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After The Battle

Richard Chenevix Trench 1807 (Dublin) – 1886 (Eaton Square)

WE crown’d the hard-won heights at length,
 Baptiz’d in flame and fire;
We saw the foeman’s sullen strength,
 That grimly made retire—
 
Saw close at hand, then saw more far
 Beneath the battle-smoke
The ridges of his shatter’d war,
 That broke and ever broke.
 
But one, an English household’s pride,
 Dear many ways to me,
Who climb’d that death-path by my side,
 I sought, but could not see.
 
Last seen, what time our foremost rank
 That iron tempest tore;
He touch’d, he scal’d the rampart bank—
 Seen then, and seen no more.
 
One friend to aid, I measur’d back
 With him that pathway dread;
No fear to wander from our track—
 Its waymarks English dead.
 
Light thicken’d: but our search was crown’d,
 As we too well divin’d;
And after briefest quest we found
 What we most fear’d to find.
 
His bosom with one death-shot riven,
 The warrior-boy lay low;
His face was turn’d unto the heaven,
 His feet unto the foe.
 
As he had fallen upon the plain,
 Inviolate he lay;
No ruffian spoiler’s hand profane
 Had touch’d that noble clay.
 
And precious things he still retain’d,
 Which, by one distant hearth,
Lov’d tokens of the lov’d, had gain’d
 A worth beyond all worth.
 
I treasur’d these for them who yet
 Knew not their mighty wo;
I softly seal’d his eyes, and set
 One kiss upon his brow.
 
A decent grave we scoop’d him, where
 Less thickly lay the dead,
And decently compos’d him there
 Within that narrow bed.
 
O theme for manhood’s bitter tears:
 The beauty and the bloom
Of less than twenty summer years
 Shut in that darksome tomb!
 
Of soldier-sire the soldier-son;
 Life’s honor’d eventide
One lives to close in England, one
 In maiden battle died:
 
And they, that should have been the mourn’d,
 The mourners’ parts obtain:
Such thoughts were ours, as we return’d
 To earth its earth again.
 
Brief words we read of faith and prayer
 Beside that hasty grave;
Then turn’d away, and left him there,
 The gentle and the brave:
 
I calling back with thankful heart,
 With thoughts to peace allied,
Hours when we two had knelt apart
 Upon the lone hillside;
 
And, comforted, I prais’d the grace
 Which him had led to be
An early seeker of that Face
 Which he should early see.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

1:55 min read
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Richard Chenevix Trench

Richard Chenevix Trench was an Anglican archbishop and poet. more…

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