Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE DEATH OF LYON, by HENRY PETERSON



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THE DEATH OF LYON, by            
First Line: Sing, bird, on green missouri's plain
Last Line: And grave thy name immortal.
Variant Title(s): Lyon
Subject(s): American Civil War; Lyon, Nathaniel (1818-1861); United States - History; Wilson's Creek, Missouri, Battle Of


SING, bird, on green Missouri's plain,
The saddest song of sorrow;
Drop tears, O clouds, in gentlest rain
Ye from the winds can borrow;
Breathe out, ye winds, your softest sigh,
Weep, flowers, in dewy splendor,
For him who knew well how to die,
But never to surrender.

Up rose serene the August sun
Upon that day of glory;
Up curled from musket and from gun
The war-cloud, gray and hoary;
It gathered like a funeral pall,
Now broken, and now blended,
Where rang the bugle's angry call,
And rank with rank contended.

Four thousand men, as brave and true
As e'er went forth in daring,
Upon the foe that morning threw
The strength of their despairing.
They feared not death -- men bless the field
That patriot soldiers die on;
Fair Freedom's cause was sword and shield,
And at their head was Lyon.

Their leader's troubled soul looked forth
From eyes of troubled brightness;
Sad soul! the burden of the North
Had pressed out all its lightness.
He gazed upon the unequal fight,
His ranks all rent and gory,
And felt the shadows close like night
Round his career of glory.

"General, come lead us!" loud the cry
From a brave band was ringing --
"Lead us, and we will stop, or die,
That battery's awful singing!"
He spurred to where his heroes stood --
Twice wounded, no one knowing --
The fire of battle in his blood
And on his forehead glowing.

Oh! cursed for aye that traitor's hand,
And cursed that aim so deadly,
Which smote the bravest of the land,
And dyed his bosom redly.
Serene he lay, while past him pressed
The battle's furious billow,
As calmly as a babe may rest
Upon its mother's pillow.

So Lyon died; and well may flowers
His place of burial cover,
For never had this land of ours
A more devoted lover.
Living, his country was his bride;
His life he gave her, dying;
Life, fortune, love, he nought denied
To her, and to her sighing.

Rest, patriot, in thy hillside grave,
Beside her form who bore thee!
Long may the land thou diedst to save
Her bannered stars wave o'er thee!
Upon her history's brightest page,
And on fame's glowing portal,
She'll write thy grand, heroic age,
And grave thy name immortal.





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