Poems (Coates 1916)/Volume I/Memorial Ode

For other versions of this work, see Memorial Ode.


THE peace we longed to keep
Our fate denied;
Reluctant we awoke, as from a sleep,
And saw the face of duty deified.

We followed with dismay
The awful hand
That drew us, step by step, along the way,
And pointed to an agonizing land.

Nearer it led and nearer
To dreadful death,
While ever to the spirit whispered clearer
A voice that promised something more than breath:

A voice that prophesied
Of victory,
Through mildness and compassion sanctified,—
Of conquest that ennobles and makes free.

America to-day
Binds in her hair
The olive and the undecaying bay:
An adult Nation, gloriously fair,

Who with a mother's pride
Her children gave,
Who feels their triumph, as her oceans, wide,
And sorrows for her unreturning brave.

Peace is their martyr-crown:
No length of years
Can chill her love or lessen their renown!—
But ah! her pæan falters, hushed in tears.

· · · · · · · · ·

Who are these advancing
With bugle note and drum,
Their bayonets far glancing?
Say, who are these that come?
They are thy sons, Great Mother!
Such sons hath any other?
Be comforted, and bless them as they come!

Be comforted! Though all
Respond not to thy voice,
Though thine impassioned call
Some answer not, nor hear,
O Mother! with thy valiant ones rejoice,
Who died for Man, not glory,
And live in deathless story,
Joined to the names imperishably dear!

Blessèd who fall for Freedom,
Where her flag triumphant waves;
Blessèd who sleep in quiet,
With her laurel on their graves,
Remembered through the echoing years
And hallowed by a nation's thankful tears!
And blessèd, too, the living,
Who fill our hearts with hope and glad forgiving;
Who mid the battle's deafening roar,
When fell the ranks like autumn leaves,
Guarded the standard of the free,
The ægis of our victory:
Who, fevered and anhungered, bore
The more appalling tests of tragic War,
And laureate return, and bring to us their sheaves!

Warriors of the land
And warriors of the sea,
Bold to meet adversity
And constant to withstand;
Heroes of battle, hospital, and tent,
Men chivalrous and never tired,
Women devoted, love-inspired,
Who nursed to life the loyal ones you lent;
And ye—whom all must praise—
Ye darker children of the nation!
Who with a patriot hope and proud elation,
Faced danger that the stoutest heart dismays;
And in the trench and on the mesa saw,
In memory, the men who fought with Shaw
For freedom, at the parting of the ways:
Thrice gallant souls! who in the van
Pressed forward, with one only plan—
One purpose, to prevail;
And 'neath the Mausers' burning hail
Sprang dauntless to the grave,
Your whiter comrades' threatened lives to save:
Who, stumbling, falling,—forward, onward still,—
Fought, step by step, up the dread hill,
Up to the crest where red the death-tide ran,—
Up to the high estate and dignities of Man!

Peace! Sound the drums! The great roll call!
Ah, many to Fame's clarion note
Make answer; but not all!
Yet ye, our brave! have planted seed—
Not for a day, but distant times remote,
Which priceless from the fruitful earth shall spring,
In harvest of pure thought and noble deed,
To bless the Land we love, immortal blossoming.

Into the unresponsive past
On wingèd feet the years fly fast:
Scarcely we pluck the blooms of May,
A shadow on the wold is cast,
And, lo! it is December;
Yet, as a light to guide our way,
Some visions of a troubled day
Gone by we still remember.

And one there is, one image, full of rest,
A memory of manhood singly blest,
The savior of our Nation and her Chief:
Matchless in judgment, love, compassion, power—
The Man meet for the hour.
Assailed by ignorance and half-belief,—
Each searching from too near a view
To read the soul of all our souls most true,—
He went his way, unselfish, minist'ring;
But in the bud and promise-time of Spring
He died—and then we knew.[2]

So in the years to come, when we shall sleep,
Tired pilgrims, at life's everlasting goal,
And the hid hands, that faithful minutes keep,
Shall all the record of our times unroll,
Our sons shall read, emblazoned on the scroll,
His name revered and great,
Who sways our continent with mild control:
Pilot whom war tempestuous could not whelm,
Who stood through every peril at the helm,
Guiding to peaceful port our Ship of State.
He neither needs our praise nor vindication,
Who in the coming years shall take his place
With the wise rulers of the English race;
A leader of the strength that fits a free-born nation![3]

America, my home!—how dear to-day!
In beauty and augmented splendor,
With smile of mother-love so tender
It doth each sacrifice for thee repay,
Thou standest regnant and secure,
Thy hands extended to the helpless poor,
Thy war-like brows unbent, thine armor laid away.

To love devoutly is to pray.
O Land! for thee in thy victorious hour
We lift our souls in supplication,
That righteousness may sanctify thy power
And fill thee with that purer exaltation
Which bides with those who highest hests obey.
Oh, may the lips that praise thy strength,
Laud thee for justice, rather, and for truth,
Welling immediate from thy heart of youth,
To bless thy children first, and all mankind at length!

  1. Written by request of the City of Philadelphia for the Peace Celebration and read at Independence Hall, October 28, 1898.
  2. Abraham Lincoln, April 15, 1865.
  3. William McKinley.