Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, BALLAD OF THE SABRE CROSS AND 7, by IRVING BACHELLER



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BALLAD OF THE SABRE CROSS AND 7, by            
First Line: A troop of sorrels led by vic and then a troop of bays
Last Line: In the rolling waves we dug their graves and left them under the sod.
Subject(s): Generals; Native Americans - Wars; War


A TROOP of sorrels led by Vic and then a troop of bays;
In the backward ranks of the foaming flanks a double troop of grays;
The horses are galloping muzzle to tail, and back of the waving manes
The troopers sit, their brows all knit, a left hand on the reins.

Their hats are gray, and their shirts of blue have a sabre cross and 7,
And little they know, when the trumpeters blow, they'll halt at the gates of
Heaven.
Their colors have dipped at the top of the ridge — how the line of cavalry
waves! —
And over the hills, at a gallop that kills, they are riding to get to their
graves.

"I heard the scouts jabber all night," said one; "they peppered my dreams with
alarm.
That old Ree scout had his medicine out an' was trying to fix up a charm."
There are miles of tepees just ahead, and the warriors in hollow and vale
Lie low in the grass till the troopers pass, and then they creep over the trail.

The trumpets have sounded — the General shouts! He pulls up and turns to
the rear;
"We can't go back — they've covered our track — we've got t' fight 'em
here."
He rushes a troop to the point of the ridge where the valley opens wide,
And Smith deploys a line of the boys to stop the coming tide.

There's a fringe of fire on the skirt of the hills; in every deep ravine
The savages yell, like the fiends of hell, behind a smoky screen.
"Where's Reno?" said Custer, "Why don't he charge? It isn't time to dally!"
And he shouts for help, and he waves his hat to the men across the valley.

There's a wild stampede of horses; every man in the skirmish line
Stands at his post as a howling host rush up the steep incline.
Their rifles answer the deadly fire and they fall with a fighting frown,
Till two by two, in a row of blue, the skirmish line is down.

A trooper stood over his wounded mate, "No use o' you tryin' t' fight,
Blow out yer brains — you'll suffer hell-pains when ye go to the torture
to-night.
We tackled too much; 't was a desperate game — I knowed we never could win
it.
Custer is dead — they're all of 'em dead an' I shall be dead in a minute."

They're all of them down at the top of the ridge; the sabre cross and 7
On many a breast, as it lies at rest, is turned to the smoky heaven.
The wounded men are up and away; they're running hard for their lives,
While the bloody corse of rider and horse is quivering under the knives.

Some troopers watch from a distant hill with hope that never tires;
As the shadows fall on the camp of Gall they can see its hundred fires.
And phantoms ride on the dusky plain and the troopers tell their fears;
As the bugle rings, the song it sings they hope may reach his ears.

There's a reeling dance on the river's edge; its echoes fill the night;
In the valley dim, the shadows swim on a lengthening pool of light.
On the Hill of Fear the troopers stand and listen with bated breath,
While the bugle strains on lonely plains are searching the valley of death.

. . . . . . . . . . .

"What is that like tumbled gravestones on the hilltop there ahead?"
Said the trooper peering through his glass, "My God! sir, it's the dead!
How white they look! How white they look! they've killed 'em — every one!
An' they're stripped as bare as babies an' they're rotting in the sun."

And Custer — back of the tumbled line on a slope of the ridge we found him;
And three men deep in a bloody heap, they fell as they rallied 'round him.
The plains lay brown like a halted sea held firm by the hand of God;
In the rolling waves we dug their graves and left them under the sod.





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