BLACK CAT POEMS
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The Battle Flag at Shenandoah
The tented field wore a wrinkled frown,
And the emptied church from the hill looked down
On the emptied road and the emptied town,
That summer Sunday morning.
And here was the blue, and there was the gray;
And a wide green valley rolled away
Between where the battling armies lay,
That sacred Sunday morning.
And Custer sat, with impatient will,
His restless horse, 'mid his troopers still,
As he watched with glass from the oak-set hill,
That silent Sunday morning.
Then fast he began to chafe and to fret;
"There's a battle flag on a bayonet
Too close to my own true soldiers set
For peace this Sunday morning!"
"Ride over, some one," he haughtily said,
"And bring it to me! Why, in bars blood red
And in stars I will stain it, and overhead
Will flaunt it this Sunday morning!"
Then a West-born lad, pale-faced and slim,
Rode out, and touching his cap to him,
Swept down, swept swift as Spring swallows swim,
That anxious Sunday morning.
On, on through the valley! up, up anywhere!
That pale-faced lad like a bird through the air
Kept on till he climbed to the banner there
That bravest Sunday morning!
And he caught up the flag, and around his waist
He wound it tight, and he turned in haste,
And swift his perilous route retraced
That daring Sunday morning.
All honor and praise to the trusty steed!
Ah! boy, and banner, and all, God speed!
God's pity for you in your hour of need
This deadly Sunday morning.
O deadly shot! and O shower of lead!
O iron rain on the brave, bare head!
Why, even the leaves from the tree fall dead
This dreadful Sunday morning!
But he gains the oaks! Men cheer in their might!
Brave Custer is laughing in his delight!
Why, he is embracing the boy outright
This glorious Sunday morning!
But, soft! Not a word has the pale boy said.
He unwinds the flag. It is starred, striped, red
With his heart's best blood; and he falls down dead,
In God's still Sunday morning.
So wrap this flag to his soldier's breast;
Into the stars and stripes it is stained and blest;
And under the oaks let him rest and rest
Till God's great Sunday morning.
poems by Joaquin Miller