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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Richard Chenebix Trench 1807–86

After the Battle


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.