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71. the bayonet charge.

Hark to the batteries disputing in thunder--
     Shell over tree-top and shot rattling under,
Noisily cover the path of the foe
     Down through the forest aisles, lofty and large.
There's a look on the face of our leader I know,
     And I wait the dread order: “Fix bayonets — charge!”

Am I less brave for a moment's quick shiver?
     Hearts of oak yonder bear light leaves that quiver.
I look down the line — there's a lip turning white,
     Set the firmer for that; there are fixed, gazing eyes
Intent upon something, but not on the fight;
     There's a swift glance flung upward to pierce the
blue skies.

While the thunder rolls nearer, distinct through it all
     I catch fragments of whispers; as, “Boys, if I fall;”
Or thus, “Should the worst come, write home to my mother;”
     “Tell my sister, my wife, that I a man.”
“You'll find in my knapsack, friend,” murmurs another,
     “A line that I scrawled when the battle began.”

Our Colonel sits firm; with that look in his eye,
     Like a sword part unsheathed, he rides gallantly by.
Should he fall, made a mark for the sharp-shooter's aim
     By his gay epaulette with its golden encrust,
There'll be trumpet-loud voices to herald his fame;
     But I am a private — the commonest dust!

[59] For fame do I fight? Lord of hosts, does not he
     Who battles for right ever battle for Thee!
There are graves trodden level that love seeks in vain,
     Held in honor by angels: Alike in thy sight
The poorest who carves for the red stripes their stain,
     And the leader who falls in the van of the fight.

They arc coming — they come! Shifting sunbeams reveal
     Their way through the leaves by the glitter of steel;
They swarm to the light, through the tree-boles they swarm
     Out from the forest aisles, lofoy and large.
Our Colonel turns pale, drops his beckoning arms,
     But hark, boys, the order: “Fix bayonets — charge!”

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