Richard Chenevix Trench
After The Battle
WE crown’d the hard-won heights at length,
Baptiz’d in flame and fire;
We saw the foeman’s sullen strength,
That grimly made retire—
Saw close at hand, then saw more far
Beneath the battle-smoke
The ridges of his shatter’d war,
That broke and ever broke.
But one, an English household’s pride,
Dear many ways to me,
Who climb’d that death-path by my side,
I sought, but could not see.
Last seen, what time our foremost rank
That iron tempest tore;
He touch’d, he scal’d the rampart bank—
Seen then, and seen no more.
One friend to aid, I measur’d back
With him that pathway dread;
No fear to wander from our track—
Its waymarks English dead.
Light thicken’d: but our search was crown’d,
As we too well divin’d;
And after briefest quest we found
What we most fear’d to find.
His bosom with one death-shot riven,
The warrior-boy lay low;
His face was turn’d unto the heaven,
His feet unto the foe.
As he had fallen upon the plain,
Inviolate he lay;
No ruffian spoiler’s hand profane
Had touch’d that noble clay.
And precious things he still retain’d,
Which, by one distant hearth,
Lov’d tokens of the lov’d, had gain’d
A worth beyond all worth.
I treasur’d these for them who yet
Knew not their mighty wo;
I softly seal’d his eyes, and set
One kiss upon his brow.
A decent grave we scoop’d him, where
Less thickly lay the dead,
And decently compos’d him there
Within that narrow bed.
O theme for manhood’s bitter tears:
The beauty and the bloom
Of less than twenty summer years
Shut in that darksome tomb!
Of soldier-sire the soldier-son;
Life’s honor’d eventide
One lives to close in England, one
In maiden battle died:
And they, that should have been the mourn’d,
The mourners’ parts obtain:
Such thoughts were ours, as we return’d
To earth its earth again.
Brief words we read of faith and prayer
Beside that hasty grave;
Then turn’d away, and left him there,
The gentle and the brave:
I calling back with thankful heart,
With thoughts to peace allied,
Hours when we two had knelt apart
Upon the lone hillside;
And, comforted, I prais’d the grace
Which him had led to be
An early seeker of that Face
Which he should early see.
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