Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VIII. National Spirit
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VIII. National Spirit.  1904.
 
II. Freedom
The Place where Man should Die
Michael Joseph Barry (1817–1889)
 
HOW little recks it where men lie,
  When once the moment’s past
In which the dim and glazing eye
  Has looked on earth its last,—
Whether beneath the sculptured urn        5
  The coffined form shall rest,
Or in its nakedness return
  Back to its mother’s breast!
 
Death is a common friend or foe,
  As different men may hold,        10
And at his summons each must go,
  The timid and the bold;
But when the spirit, free and warm,
  Deserts it, as it must,
What matter where the lifeless form        15
  Dissolves again to dust?
 
The soldier falls ’mid corses piled
  Upon the battle-plain,
Where reinless war-steeds gallop wild
  Above the mangled slain;        20
But though his corse be grim to see,
  Hoof-trampled on the sod,
What recks it, when the spirit free
  Has soared aloft to God?
 
The coward’s dying eyes may close        25
  Upon his downy bed,
And softest hands his limbs compose,
  Or garments o’er them spread.
But ye who shun the bloody fray,
  When fall the mangled brave,        30
Go—strip his coffin-lid away,
  And see him in his grave!
 
’T were sweet, indeed, to close our eyes,
  With those we cherish near,
And, wafted upwards by their sighs,        35
  Soar to some calmer sphere.
But whether on the scaffold high,
  Or in the battle’s van,
The fittest place where man can die
  Is where he dies for man!        40
 
 
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