Home  »  Yale Book of American Verse  »  149 The Celestial Army

Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. (1838–1915). Yale Book of American Verse. 1912.

Thomas Buchanan Read 1822–1872

Thomas Buchanan Read

149 The Celestial Army

I STOOD by the open casement

And looked upon the night,

And saw the westward-going stars

Pass slowly out of sight.

Slowly the bright procession

Went down the gleaming arch,

And my soul discerned the music

Of their long triumphal march;

Till the great celestial army,

Stretching far beyond the poles,

Became the eternal symbol

Of the mighty march of souls.

Onward, forever onward,

Red Mars led down his clan;

And the Moon, like a mailèd maiden,

Was riding in the van.

And some were bright in beauty,

And some were faint and small,

But these might be in their great height

The noblest of them all.

Downward, forever downward,

Behind Earth’s dusky shore

They passed into the unknown night,

They passed and were no more.

No more! Oh, say not so!

And downward is not just;

For the sight is weak and the sense is dim

That looks through heated dust.

The stars and the mailèd moon,

Though they seem to fall and die,

Still sweep with their embattled lines

An endless reach of sky.

And though the hills of Death

May hide the bright array,

The marshalled brotherhood of souls

Still keeps its upward way.

Upward, forever upward,

I see their march sublime,

And hear the glorious music

Of the conquerors of Time.

And long let me remember,

That the palest, fainting one

May to diviner vision be

A bright and blazing sun.