Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE KISS TO THE FLAG, by JEAN FRANCOIS VICTOR AICARD

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THE KISS TO THE FLAG, by            
First Line: Ta ra! Boom boom! A regiment is coming down the street
Last Line: The maiden's kiss was for the flag, the death-shroud of the brave.
Subject(s): Flags

Ta ra! Boom boom! A regiment is coming down the street;
From every side an eager throng is hurrying to greet
From overflowing sidewalk and densely crowded square,
A brilliant, uniformed cortege whose music fills the air;
For such a gorgeous spectacle is not seen every day;
It gives the town a festival to view the fine array;
All hearts are filled with happiness, and no one seems to lag,
When he has thus a chance to see the soldiers . . . . and the flag.
The old retired officers, their hats like helmets worn,
Have thrust them gaily on one side at sound of drum and horn;
The eldest, whose brave heart is stirred by that familiar strain,
Surmounts, with stifled sigh, his chair, a better view to gain;
Cafes, salons, mansards alike their windows open throw,
And pretty girls wear radiant smiles to greet the passing show.
Ah, here they are! Yes, here they come! preceded by the boys,
Who imitate in fashion droll, yet with no actual noise,
But merely by the gesturing of finger or of hand,
The cymbals, flute, and (best of all) the trombones of the band.
The babies even laugh and crow, upheld in nurses' arms,
And have no fear of trumpets loud, or the bass-drum's alarms.
The pavement of the boulevard is struck in perfect time;
Six hundred echoes blend in one, and make the scene sublime;
Six hundred hearts are throbbing there, imbued with martial pride;
Twelve hundred feet with rhythmic beat make but a single stride.
United, too, are all the hearts of those whose eyes pursue
With admiration every line now passing in review.
But when a gallant regiment appears thus on parade,
A little vain of its fine looks, and conscious of its grade,
Each soldier, (since a time of peace allows him to be gay),
Aspires to be attentive to the ladies on the way,
And stares at every pretty face, with no wish to be rude,
But, then, you know, a regiment is never quite . . . . a prude!
And this explains why Captain Short has said to Captain Tall,
Despite the order which enjoins strict silence upon all,

"A lovely girl!" "Is that so? Where?" "Beside the window there."
"By Jove! I'd like to know her. She is divinely fair!"
Then both a little thoughtfully move on with some regret,
And now the entire regiment the lovely girl has met;

Across the broad, resplendent ranks she looks now left, now right,
Now straight before her, but as yet no smiles her features light;
More than one mounted officer, with flashing sabre, wheels
His well-groomed horse, and calls to him the sergeant at his heels;
And makes excuse of some detail, endeavoring the while,
Perhaps half consciously, to win the favor of a smile.
In vain; the glance he hopes to gain, as hero of her heart,
Comes not; but rank forbids delay, he must at once depart.
The Colonel even has remarked this charming thoughtful girl,
And gives to his fine gray moustache the customary twirl;
A handsome man, with uniform whose gilded lustre shines
From clanking spur to epaulette with stars and golden lines;
He knows how potent is the spell such ornaments impart
To make of soldiers demi-gods in woman's gentle heart.
"The Flag! The Flag!" The crowd is thrilled to see it now advance!
Hail, Colors of the Fatherland! Hail, Banner of Fair France!
Hail, wounded emblem of the brave; blood-red, and heaven's blue,
And purest white, -- the noble Flag, now waving in our view!
Standard sublime, that moves all hearts, as now thy form unrolls,
Our dead seem shrouded in thy folds, stirred by the breath of souls!
The color-bearer, young as Hope, and still a charming boy,
In rhythm to the beating hearts and symphony of joy,
Sways gently, as he bears it on, the emblem of a land
Whose sons will in united ranks all enemies withstand.
The young lieutenant, on whose face the standard's shadow falls,
Knows well it makes him pass admired between those human walls,
And that its presence lifts him high above the rank and file,
And gains for him a sentiment worth many a pretty smile.
"That girl has smiled", the Colonel thinks, "but on whom? Who can tell?"
"It is the bearer of the flag, on whom her favor fell",
Exclaims the Captain, who then adds, "Great Heavens! worse than this,
"She has not only smiled, but now she really throws a kiss!"
The Colonel, somewhat bent with years, sits up and swells his chest;
"A charming girl" a sergeant cries, and tries to look his best;
Each soldier, if a comrade laughs, a rival seems to fear;
The chief of a battalion looks, and makes his charger rear.
While several soldiers thus assume an air of martial pride,
The color-bearer, whom the band has quite electrified,
Caresses with a trembling hand the down upon his lip,
In doing which he rashly lets the tattered banner dip.
But she has seen within its folds, thus torn with shell and shot,
The soul of one she dearly loved, who, dead at Gravelotte,
Returned no more, but sleeps to-day within an unknown grave . . . . .
The maiden's kiss was for the Flag, the death-shroud of the brave.

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