Verse > Anthologies > Hamilton Fish Armstrong, ed. > The Book of New York Verse
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Hamilton Fish Armstrong, ed.  The Book of New York Verse.  1917.
 
The Regiment, 1909
By John Curtis Underwood
 
THE TRAFFIC clears, and the crowd to the curb shifts to the roll of drums,
As down the dusty avenue the long brown column comes,
And their faces match their khaki. From Luzon’s tropic suns
They took this tan, and the glint of their eyes like the glitter of their guns
Flamed on the way to Pekin till they saw the flag still there.        5
They bear their faded colors past, and something in the air
Lessens the roar of the city. One gray bystander sees
The Stars and Stripes at Gettysburg and faces set like these
When death broke battle’s mould. They pass, indomitable, strong,
Wearing the deathless order of discipline. The throng        10
Gentile and Jew and Kelt and Hun and their own blood brothers thrill
To the ripple of their cadenced ranks; for now the drums are still
And the measured tread of feet that marched to set the Cubans free,
Falls on the asphalt like the sound of breakers when the sea
Strikes on the sands at midnight to mark the pulse of time,        15
And the nation’s heart-beat blends with them; the boys that breathless climb
To a lamp-post or a column’s height, the girls whose ardent eyes
Wake to a world of fighting men and the dream that never dies;
Embattled, grim in touch with them; crude as brown powder grains
That leap to life and shake the air when freedom fires the trains.        20
Essential, hard, dynamic, fit, and silent still they go,
Down the pathway of their duty to a goal that none may know.
Here is the nation’s last reserve, these and their next of kin
When the ends of earth are looted bare and the years of wrath begin.
For each heart guards its citadel and these shall serve alone        25
When millions fail and navies sink and forts are overthrown.
They pass and the city’s tumult throbs through its arteries
And fills them full of greed and lust, dishonor and disease,
And dreams insane of peace unearned, decadence and disgrace;
But still the red blood corpuscles shall vitalize the race.        30
 
 
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