Richard Hovey

(1864-1900 / United States)

The Call Of The Bugles - Poem by Richard Hovey

And the Great Nation thrills and leaps to arms!
Prompt, unconstrained, immediate,
Without misgiving and without debate,
Too calm, too strong for fury or alarms,
The people blossoms armies and puts forth
The splendid summer of its noiseless might;
For the old sap of fight
Mounts up in South and North,
The thrill
That tingled in our veins at Bunker Hill
And brought to bloom July of ’Seventy-Six!
Pine and palmetto mix
With the sequoia of the giant West
Their ready banners, and the hosts of war
Near and far,
Sudden as dawn,
Innumerable as forests, hear the call
Of the bugles,
The battle-birds!
For not alone the brave, the fortunate,
Who first of all
Have put their knapsacks on—
They are the valiant vanguard of the rest!—
Not they alone, but all our millions wait,
Hand on sword,
For the word
That bids them bid the nations know us sons of Fate.

And in my heart a cry,
—Like a dim echo far and mournfully
Blown back to answer them from yesterday!
A soldier’s burial!
November hillsides and the falling leaves
Where the Potomac broadens to the tide—
The crisp autumnal silence and the gray
(As of a solemn ritual
Whose congregation glories as it grieves,
Widowed but still a bride)—
The long hills sloping to the wave,
And the lone bugler standing by the grave!

The lonely call over the lonely woodlands—
Rising like the soaring of wings,
Like the flight of an eagle—
They sound forever in my heart.
From farther still,
The echoes—still the echoes!
The bugles of the dead
Blowing from spectral ranks an answering cry!
The ghostly roll of immaterial drums,
Beating reveille in the camps of dream,
As from far meadows comes,
Over the pathless hill,
The irremeable stream.
I hear the tread
Of the great armies of the Past go by;
I hear,
Across the wide sea wash of years between,
Concord and Valley Forge shout back from the unseen,
And Vicksburg give a cheer.

Our cheer goes back to them, the valiant dead!
Laurels and roses on their graves to-day,
Lilies and laurels over them we lay,
And violets o’er each unforgotten head.
Their honor still with the returning May
Puts on its springtime in our memories,
Nor till the last American with them lies
Shall the young year forget to strew their bed.
Peace to their ashes, sleep and honored rest!
But we—awake!
Ours to remember them with deeds like theirs!
From sea to sea the insistent bugle blares,
The drums will not be still for any sake;
And as an eagle rears his crest,
Defiant, from some tall pine of the North,
And spreads his wings to fly,
The banners of America go forth
Against the clarion sky.
Veteran and volunteer,
They who were comrades of that shadow host,
And the young brood whose veins renew the fires
That burned in their great sires,
Alike we hear
The summons sounding clear
From coast to coast,—
The cry of the bugles,
The battle-birds!

The imperious bugles!
Still their call
Soars like an exaltation to the sky.
They call on men to fall,
To die,—
Remembered or forgotten, but a part
Of the great beating of the Nation’s heart!
A call to sacrifice!
A call to victory!
Hark, in the Empyrean
The battle-birds!
The bugles!

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Poem Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010

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