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.
 
October 17
The Field of the Grounded Arms
By Fitz-Greene Halleck (1790–1867)
 
          After the second battle of Saratoga, fought on Oct. 17, 1777, Burgoyne and his army surrendered to the Americans. By the terms of the agreement the British marched out of camp with the honors of war and piled their arms in an appointed place.

*        *        *        *        *
THE FOREST leaves lay scattered cold and dead,
Upon the withered grass that autumn morn,
      When with as withered hearts
      And hopes as dead and cold,
 
A gallant army formed their last array        5
Upon that field, in silence and deep gloom,
      And at their conqueror’s feet
      Laid their war-weapons down.
 
Sullen and stern, disarmed but not dishonored;
Brave men, but brave in vain, they yielded there:        10
      The soldier’s trial task
      Is not alone “to die.”
 
Honor to chivalry! the conqueror’s breath
Stains not the ermine of his foeman’s fame,
      Nor mocks his captive’s doom—        15
      The bitterest cup of war.
 
But be that bitterest cup the doom of all
Whose swords are lightning flashes in the cloud
      Of the Invader’s wrath,
      Threatening a gallant land.        20
 
His armies’ trumpet-tones wake not alone
Her slumbering echoes: from a thousand hills
      Her answering voices shout,
      And her bells ring to arms!
 
Then danger hovers o’er the Invader’s march,        25
On raven wings, hushing the song of fame,
      And glory’s hues of beauty
      Fade from the cheek of death.
 
A foe is heard in every rustling leaf,
A fortress seen in every rock and tree,        30
      The eagle eye of art
      Is dim and powerless then,
 
And war becomes a people’s joy, the drum
Man’s merriest music, and the field of death
      His couch of happy dreams,        35
      After life’s harvest home.
 
He battles heart and arm, his own blue sky
Above him, and his own green land around,
      Land of his father’s grave,
      His blessing and his prayers,        40
 
Land where he learned to lisp a mother’s name,
The first beloved in life, the last forgot,
      Land of his frolic youth,
      Land of his bridal eve,
 
Land of his children—vain your columned strength,        45
Invaders! vain your battles’ steel and fire!
      Choose ye the morrow’s doom—
      A prison or a grave.
 
And such were Saratoga’s victors—such
The Yeomen-Brave, whose deeds and death have given        50
      A glory to her skies,
      A music to her name.
 
In honorable life her fields they trod,
In honorable death they sleep below;
      Their sons’ proud feelings here        55
      Their noblest monuments.
 
 
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