Joaquin Miller

The Defence of the Alamo

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Santa Ana came storming, as a storm might come;
There was rumble of cannon; there was rattle of blade;
There was cavalry, infantry, bugle and drum --
Full seven thousand in pomp and parade.
The chivalry, flower of Mexico;
And a gaunt two hundred in the Alamo!
And thirty lay sick, and some were shot through;
For the siege had been bitter, and bloody, and long.
"Surrender, or die!" -- "Men, what will you do?"
And Travis, great Travis, drew sword, quick and strong;
Drew a line at his feet. . . . "Will you come" Will you go?
I die with my wounded, in the Alamo."
Then Bowie gasped, "Lead me over that line!"
Then Crockett, one hand to the sick, one hand to his gun,
Crossed with him; then never a word or a sign
Till all, sick or well, all, all save but one,
One man. Then a woman stepped, praying, and slow
Across; to die at her post in the Alamo.
Then that one coward fled, in the night, in that night
When all men silently prayed and thought
Of home; of to-morrow; of God and the right,
Till dawn; and with dawn came Travis's cannon-shot,
In answer to insolent Mexico,
From the old bell-tower of the Alamo.
Then came Santa Ana; a crescent of flame!
Then the red escalade; then the fight hand to hand;
Such an unequal fight as never had name
Since the Persian hordes butchered that doomed Spartan band.
All day -- all day and all night; and the morning? so slow,
Through the battle smoke mantling the Alamo.
Now silence! Such silence! Two thousand lay dead
In a crescent outside! And within? Not a breath
Save the gasp of a woman, with gory gashed head,
All alone, all alone there, waiting for death;
And she but a nurse. Yet when shall we know
Another like this of the Alamo?
Shout "Victory, victory, victory ho!"
I say 'tis not always to the hosts that win!
I say that the victory, high or low,
Is given the hero who grapples with sin,
Or legion or single; just asking to know
When duty fronts death in his Alamo.

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Joaquin Miller