard of him or this poem but it does speak to you.


rm_alamo1235 replies on 5/28/2006 1:38 pm:
Janie,

I think so to. I had never seen the entire poem until today, I knew that part of it was at Arlington National Cemetery. I thought it was the entire poem until I looked it up today to post for Memorial Day.

swooness 36F

5/28/2006 8:42 pm

Your own proud land's heroic soil
Shall be your fitter grave;
She claims from war his richest spoil --
The ashes of her brave.
Thus 'neath their parent turf they rest,
Far from the gory field,
Borne to a Spartan mother's breast
On many a bloody shield;
The sunshine of their native sky
Smiles sadly on them here,
And kindred eyes and hearts watch by
The heroes sepulcher.


Amazing how he personafies the land as a mother...


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