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Edgar Lee Masters (1868–1950).  Spoon River Anthology.  1916.

196. Many Soldiers


THE IDEA danced before us as a flag; 
The sound of martial music; 
The thrill of carrying a gun; 
Advancement in the world on coming home; 
A glint of glory, wrath for foes;         5
A dream of duty to country or to God. 
But these were things in ourselves, shining before us, 
They were not the power behind us, 
Which was the Almighty hand of Life, 
Like fire at earth’s centre making mountains,  10
Or pent up waters that cut them through. 
Do you remember the iron band 
The blacksmith, Shack Dye, welded 
Around the oak on Bennet’s lawn, 
From which to swing a hammock,  15
That daughter Janet might repose in, reading 
On summer afternoons? 
And that the growing tree at last 
Sundered the iron band? 
But not a cell in all the tree  20
Knew aught save that it thrilled with life, 
Nor cared because the hammock fell 
In the dust with Milton’s Poems. 


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