Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
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James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
 
May 30
The Reason Why
Anonymous
 
Decoration Day, 1872

  FAR in the East by Ganges’ tide
  The subtle, brown-faced Hindus toil;
They cringe before a master’s pride,
  They see their land a despot’s spoil,
Their olden temples are despised,        5
  They cannot reap the fields they till,
And all sweet things that make life prized
  They hold but at a foeman’s will.
      And why? They were not bold and brave,
      They still contemned the soldier’s glaive,        10
      And honored not the soldier’s grave.
 
Between the good old German hills
  Far seaward flows the storied Rhine;
Along the vine-clad banks there thrills
  A nation’s triumph half divine.        15
Beyond, the hearths and homes are free,
  Life’s blessings crown the German race;
And through the world where’er he be,
  How proudly glows the German’s face!
      And why? They were both wise and brave,        20
      They trusted to the soldier’s glaive,
      They honored still the soldier’s grave!
 
Far cradled in Atlantic seas,
  There lies a group of little isles,
Throughout the world in every breeze        25
  Their flag a proud defiance smiles.
Far millions feel their ruling hand,
  The orient mines are digged for them;
The wealth of many a distant land
  Is garnered for their diadem.        30
      And why? They have been wise and brave,
      Their scepter was the soldier’s glaive,
      They honored still the soldier’s grave!
 
On sunny France a pall of woe
  Has like a sombre cloud come down,        35
She saw her loftiest laid low,
  She saw the smoke of many a town.
When struggle came her strength gave way,
  Yet look—there’s danger in her eyes;
And nations round her watching say,        40
  “Beware! The tigress may arise!”
      And why? Though beaten she is brave,
      And still she grips the soldier’s glaive,
      And honors still the soldier’s grave!
 
As wide as any vision’s bound        45
  Can clip our broad dominions in,
For peace and freedom, sacred ground,
  We hold the land our sires did win.
The rights of all beneath the law
  We guard within our rich domain,        50
We bend to none with slavish awe,
  The good of all we dare maintain.
      And why? We have been true and brave,
      And boldly grasped the soldier’s glaive,
      And honored still the soldier’s grave.        55
 
Mayhap when come those happy morns,
  That age the olden poets sang,
When figs spring freely on the thorns,
  And luscious grapes from thistles hang,
When round the quiet cottage door        60
  The tigers with the children play,
When in the heart of man no more
  Man’s stormy passions hold their sway,
      We can forget to praise the brave,
      And fling aside the soldier’s glaive,        65
      And honor not the soldier’s grave!
 
 
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