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84. battle-worn banners.
(January 26, 1864.)

by Park Benjamin.
I saw the soldiers come to-day
     From battle fields afar;
No conqueror rode before their way
     On his triumphal car;
But captains, like themselves, on foot,
     And banners sadly torn,
All grandly eloquent though mute,
     In pride and glory borne.

Those banners soiled with dust and smoke,
     And rent by shot and shell,
That through the serried phalanx broke,
     What terrors could they tell!
What tales of sudden pain and death
     In every cannon's boom,
When even the bravest held his breath
     And waited for his doom.

By hands of steel those flags were waved
     Above the carnage dire,
Almost destroyed yet always saved,
     'Mid battle-clouds and fire.
Though down at times, still up they rose
     And kissed the breeze again,
Dread tokens to the rebel foes
     Of true and loyal men.

And here the true and loyal still
     Those famous banners bear;
The bugles wind, the fifes blow shrill,
     And clash the cymbals where, [69]
With decimated ranks, they come,
     And through the crowded street
March to the beating of the drum
     With firm though weary feet.

God bless the soldiers! cry the folk,
     Whose cheers of welcome swell;
God bless the banners, black with smoke,
     And torn by shot and shell!
They should be hung on sacred shrines,
     Baptized with grateful tears,
And live embalmed in poets' lines
     Through all succeeding years.

No grander trophies could be brought
     By patriot sire to son,
Of glorious battles nobly fought,
     Brave deeds sublimely done.
And so, to-day, I chanced with pride
     And solemn joy to see
Those remnants from the bloody tide
     Of victory!

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