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31

LOVE*

BY

GEORGE HORTON



Home from the battle plain

They brought their bravest, slain.



Oh, not with muffled drum

In sadness did they come.



And not with measured tread

As those who bear the dead.



But like some Bacchic throng

Madly they rushed along.



Waving their weapons high,

Shouting a battle cry.



"The city gates throw wide,

Let Victory in," they cried.



Forth poured in gladness then

The women and old men.



"All praise to these," they shout,

"Who put our foes to rout."



But why that sudden wail,

Turning flushed faces pale?



It was a voice that said:

"My love is dead, is dead!"



"Nay," quoth a warrior grim,

"Weep not, my child, for him.



In sad and desperate fray

His valor saved the day.



He fell upon the spears

With 'Victory!' in his ears.



He died with sword in hand.

The saviour of our land.



In fame to live and live,

This life who would not give?"



She answered him and said:

"But he is dead, is dead.



Spake then in bitter pain

The mother of the slain.



"And is he dead, my son,

My beauteous, peerless one?



Yet liefer would I know

That thus he lieth low.



Than if he lived to shame

And blight an honest name!"



"Aye," cried the slain one's sire

Flushing with sudden fire,



"Glory now hath the boy;

I yield my all with joy!"



Still o'er the stretcher bent;

In grief's abandonment,



That young wife worldly fair,

Moaning in anguish there.



And this is all she said:

"My love is dead, is dead!"



Out stepped a poet then,

Great, though unknown of men.



"The task," he cried, "be mine

To sing this deed divine.



To tell its beauteous worth

For all the years of earth;



To wed it with sweet sound

While this dark world goes round.



So shall his name outlast

These walls and temples vast,



Yea, e'en his native land,

Though ages drift like sand."



He ceased. The young wife said:

"But he is dead, is dead."



Up then a sculptor spake:

"Why sorrow for his sake?



For I will shape his face

In marble's deathless grace.



And I will hew his form

In living curves and warm,



Showing all after days

This hero whom we praise."



The lone one answering said:

"But he is dead, is dead."



A painter next spake out:

"Mine be to show war's rout,



Wan hate and fury's spell,

The night and fire of hell,


32

And tall amidst the gloom

Our deathless dead shall loom,



Pointing the fearful way

Where fame and victory lay."



And then a gladsome cheer

Rose lusty, far and near,



From all but one, who said:

"My love is dead, is dead!"



Hundreds of years since then

Full of forgotten men,



Have melted noiselessly,

Like snowdrops in the sea.



The song that poet sung

Yet lives in many a tongue;



The warrior's carven form

Still seems alert and warm;



Men thrill with pride to-day

Seeing that painted fray.



But ah, from long ago

There drifts a sound of woe,



A weary, sad refrain,

Making all glory vain,



The voice of her who said:

"But he is dead, is dead!"







* From Living Thoughts in Words that Burn from Poet, Sage, and Humorist, Edited by Daphne Dale; 1891] Reprinted as Classic Gems of Prose and Poetry; Chicago Star Publishing Company; [no date]; pp. 31-2.


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