Anonymous Americas

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One Day's Command

The plumed staff officer gallops
Along the swaying line,
That shakes as, beaten by hailstones,
Shakes the loaded autumn vine;
And the earth beneath is reddened,
But not with the stain of wine.

The regular shock of a battery
The rattling tumult stuns;
And its steady thrill through the hill-side
Like a pulse beneath it runs;
The many are dead around it,
But the few still work the guns.

'Who commands this battery?'
And Crosby his clear, young eyes
From the sliding gun-sights lifting
As the well-aimed death-bolt flies,
'I command it today, Sir!'
With a steady voice replies.

Answers as heroes answer,
With modest words and few,
Whose hearts and hands to duty
Even in death are true,
Though its awful light is breaking
Full on their blenchless view.

The officer passes onward
With a less troubled eye,
The words and the look unshaken
Bid every wild doubt fly;
He knows that the young commander
Is there to do or die.

To do
die; for the battle
And day of command are done,
While stands unmoved on the hill-side
Each shattered, blackened gun,
And Crosby in death beside them
A deathless name has won.

Poem Submitted: Monday, April 5, 2010

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