Poems (Botta)/The Battle of Life

For works with similar titles, see The Battle of Life.


There are countless fields the green earth o’er, Where the verdant turf has been dyed with gore; Where hostile ranks in their grim array, With the battle’s smoke have obscured the day; Where hate was stamped on each rigid face As foe met foe in the death embrace; Where the groans of the wounded and dying rose, Till the heart of the listener with horror froze, And the wide expanse of the crimsoned plain Was piled with its heaps of uncounted slain:— But a fiercer combat, a deadlier strife, Is that which is waged in the Battle of Life.

The hero that wars on the tented field, With his shining sword and his burnished shield, Goes not alone with his faithful brand, Friends and comrades around him stand; The trumpets sound and the war-steeds neigh, To join in the shock of the coming fray, And he flies to the onset, he charges the foe, Where the bayonets gleam and the red tides flow; And he bears his part in that conflict dire, With an arm all nerve, and a heart all fire. What though he fall! at the battle’s close, In the flush of the victory won, he goes, With martial music and waving plume, From a field of fame to a laurelled tomb. But the hero that wars in the Battle of Life, Must stand alone in the fearful strife; Alone in his weakness or strength must go, Hero or craven to meet the foe; He may not fly,—on that fated field, He must win or lose, he must conquer or yield. Warrior who com’st to this battle now, With a careless step and a thoughtless brow, As if the field were already won; Pause, and gird all thy armor on. Myriads have come to this battle-ground, With a valiant arm and a name renowned, And have fallen vanquished, to rise no more, Ere the sun was set, or the day half o’er.

Dost thou bring with thee hither a dauntless will, An ardent soul that no blast can chill; Thy shield of Faith hast thou tried and proved; Canst thou say to the mountain—“Be thou moved;” In thy hand does the sword of truth flame bright; Is thy banner emblazoned—“For God and the Right;” In the might of prayer, dost thou strive and plead? Never had warrior greater need. Unseen foes in thy pathway hide; Thou art encompassed on every side. There Pleasure waits, with her syren train, Her poison flowers and her hidden chain; Hope, with her Dead Sea fruits, is there; Sin is spreading her gilded snare; Flattery courts, with her hollow smiles; Passion with silvery tone beguiles; Love and Friendship their charmed spells weave: Trust not too deeply, they may deceive. Disease with a ruthless hand would smite, And Care spread o’er thee a with’ring blight; Hate and Envy, with visage black, And the serpent Slander are on thy track; Guilt and Falsehood, Remorse and Pride, Doubt and Despair in thy pathway glide; Haggard Want, in her demon joy, Waits to degrade thee and then destroy; Palsied Age in the distance lies, And watches his victim with rayless eyes; And Death, the insatiate, is hovering near, To snatch from thy grasp all thou holdest dear. No skill may avail, and no ambush hide; In the open field must the champion bide, And face to face, and hand to hand, Alone in his valor confront that band. In war with these phantoms that gird him round, No limbs dissevered may strew the ground; No blood may flow, and no mortal ear The groans of the wounded heart may hear, As it struggles and writhes in their dread control, As the iron enters the riven soul. But the youthful form grows wasted and weak, And sunken and wan is the rounded cheek; The brow is furrowed, but not with years; The eye is dimmed with its secret tears, And streaked with white is the raven hair: These are the tokens of conflict there.

The battle is over; the hero goes, Scarred and worn, to his last repose. He has won the day, he has conquered Doom, He has sunk unknown to his nameless tomb. For the victor’s glory no voices plead, Fame has no echo, and earth no meed. But the guardian angels are hovering near; They have watched unseen o’er the conflict here, And they bear him now, on their wings away, To a realm of peace,—to a cloudless day. Ended now is the earthly strife, And his brow is crowned with the Crown of Life.

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