John Hay

(8 October 1838 – 1 July 1905 / Salem, Indiana)

The Advance Guard - Poem by John Hay

In the dream of the Northern poets,
The brave who in battle die
Fight on in shadowy phalanx
In the field of the upper sky;
And as we read the sounding rhyme,
The reverent fancy hears
The ghostly ring of the viewless swords
And the clash of the spectral spears.

We think with imperious questionings
Of the brothers whom we have lost,
And we strive to track in death's mystery
The flight of each valiant ghost.
The Northern myth comes back to us,
And we feel, through our sorrow's night,
That those young souls are striving still
Somewhere for the truth and light.

It was not their time for rest and sleep;
Their hearts beat high and strong;
In their fresh veins the blood of youth
Was singing its hot, sweet song.
The open heaven bent over them,
Mid flowers their lithe feet trod,
Their lives lay vivid in light, and blest
By the smiles of women and God.

Again they come! Again I hear
The tread of that goodly band;
I know the flash of Ellsworth's eye
And the grasp of his hard, warm hand;
And Putnam, and Shaw, of the lion-heart,
And an eye like a Boston girl's;
And I see the light of heaven which lay
On UIric Dahlgren's curls.

There is no power in the gloom of hell
To quench those spirits' fire;
There is no power in the bliss of heaven
To bid them not aspire;
But somewhere in the eternal plan
That strength, that life survive,
And like the files on Lookout's crest,
Above death's clouds they strive.

A chosen corps, they are marching on
In a wider field than ours;
Those bright battalions still fulfill
The scheme of the heavenly powers;
And high brave thoughts float down to us,
The echoes of that far fight,
Like the flash of a distant picket's gun
Through the shades of the severing night.

No fear for them! In our lower field
Let us keep our arms unstained,
That at last we be worthy to stand with them
On the shining heights they've gained.
We shall meet and greet in closing ranks
In Time's declining sun,
When the bugles of God shall sound recall
And the battle of life be won.

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Read poems about / on: heaven, power, women, light, death, girl, strength, sorrow, truth, song, sleep, dream, fire, fear, god, lost, night, sky, sun, woman

Poem Submitted: Saturday, January 4, 2003

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