Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, LITTLE BIG HORN, by ERNEST MCGAFFEY

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LITTLE BIG HORN, by            
First Line: Beside the lone river
Last Line: The shades of the dead through the ages lie dreaming.
Subject(s): Little Bighorn, Battle Of

BESIDE the lone river,
That idly lay dreaming,
Flashed sudden the gleaming
Of sabre and gun
In the light of the sun
As over the hillside the soldiers came streaming.

One peal of the bugle
In stillness unbroken
That sounded a token
Of soul-stirring strife,
Savage war to the knife,
Then silence that seemed like defiance unspoken.

But out of an ambush
Came warriors riding,
Swift ponies bestriding,
Shook rattles and shells,
With a discord of yells,
That fired the hearts of their comrades in hiding.

Then fierce on the wigwams
The soldiers descended,
And madly were blended,
The red man and white
In a hand-to-hand fight,
With the Indian village assailed and defended.

And there through the passage
Of battle-torn spaces,
From dark lurking-places,
With blood-curdling cry
And their knives held on high,
Rushed Amazon women with wild, painted faces.

Then swung the keen sabres
And flashed the sure rifles
Their message that stifles
The shout in red throats,
While the reckless blue-coats
Laughed on 'mid the fray as men laugh over trifles.

Grim cavalry troopers
Unshorn and unshaven,
And never a craven
In ambuscade caught,
How like demons they fought
Round the knoll on the prairie that marked their last haven.

But the Sioux circled nearer
The shrill war-whoop crying,
And death-hail was flying,
Yet still they fought on
Till the last shot was gone,
And all that remained were the dead and the dying.

A song for their death, and
No black plumes of sorrow,
This recompense borrow,
Like heroes they died
Man to man -- side by side;
We lost them to-day, we shall meet them tomorrow.

And on the lone river,
Has faded the seeming
Of bright armor gleaming,
But there by the shore
With the ghosts of no-more
The shades of the dead through the ages lie dreaming.

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