The Pathfinders

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NIGHT, and a bitter sky, and strange birds crying, 
  The wan trees whisper and the winds make moan, 
Here where in ultimate peace their bones are lying 
  In gaunt waste places that they made their own, 
  Beyond the ploughed lands where the corn is sown. 

Death, and untrodden ways, and night before them, 
  From sheltering homes and friendly hearths they came; 
Far from the mouldering dust of those that bore them 
  They rest in silence now and know no fame, 
  No proud stone speaks, no waters lip the name. 

Brave and undaunted hearts, eyes lit with laughter, 
  Minds that outran the ancient doubts and fears, 
They blazed the track for legions following after, 
  And bared new treasure to the hungry years, 
Till spent with strife they sank amongst the spears. 

Slow sinks the glowing flame and fades the ember, 
  No bright star flickers and the woods are stark, 
But still our children’s children will remember 
  The swift forerunners, bearers of the ark, 
  Who lit the beacons in the uncharted dark. 

Rich towns shall flourish on the hills that hold them, 
  Bright dreams shall quicken from their wandering dust, 
And till the end our reverent minds shall fold them 
  In storied chambers free from moth and rust: 
  The fealty pledged, the kingdom given in trust.

© Vance Palmer