Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward

Absent!

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You do not lift your eyes to watch
Us pass the conscious door;
Your startled ear perceiveth not
Our footfall on the floor;
No eager word your lips betray
To greet us when we stand;
We throng to meet you, but you hold
To us no beckoning hand.


Faint as the years in which we breathed,
Far as the death we died,
Dim as the faded battle-smoke,
We wander at your side;
Cold as a cause outlived, or lost,
Vague as the legends told
At twilight, of a mystic band
Circling an Age of Gold.


Unseen, unheard, unfelt--and yet,
Beneath the army blue
Our heart-beats sounded real enough
When we were boys like you.
We turned us from your fabled lore,
With ancient passion rife;
No myth, our solemn laying down
Of love, and hope, and life.


No myth, the clasped and severed hands,
No dream, the last replies.
Upon the desolated home
To-day, the sunlight lies.
Take, sons of peace, your heritage--
Our loss, your legacy;
Our action be your fables fair,
Our facts, your poetry.


O ye who fall on calmer times!
The perils of the calm
Are yours--the swell, the sloth, the sleep,
The carelessness of harm,
The keel that rides the gale, to strike
Where the warm waves are still;
Ours were the surf, the stir, the shock,
The tempest and the thrill.


Comrades, be yours that vigor old,
Be yours the elected power
That fits a man, like rock to tide,
To his appointed hour;
Yours to become all that we were,
And all we might have been;
Yours the fine eye that separates
The unseen from the seen.

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