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Poem by Henry Timrod
The Unknown Dead
The rain is plashing on my sill, But all the winds of Heaven are still; And so it falls with that dull sound Which thrills us in the church-yard ground, When the first spadeful drops like lead Upon the coffin of the dead. Beyond my streaming window-pane, I cannot see the neighboring vane, Yet from its old familiar tower The bell comes, muffled, through the shower. What strange and unsuspected link Of feeling touched, has made me think— While with a vacant soul and eye I watch that gray and stony sky— Of nameless graves on battle-plains Washed by a single winter's rains, Where, some beneath Virginian hills, And some by green Atlantic rills, Some by the waters of the West, A myriad unknown heroes rest. Ah! not the chiefs, who, dying, see Their flags in front of victory, Or, at their life-blood's noble cost Pay for a battle nobly lost, Claim from their monumental beds The bitterest tears a nation sheds. Beneath yon lonely mound—the spot By all save some fond few forgot— Lie the true martyrs of the fight Which strikes for freedom and for right. Of them, their patriot zeal and pride, The lofty faith that with them died, No grateful page shall farther tell Than that so many bravely fell; And we can only dimly guess What worlds of all this world's distress, What utter woe, despair, and dearth, Their fate has brought to many a hearth. Just such a sky as this should weep Above them, always, where they sleep; Yet, haply, at this very hour, Their graves are like a lover's bower; And Nature's self, with eyes unwet, Oblivious of the crimson debt To which she owes her April grace, Laughs gayly o'er their burial-place.
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