The Rough Rider and Other Poems

by Bliss Carman


 

MEMORIAL DAY

(NEW ENGLAND)


 

ONCE more over relics of winter the willows all gold
Wave odorous plumes of enchantment, the fern heads unfold
In forgotten places, as fresh as when Pan long ago
Might pass through the bird-haunted woodlands, or linger to blow
On his pure keen pipe by the river. The wild cherry bough
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Is robed for the white celebration of memory now.
Old orchards a maze of pink-white with black stems showing through,
Swamp alder and hill-loving birch all betasseled anew,
And ruddy wing-flowering maples,— the year is abloom,
Each dooryard a heaven of lilac, each breeze a perfume.
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And hark to the small yellow warbler uplifting his voice,
So serene, so intense, so unstifled! Who could not rejoice
With the splendid oncoming of glory? Tall beech trees are crowned;
Blue violets spring under foot in the magical ground;
And at twilight the frogs will fife up one by one till they fill
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The whole dome of dusk with their choral triumphant, to thrill
And transmute to an impulse of gladness the sob in each throat;
As we with proud-spirited music help, too, to denote
And enhance the beneficent wonder, the power of earth
At her sorcery still, bringing ever new triumphs to birth
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For the battle-bruised soul, the supreme one, desiring nought
Save that always her truest and goodliest dreams should be wrought
Into loveliness out of this life-stuff.
                                                        So all things alive,
Birds and winds and the sensitive flowers, persist and survive
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With joy unabated, with banners unstruck to the frost,
To remind us no beauty can perish, no effort be lost,
No ardor diminished forever, nor purpose lack room
To accomplish its utmost ideal! As all things resume
Their unfulfilled tasks of perfection, each after its need,
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Shall the heart cease from longing, the mind from its loftiest creed,
Or the senses refuse their due service? Behold we arise
From failure, mistake, and regret, putting on the fresh guise
Of a use no disaster can ruin, the ultimate test
When endeavor shall gain all it dreamed of the infinite best,—
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The little-regarded and common made great and sublime,
The eternal arrested and fashioned in space and in time.

Then sound a new note on the bugles, unmuffle the drums,
Sing hymns of exulting, proud thanks for the uplift that comes
From the thought of our heroes, resurging like sap in the bough

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Through hearts sorrow-hardened and faint, but rehumanized now
By the hand-clasp and rally of loved ones for whom we in trust
Hold sacred ideals bequeathed us from out of the dust
Of battle fields holy. And keep we unfettered and fine
The faith which sustained our strong brothers that truth the divine
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Shall unfurl her peace colors, triumphant as blossoms and spray,
Bedecking the earth with fresh gladness, and generous as they.