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

August 22

Dead Men’s Holiday

By Louise Chandler Moulton (1835–1908)

  • After Shipka.
  • “Every one kept holiday—except the dead.”
  • Verestchagin

  • A pass in the Balkans, made famous in the war between Turkey and Russia in 1877–78 by the defense made by the Turks against the Russians on August 22, 1877.

  • WHO dares to say the dead men were not glad,

    When all the banners flaunted triumph there

    And soldiers tossed their caps into the air,

    And cheered and cheered as they with joy were mad?

    Proudly the General galloped down the line,

    And shouted thanks and praise to all his men,

    And the free echoes tossed it back again,

    And the keen air stung all their lips like wine.

    And there, in front, the dead lay silently—

    They who had given their lives the fight to win—

    Were their ears deaf, think you, to all the din,

    And their eyes blinded that they could not see?

    I tell you, no! They heard, and hearing knew

    How brief a thing this triumph of a day,

    From which men journey on, the same old way,

    The same old snares and pitfalls struggle through.

    Theirs the true triumph, for their fight was done;

    And with low laughter called they each to each—

    “We are at rest where foemen cannot reach,

    And better this than fighting in the sun.”