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.
 
December 31
Montgomery at Quebec
By Clinton Scollard (1860–1932)
 
          Richard Montgomery was an American Revolutionary general who was killed on Dec. 31, 1775, while leading an attack on Quebec.

ROUND Quebec’s embattled walls
  Moodily the patriots lay;
Dread disease within its thralls
  Drew them closer day by day;
Till from suffering man to man,        5
Mutinous, a murmur ran.
 
Footsore, they had wandered far,
  They had fasted, they had bled;
They had slept beneath the star
  With no pillow for the head;        10
Was it but to freeze to stone
In this cruel icy zone?
 
Yet their leader held his heart,
  Naught discouraged, naught dismayed;
Quelled with unobtrusive art        15
  Those that muttered; unafraid
Waited, watchful, for the hour
When his golden chance should flower.
 
’Twas the death-tide of the year;
  Night had passed its murky noon;        20
Through the bitter atmosphere
  Pierced nor ray of star nor moon;
But upon the bleak earth beat
Blinding arrows of the sleet.
 
While the trumpets of the storm        25
  Pealed the bastioned heights around,
Did the dauntless heroes form,
  Did the low, sharp order sound.
“Be the watchword Liberty!”
Cried the brave Montgomery.        30
 
Here, where he had won applause,
  When Wolfe faced the Gallic foe,
For a nobler, grander cause
  Would he strike the fearless blow,—
Smite at Wrong upon the throne,        35
At Injustice giant grown.
 
“Men, you will not fear to tread
  Where your general dares to lead!
On, my valiant boys!” he said,
  And his foot was first to speed;        40
Swiftly up the beetling steep,
Lion-hearted, did he leap.
 
Flashed a sudden blinding glare;
  Roared a fearsome battle-peal;
Rang the gloomy vasts of air;        45
  Seemed the earth to rock and reel;
While adown that fiery breath
Rode the hurtling bolts of death.
 
Woe for him, the valorous one,
  Now a silent clod of clay!        50
Nevermore for him the sun
  Would make glad the paths of day;
Yet ’twere better thus to die
Than to cringe to tyranny!—
 
Better thus the life to yield,        55
  Striking for the right and God,
Upon Freedom’s gory field,
  Than to kiss oppression’s rod!
Honor, then, for all time be
To the brave Montgomery!        60
 
 
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