In early December of 1969, I returned home to America after spending nearly three years overseas, much of that on various assignments in Southeast Asia where war then raged.
The muffled drum's sad roll has beat The soldier's last tattoo; No more on life's parade shall meet That brave and fallen few. On Fame's eternal camping-ground Their silent tents are spread, And Glory guards, with solemn round, The bivouac of the dead.
No rumor of the foe's advance Now swells upon the wind; Nor troubled thought at midnight haunts Of loved ones left behind; No vision of the morrow's strife The warrior's dream alarms; No braying horn nor screaming fife At dawn shall call to arms.
Their shriveled swords are red with rust, Their plumed heads are bowed, Their haughty banner, trailed in dust, Is now their martial shroud. And plenteous funeral tears have washed The red stains from each brow, And the proud forms, by battle gashed Are free from anguish now.
The neighing troop, the flashing blade, The bugle's stirring blast, The charge, the dreadful cannonade, The din and shout, are past; Nor war's wild note nor glory's peal Shall thrill with fierce delight Those breasts that nevermore may feel The rapture of the fight.
Like the fierce northern hurricane That sweeps the great plateau, Flushed with the triumph yet to gain, Came down the serried foe, Who heard the thunder of the fray Break o'er the field beneath, Knew well the watchword of that day Was "Victory or death!"
Long had the doubtful conflict raged O'er all that stricken plain, For never fiercer fight had waged The vengeful blood of Spain; And still the storm of battle blew, Still swelled the gory tide; Not long, our stout old chieftain knew, Such odds his strength could bide.
Twas in that hour his stern command Called to a martyr's grave The flower of his beloved land, The nation's flag to save. By rivers of their father's gore His first-born laurels grew, And well he deemed the sons would pour Their lives for glory too.
For many a mother's breath has swept O'er Angostura's plain -- And long the pitying sky has wept Above its moldered slain. The raven's scream, or eagle's flight, Or shepherd's pensive lay, Alone awakes each sullen height That frowned o'er that dread fray.
Sons of the Dark and Bloody Ground Ye must not slumber there, Where stranger steps and tongues resound Along the heedless air. Your own proud land's heroic soil Shall be your fitter grave; She claims from war his richest spoil -- The ashes of her brave.
Thus 'neath their parent turf they rest, Far from the gory field, Borne to a Spartan mother's breast On many a bloody shield; The sunshine of their native sky Smiles sadly on them here, And kindred eyes and hearts watch by The heroes sepulcher.
Yon marble minstrel's voiceless stone In deathless song shall tell, When many a vanquished ago has flown, The story how ye fell; Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter's blight, Nor Time's remorseless doom, Shall dim one ray of glory's light That gilds your deathless tomb.