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George Edward Woodberry

(1855-1930 / United States)

Comrades


Where are the friends that I knew in my Maying,
   In the days of my youth, in the first of my roaming?
We were dear; we were leal; O, far we went straying;
   Now never a heart to my heart comes homing! --
Where is he now, the dark boy slender
   Who taught me bare-back, stirrup and reins?
I loved him; he loved me; my beautiful, tender
   Tamer of horses on grass-grown plains.

Where is he now whose eyes swam brighter,
   Softer than love, in his turbulent charms;
Who taught me to strike, and to fall, dear fighter,
   And gathered me up in his boyhood arms;
Taught me the rifle, and with me went riding,
   Suppled my limbs to the horseman's war;
Where is he now, for whom my heart's biding,
   Biding, biding -- but he rides far!

O love that passes the love of woman!
   Who that hath felt it shall ever forget,
When the breath of life with a throb turns human,
   And a lad's heart is to a lad's heart set?
Ever, forever, lover and rover --
   They shall cling, nor each from other shall part
Till the reign of the stars in the heavens be over,
   And life is dust in each faithful heart!

They are dead, the American grasses under;
   There is no one now who presses my side;
By the African chotts I am riding asunder,
   And with great joy ride I the last great ride.
I am fey; I am fain of sudden dying;
   Thousands of miles there is no one near;
And my heart -- all the night it is crying, crying
   In the bosoms of dead lads darling-dear.

Hearts of my music -- them dark earth covers;
   Comrades to die, and to die for, were they;
In the width of the world there were no such rovers --
   Back to back, breast to breast, it was ours to stay;
And the highest on earth was the vow that we cherished,
   To spur forth from the crowd and come back never more,
And to ride in the track of great souls perished
   Till the nests of the lark shall roof us o'er.

Yet lingers a horseman on Altai highlands,
   Who hath joy of me, riding the Tartar glissade;
And one, far faring o'er orient islands
   Whose blood yet glints with my blade's accolade;
North, west, east, I fling you my last hallooing,
   Last love to the breasts where my own has bled;
Through the reach of the desert my soul leaps pursuing
   My star where it rises a Star of the Dead.

Submitted: Saturday, January 04, 2003

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