The Honor Theirs, The Duty Ours

Wallace Bruce 2 Comments

Memorial Day
Wallace Bruce (1844-1914)

I come with chaplet woven new
From May-day flowers, to fade away;
You come to-night, brave boys in blue,
With record bright, to last for aye.

Yet all I have I gladly bring
With heart and voice at your command;
I only wish the words I sing
Were worthier of your noble band —

A living wreath of lasting fame
To match your deeds that fill the world.
Ah, lyric vain! each hero's name
Is on your banners' folds unfurled.

Those stars are there in setting blue,
Because you answered to the call.
We bring no eulogy to you;
You honor us — you won it all.

And what avails our words of praise
To you who stand as in a dream
On guard in rugged mountain ways,
In camp by many a sluggish stream?

Among the clouds on Lookout Height,
With Hooker down in Tennessee;
Again the boys " hit Sigel fight, "
You march with Sherman to the sea.

Port Hudson, Vicksburg, New Orleans,
Antietam, Shiloh, Malvern Hill —
A hundred fields, a thousand scenes
The moistened lens of memory fill.

On fields with Grant, whose grave is white
With flowers from many a distant State,
Through many a long and weary night
You learned with him to toil and wait.

And there with Hancock, soldier true,
At Gettysburg you held the line;
No nobler heart beneath the blue,
For him the nation's flowers entwine.

Brave captains, noble comrades, rest!
No bugle-note or war's alarms
Disturb your sleep on Nature's breast —
That silent camp of grounded arms.

Your ranks are thinner, boys, to-day
Than just one little year ago;
On many a brow a touch of gray
Anticipates the winter's snow.

And fewer comrades, year by year,
Shall gather summer's kindly bloom,
And fewer brothers drop the tear
Upon the soldier's sacred tomb.

The twenty years have left their trace
Since you returned the homeward route;
Twice twenty more your ranks efface;
The boys will all be mustered out,

Who kept the faith and fought the fight;
The glory theirs, the duty ours;
They earned the crown, the hero's right,
The victor's wreath — a crown of flowers.

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Wallace Bruce

Wallace Bruce

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