Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE RETURN OF THE GUARDS; JULY 9, 1856, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: Yes, they return - but who return?
Last Line: Which shakes the euxine shore.
Subject(s): Crimean War (1853-1856); Homecoming; Soldiers


YES, they return -- but who return?
The many or the few?
Clothed with a name, in vain the same,
Face after face is new.

We know how beat the drum to muster,
We heard the cheers of late,
As that red storm, in haste to form,
Burst through each barrack gate.

The first proud mass of English manhood,
A very sea of life,
With strength untold, was Eastward rolled, --
How ebbs it back from strife?

The steps that scaled the Heights of Alma
Wake but faint echoes here;
The flags we sent come back, though rent,
For other hands to rear.

Through shouts, that hail the shattered banner,
Home from proud onsets led,
Through the glad roar, which greets once more
Each bronzed and bearded head;

Hushed voices, from the earth beneath us,
Thrill on the summer air,
And claim a part of England's heart
For those who are not there.

Not only these have marched from battle
Into the realms of peace --
A home attained -- a haven gained,
Where wars and tumults cease.

Whilst thick on Alma's blood-stained river
The war-smoke lingered still,
A long, low beat of unseen feet
Rose from her vine-clad hill;

By a swift change to music, nobler
Than e'er was heard by man,
From those red banks, the gathered ranks
That other march began.

On, on, through wild and wondrous regions,
Echoed their iron tread,
Whilst voices old before them rolled --
"Make way for Alma's dead."

Like mighty winds before them ever,
Those ancient voices rolled;
Swept from their track, huge bars run back,
And giant gates unfold;

Till, to the inmost home of heroes
They led that hero line,
Where with a flame no years can tame
The stars of honor shine.

As forward stepped each fearless soldier,
So stately, firm, and tall,
Wide, wide outflung, grim plaudits rung
On through that endless hall.

Next, upon gloomy phantom chargers,
The self-devoted came,
Who rushed to die, without reply,
For duty, not for fame.

Then, from their place of ancient glory,
All sheathed in shining brass,
Three hundred men, of the Grecian glen,
Marched down to see them pass.

And the long-silent flutes of Sparta
Poured haughty welcome forth,
Stern hymns to crown, with just renown,
Her brethren of the North.

Yet louder at the solemn portal,
The trumpet floats and waits;
And still more wide, in living pride,
Fly back the golden gates.

And those from Inkerman swarm onwards,
Who made the dark fight good --
One man to nine, till their thin line
Lay, where at first it stood.

But though cheered high by mailed millions
Their steps were faint and slow,
In each proud face the eye might trace
A sign of coming woe.

A coming woe which deepened ever,
As down that darkening road,
Our bravest tossed to plague and frost,
In streams of ruin flowed.

All through that dim despairing winter,
Too noble to complain,
Bands hunger-worn, in raiment torn,
Came, not by foemen slain.

And patient, from the sullen trenches
Crowds sunk, by toil and cold --
Then murmurs slow, like thunders low,
Wailed through the brave of old.

Wrath glided o'er the Hall of Heroes,
Anguish, and shame, and scorn,
As clouds that drift, breathe darkness swift
O'er seas of shining corn

Wrath glided o'er the Hall of Heroes,
And veiled it like a pall,
While all felt fear, lest they should hear
The Lion-banner fall.

And if unstained that ancient banner
Keep yet its place of pride,
Let none forget how vast the debt
We owe to those who died.

Let none forget THE OTHERS, marching
With steps we feel no more,
Whose bodies sleep, by that grim deep
Which shakes the Euxine shore.





Discover our Poem Explanations and Poet Analyses!


Other Poems of Interest...



Home: PoetryExplorer.net