Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE BATTLE OF MONMOUTH, by SARA KING WILEY



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THE BATTLE OF MONMOUTH, by            
First Line: In the grasses the cob-webs were lying
Last Line: They had vanished -- and monmouth was won!
Alternate Author Name(s): Drummond, Sarah King Wiley
Subject(s): American Revolution; Monmouth, Battle Of (1778)


In the grasses the cob-webs were lying,
Frosted white with the fall of the dew,
When we roused from our tents before sunrise
As the bugles the rippling call blew
"Drop your knapsacks, men! Form!" and now "Forward!"
We are off, and the red dust upflies,
Not a breath turns the silver-lined birch-leaves,
And the quivering air dazzles our eyes.

Comes a sound -- was that thunder that rumbled?
In the vivid sky blazes the sun.
'Twas the cannon that roared in the distance.
Hasten on, for the fight has begun!
As we paused by a church for our orders
Stood our Chief, as I see him e'en now,
With his hand on his horse's hot forehead,
And the dust on his noble white brow.

Then a farmer rushed up to us, panting:
"Sir, your soldiers are flying, ahead!"
"Silence! This is some coward's invention.
March forward, men!" Washington said.
Then we stirred at the cry of the bugles,
At the sound of the trampling of feet,
And we felt that to struggle was holy,
And to die for our country was sweet.

Then the blood hammered fast in our temples,
And we burned with the thirst for the fray,
And our muscles strained hard at our muskets
As our General spurred, plunging, away.
Look, who comes? See the troops there before us!
'Tis our soldiers, and flying, we see.
Wild, disordered, and jaded, they meet us
They retreat -- by the orders of Lee!

On we go with haste of dread urging
To a farm where the broad brook runs fast,
And the children at play by the lilacs
Come out running to see us march past;
And the sweet, thrilling sound of their voices
Floats across on the flower-scented air,
"Oh, they're marching right down to the willows,
And they'll ruin our playhouse that's there!"

O, you children! our hearts ached to hear you,
Though we knew not that there by your wall
They will dig a deep trench on the morrow
For the men that ere evening shall fall.
Now we looked on the country below us,
Where our soldiers left honor behind,
And were flying like leaves in the Autumn
When they whirl in the eddying wind.

At their head, lo, the recreant commander,
And our Chief urged his horse's quick pace,
And there, on the bridge o'er the torrent,
Lee and Washington met face to face.
Such a glance as when Jove shakes Olympus,
As he scatters the thunder-bolt wide;
Like the flash of a sword from its scabbard
Came his speech: "Sir, what means this?" he cried.

Then the orders came rattling like hailstones,
And the panic was stayed by his hand.
Fast the batteries form in the forest;
On the heights with the cannon we stand;
From beneath the low boughs of the orchard,
Like the angry wasps, Wayne's bullets fly,
Till the fierce Colonel Monckton grows reckless:
"Drive them out! drive them out!" is his cry.

On the grenadiers charge with their bayonets,
Ranks of steel like a glittering wall;
With a crash like the meeting of waters
Comes the answering fire -- and they fall.
But the heat of the air saps our courage,
And we faint 'neath the glare of the sky;
To the streaked brook our comrades crawl, moaning
Like the hurt deer, to drink and to die.

Yet he called for a charge, the undaunted,
And we formed in our battle array,
But the shadows arose from the hollows,
So we waited the coming of day.
When we looked for our foes on the morrow,
As the mist melted off in the sun,
Like the fabled Assyrian army
They had vanished -- and Monmouth was won!





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