Hermann Hagedorn

(1882-1964 / United States)

The Pyres - Poem by Hermann Hagedorn

Pyres in the night, in the night!
And the roaring yellow and red.
Trooper, trooper, why so white?
We are out to gather our dead.
We have brought dry boughs from the bloody wood
And the torn hill-side;
We have felled great trunks, wet with blood
Of brothers that died;
We have piled them high for a flaming bed,
Hemlock and ash and pine for a bed,
A throne in the night, a throne for a bed --
And we go to gather our dead.


There where the oaks loom, dark and high,
Over the sombre hill,
Body on body, cold and still,
Under the stars they lie.
There where the silver river runs,
Careless and calm as fate,
Mowed, mowed by the terrible guns,
The stricken brothers wait.
There by the smoldering house, and there
Where the red smoke hangs on the heavy air,
Under the ruins, under the hedge,
Cheek by cheek at the forest-edge;
Back to breast, three men deep,
Hearing not bugle or drum,
In the desperate trench they died to keep,
Under the starry dome they sleep,
Murmuring, 'Brothers, come!'


This way! I heard a call
Like a stag's when he dies.
Under the willows I saw him fall.
Under the willows he lies.
Give me your hand. Raise him up.
Lift his head. Strike a light.
This morning we shared a crust and a cup.
He wants no supper to-night.
Take his feet. Here the shells
Broke all day long,
Moaning and shrieking hell's
Bacchanalian song!
Last night he helped me bear
Men to hell's fêting.
To-morrow, maybe, somewhere,
We, too, shall lie waiting.


Pyres in the night, in the night!
Weary and sick and dumb,
Under the flickering, faint starlight
The drooping gleaners come.
Out of the darkness, dim
Shadowy shadow-bearers,
Dragging into the bale-fire's rim
Pallid death-farers.


Pyres in the night, in the night!
In the plain, on the hill.
No volleys for their last rite.
We need our powder -- to kill.
High on their golden bed,
Pile up the dead!


Pyres in the night, in the night!
Torches, piercing the gloom!
Look! How the sparks take flight!
Stars, stars, make room!


Smoke, that was bone and blood!
Hark! The deep roar.
It is the souls telling God
The glory of war!


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 21, 2010



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