Albert Pike

(1809-1891 / USA)

When California Was A Foreign Land


How many shadowy, ghost-like figures stand
Between that Then and Now!—forms of dead Years,
Old, meager, pale; and four all blood and tears,
With faces full of pain and agony,
And sitting bowed in speechless misery:
And three, the farthest from us, laurel-crowned,
The Years for victories over foreign foes renowned.

Comrades and Friends, the glorious Past recall;
Live in it again; in memory upon all
Your well-known fields of battle stand again,
Young, hopeful, eager, proud, as you were then.—
Rebels, against the tyranny of time,
Ride through the hills, the mountain-passes climb;
Camp on the streams through fertile vales that flow,
From the broad beds of everlasting snow;
Hear once again the Aztec eagle scream;
See once again Santana's lances gleam;
The toils and hardships of the march endure;
Win glory, and your country's thanks secure.

If time's not measured by the dropping sand
That counts the silent moments as they flit,
But by the great deeds that are done in it,
Then, Comrades, 't is a century or more
Since Yankee arms the flag of glory bore,
From Palo Alto, and from Vera Cruz,
Destined the day upon no field to lose,
To the Belen gate; and on its every fold
To have new glories added to the old;—
By Taylor's legions won at Monterey;
On Buena Vista's memorable day;
Where Kearney led to victory his command,
And Stockton's sailors learned to fight on land;
At Sacramento, where the brave troops, led
By Doniphan, the foe discomfited;
On Churucusco's bloody causeway won;
By deeds of valor at Contreras done;
When Worth and Quitman stormed Chapultepec,
And Mexico lay stranded like a wreck.

After Resaca, when the Motherland,
With sword uplifted in her mighty hand,
Called on her sons to meet the braggart foe,
And bear her banners into Mexico,
Her trumpet-call, in every hamlet heard,
The North and South alike inspired and stirred.
Then from the icy hills of pine-clad Maine,
And the great lakes, rang out the same refrain.
To the Mexique Gulf and farthest Arkansas—
'Ready!' and 'Forward to the seat of war!'
Then from the cities reigning by the sea,
And inland marts of earnest industry,
From the lone homes of hardy husbandmen,
Came forth the toilers with the plow and pen,
Idlers and artisans, to volunteer;
To all alike their country's honor dear.
Little they cared the cause of war to know;
Enough for them that far in Mexico,
Our little army, then the nation's pride,
Faced gallantly red war's advancing tide,
And if not shortly re-inforced would be,
It and the nation's flag, in jeopardy:—
The flag that tyranny abhors and hates,
Whose golden Stars the symbols were of States,
Each star a sun that with its own light shone,
Not planets, with reflected light alone,—
And making with their stellar harmony
The Constellation's radiant unity.

Then, one by one, the days of glory came,
That neither North nor South alone could claim,
Nor wished to; whose immortal memories are
The common heritage of every Star;
Until the conquest of a nation crowned
Our arms, and golden California found
No tyrant, by the right of conquest Lord,
To rule her by the tenure of the sword;
But Freedom, ruling by her right divine,
Making her, too, a Star, with ours to shine.
Nor did we take her by the sword alone,
But by fair purchase made her all our own.

England remembers, with no lessening pride,
The old fields by her sons' blood sanctified;
Remembers Agincourt, and Crecy, too,
And Poictiers, as well as Waterloo.
Shall the old glories of OUR arms grow pale,
Eclipsed by the later? Shall the names grow stale,
And dim, like stars veiled by an envious cloud,
Of which their country once was justly proud?
Let us, at least, in reverence hold these names,
And guard with jealousy their worthy fames;
Honoring, as then we honored, all the brave,
When Illinois strewed flowers on Butler's grave,
When Indiana mourned the fate of Yell,
And Mississippi wept when Hardin fell;
Remembering that we all were Yankees there,
And in the common glory had a share,
Consenting not that any State should claim
Exclusive right to any hero's fame.

Submitted: Monday, February 24, 2014

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