Verse > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow > Complete Poetical Works
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
 
A Book of Sonnets
A Nameless Grave
 
          A newspaper description of a burying ground in Newport News, where, on the head-board of a soldier were the words, “A Union Soldier mustered out,” was sent to Mr. Longfellow in 1864. Ten years passed before the poet used the incident, for he wrote the sonnet November 30, 1874.

“A SOLDIER of the Union mustered out,”
  Is the inscription on an unknown grave
  At Newport News, beside the salt-sea wave,
  Nameless and dateless; sentinel or scout
Shot down in skirmish, or disastrous rout        5
  Of battle, when the loud artillery drave
  Its iron wedges through the ranks of brave
  And doomed battalions, storming the redoubt.
Thou unknown hero sleeping by the sea
  In thy forgotten grave! with secret shame        10
  I feel my pulses beat, my forehead burn,
When I remember thou hast given for me
  All that thou hadst, thy life, thy very name,
  And I can give thee nothing in return.
 
 
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