The Rough Rider and Other Poems

by Bliss Carman


 

DECORATION DAY

(THE CAPITOL, WEST FRONT)


 

STAND here in the shadow of the Capitol,
And let your eyes range down across the city,
Where marble buildings rise out of a sea
Of tree-tops, and the Monument floats up
All rose and lilac in the morning light,
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A thing of magic by the Potomac shore.

Across the river on the wooded bank
Where that colonial portico gleams white,
Is the nation’s hallowed ground,— their resting-place
Who gave their lives up gladly for the truth,

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Each, as he deemed, a soldier of the right,
Impassioned by the justice of his cause.

And hark, above the car-bells and the cries,
A band is playing! Troops are on the move.
Far down the Avenue a column wheels

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To pass the pillared Treasury, on the way
To honor its dead heroes sleeping there
On the heights of Arlington ten thousand strong.

There rests my old friend in his soldier’s grave,—
Old grim idealist with the tender heart,

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The grizzled head, grey eye, and scanty speech,
And hand that never faltered in the fight
Through all the rough work of a long campaign.
God keep you, General, with the heroes gone!

In many a place through all the land to-day,

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Mourners will come, and with hands full of flowers
Pay loving honor to the valiant dead
Who gave their last breath for the cause they loved,
For liberty and justice, and flinched not
To pay the utmost for their noble dream.
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And you, O fond and unforgetful ones
Who have no grave to tend for all your loss,
No sacred spot whereat your love may kneel,
But must in silence let the proud tears spring,
Keeping the lonely vigil of the heart,
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While the flags flutter and the dead-march plays;

Behold for you the consoling rain shall fall
In odorous assuaging woodland showers,
And wild wood-flowers spring up to deck the ground
Wherever early summer passes now;

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And in far valleys where no bugles peal
Shy birds will sing their requiems for your dead.

Therefore, take courage, seeing all natural things
Are not left desolate, but lovely earth
Transmutes each scar and sorrow to her gain,

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And from the flux of time and growth renews
Her seasons of indomitable joy,
And breeds new beauty each reviving year.

Let us too live with gladness, and become
A part of that which never can be lost,

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But must be merged forever with new power,
The urge, the aspiration, and the gleam,—
All that is infinite and divine in man,
The eternal rescued from mortality.

Let us not doubt, but with an unvexed mind

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Bring truth to pass with beauty and with good,
One and sufficient in the last event,
The work made perfect by the loving hand,
The fair ideal translated into fact;
And heaven can not be far from this our world.
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And so we turn from memory to-day
To the fresh tasks, splendid heroic toil,
Triumphs of knowledge and beneficence,
And victories unblemished by regret;
With untroubled confidence of strength
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We go to build the commonwealth of peace.