James Jeffrey Roche

(1847-1908 / Ireland)

Gettysburg - Poem by James Jeffrey Roche

There was no union in the land,
Though wise men labored long
With links of clay and ropes of sand
To bind the right and wrong.

There was no temper in the blade
That once could cleave a chain;
Its edge was dull with touch of trade
And clogged with rust of gain.

The sand and clay must shrink away
Before the lava tide:
By blows and blood and fire assay
The metal must be tried.

Here sledge and anvil met, and when
The furnace fiercest roared,
God's undiscerning workingmen
Reforged His people's sword.

Enough for them to ask and know
The moment's duty clear-
The bayonets flashed it there below,
The guns proclaimed it here:

To do and dare, and die at need,
But while life lasts, to fight-
For right or wrong a simple creed,
But simplest for the right.

They faltered not who stood that day
And held this post of dread;
Nor cowards they who wore the gray
Until the gray was red.

For every wreath the victor wears
The vanquished half may claim;
Every monument declares
A common pride and fame.

We raise no altar stones to Hate,
Who never bowed to fear:
No province crouches at our gate,
To shame our triumph here.

Here standing by a dead wrong's grave
The blindest now may see,
The blow that liberates the slave
But sets the master free!

When ills beset the nation's life
Too dangerous to bear,
The sword must be the surgeon's knife,
Too merciful to spare.

O Soldier of our common land,
'Tis thine to bear that blade
Loose in the sheath, or firm in hand,
But ever unafraid.

When foreign foes assail our right,
One nation trusts to thee-
To wield it well in worthy fight-
The sword of Meade and Lee.

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Poem Submitted: Friday, September 17, 2010

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