Bivouac of the Dead

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 to spread,

And glory guards, with solemn round

The bivouac of the dead.

The rumor of the foe’s advance

Now swells upon the wind;

Nor troubled thought at midnight haunts

Of loves ones left behind;

No vision of the morrows strife

The warriors dream’s alarms;

No braying horn or screaming fife

At dawn shall come 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 breast that nevermore may feel

The rapture of the fight.

Like the fierce Northern hurricane

That sweeps the great plateau,

Flushed with triumph, yet to gain,

Come down the serried foe,

Who heard the thunder of the fray

Break o’er the field beneath,

Knew the watch word of the day

Was “victory or death!”

Long had the doubtful conflict raged

O’er that stricken plain,

For never fierce fight had waged

The vengeful blood of Spain;

And still the storm of battle blew,

Still swelled the glory tide;

Not long, our stout old Chieftain knew,

Such odd 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 river’s 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

About it’s moldered slain.

The raven’s scream, or eagle’s flight,

Or sheperd’s pensive lay

Alone awakes each sullen height

That frowned o’er that dread fray

Theodore O’Hara (1820-1867)


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