Henry Clay Work

(1 October 1832 – 8 June 1884 / Middletown, Connecticut)

King Bibler's Army - Poem by Henry Clay Work

It was ten years ago when the belle of the village
Gave here her hand to the young millionaire,
Every toungue (even those of the bells in the steeple)
Saying "Joy to the Heav'n-blest pair!"
She was sweet as the rosebud that blooms in the valley;
He was manly, and noble, and brave.
Tell me, where are they now?
In the sad-eyed procession,
Marching, down, down, down to the grave.

Hark! hark! a pageant passes
(tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp):
I hear the tread of moving masses
(tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp)
O Heaven save our young men --
'tis King Bibler's Army,
Marching down, down, down to the grave.

At the head of the boat are the dashing lieutenants
Who entice young recruits into line;
Arm in arm, three abreast, they keep step with the music,
Bearing goblets of blood red wine.
In the rear, by and by, we shall see them together,
As they stagger along on the pave,
With their wives and their children, a rag-robed procession,
Marching, down, down, down to the grave.

From the front to the rear is the rule of promotion
In the army King Bibler commands;
And the pension is pov'rty, disease and dishonor,
With a forfeit of home and lands.
So the friend that was treated to cordials and juleps,
Will be treated at last like a slave,
As he fags at the end of the chaingang procession,
Marching, down, down, down to the grave.

Would you fill up the ranks? let your town send its quota:
Seventy thousand recruits must be found,
For the gravediggers reckon they bury that number
Every year in the cold, cold ground.
Yet the rest hobble on, and the colors they carry,
Though in tatters, triumphantly wave,
For they vanquish themselves in this madman's procession,
Marching, down, down, down to the grave.

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Read poems about / on: music, sad, together, children, friend, red, joy, heaven, home, child

Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003

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