Battle-Worn Banners

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I saw the soldiers come today
From battlefield afar;
No conquerors rode before their way
On his triumphal car;
But captains, like themselves, on foot
And banners sadly torn,
All grandly eloquent, though mute,
By pride and glory borne.

Those banners soiled with dirt and smoke,
And rent by shot and shell;
That through the serried phalanx broke -
What terrors they could tell!
What tales of sudden pain and death
In every cannon's boom,
When even the bravest held his breath
And waited for his doom.

By hands of steel those flags were waved
Above the carnage dire,
Almost destroyed, yet always saved,
'Mid battle-clouds and fire.
Though down at times, still up they rose
And kissed the breeze again,
Dread tokens to the rebel foes
Of true and loyal men,

And here the true and loyal still
Those famous banners bear;
The bugles wind, the fifes blow shrill,
And clash the cymbals, where
With decimated ranks they come,
And through the crowded street
March to the beating of the drum
With firm though weary feet.

God bless the soldiers! Cry the folk
Whose cheers of welcome swell;
God bless those banners, black with smoke
And torn by shot and shell!
They should be hung on sacred shrines,
Baptized with grateful tears,
And live embalmed in poetry's lines
Through all succeeding years.

No grander trophies could be brought
By patriot sire to son,
Of glorious battles nobly fought,
Brave deeds sublimely done.
And so, today, I chanced with pride
And solemn joy to see
Those remnants from the bloody tide
Of Victory!

© Park Benjamin