James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

February 6

A Man’s Name

By Richard Realf (1832–1878)

  • David, known to his associates as “Doc” Simmons, a railroad engineer, stuck to his post on his engine in the disaster near Hamburgh. N.Y., Feb. 6, 1876, and was killed with his hand on the throttle.

  • THROUGH the packed horror of the night

    It rose up like a star,

    And sailed into the infinite,

    Where the immortals are.

    “Down brakes!” One splendid hard-held breath,

    And lo, an unknown name

    Strode into sovereignty from death

    Trailing a path of flame!

    “Jump!”—“I remain.”—No needless word,

    No vagueness in his breast;

    Along his blood the swift test stirred—

    He answered to the test,

    Gripped his black peril like a vise,

    And, as he grappled, saw

    That life is one with sacrifice,

    And duty one with law.

    Home:—but his feet grew granite fast;

    Wife:—yet he did not reel;

    Babes:—ah, they tugged! but to the last

    He stood as true as steel.

    Above his own heart’s lovingness,

    Above another’s crime,

    Above the immitigable stress,

    Above himself and time,

    Smote loving Comfort on the cheek,

    Gave quibbing Fear the lie,

    Taught ambling Fluence how to speak,

    And brave men how to die.

    Who said the time of kings was gone?

    Who said our Alps were low,

    And not by God’s airs blown upon?

    Behold, it is not so!

    Out from the palace and the hut,

    Dwarf-fronted, lame of will,

    Limp our marred Joves and giants—but

    Sceptered for mastery still,

    And clothed with puissance to quell

    Whatever mobs of shame

    Are leagued within us, with such spell

    As David Simmons’ name.