Custar's Last Ride

Albery Allson Whitman

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Forth on the fatal morn,
Proud as the waves of Horn
Rode the cavalier;
Followed by gallant men,
Far in a rocky glen
To disappear.

"Halt!" bands of Sioux are seen
O'er all the dark ravine,
Crouched in numbers vast;
"Halt!" and a hush, "Prepare!"
"Charge!" and the very air
Starts at the blast.

Long waves of horsemen break,
And hoofy thunders wake
On the steep glen sides.
Back roll the columns brave,
Back in a smoky grave,
Each hero rides.

"Ready!" their chieftain cries,
Steady his eagle eyes
Sweep the dark ground o'er.
Slowly the lines re-form,
Slowly returns the storm,
Yet dreadful more.

"Charge!" is the proud command,
Onward the daring band
Like a torrent dash;
On heaving gorges long,
On groaning rocks among,
With tempest crash.

Up from their ferny beds
Dart fields of pluming heads,
As if hideous earth,
Out of her rocky womb,
Out of an army's tomb,
Doth give them birth.

"Rally!" but once is heard,
"Rally!" and not a word,
The brave boys rallying, speak.
Lightnings of valiant steel
Flash fast; the columns reel,
Bend -- reel and break!

"Stand!" cries their Custar proud,
"Stand!" in the battle cloud
Echoes high around.
Answers the sabre's stroke,
Tho' in black waves of smoke
His fair form's drown'd.

Firece hordes of painted braves
Melt down, for well behave
Horse and cavalier:
As round their chief they fall,
Cheered by his clarion call,
From front to rear.

No more their leader calls,
Pierced 'mid his men he falls,
But sinks breathing, "Stand!"
And where the hero lies,
Each soldier till he dies,
Fights hand to hand.

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