The voice of my sisters I hear (Oh voice of the summer leaves!
Oh voice of the murmuring waters! Oh, light if it laughs or it grieves!)
They are sending you forth, O men; they are bidding you arm straightway;
But they see not, as I can see, men biting the dust in the fray,
They see not, as I can see, men pouring the blood of the brave--
And the craven, at home, survives, while the hero sleeps in his grave!
They see not, as I can see--that their daughters' daughters shall wed
With the sons of the craven, born of the blood too pale to be shed!
They see not, the money-changers unscourged in the temple remain,
When those that were fearless to strike--the best of the nation are slain;
For the veins of a race once shrunken, the hearts of the race beat low,
And the valor we worshipped--a flame unfed--no longer shall glow!
The voice of my sisters I hear: "We offer our dearest, our all,
Father, and brother, and lover, for country, if need be, to fall!
What more can we pledge than we pledge--as daughters, as sisters, as wives?"
Let the voice of my sisters be mute, for they hold their inviolate lives!
Not a hair of their heads shall be stirred by the wind of the winnowing shot;
They shall not languish in prison, nor in the dull earth be forgot!
One is the life of each mortal--and that is not theirs, which they yield!
Let them be hushed to remember the breast of the man is their shield:
Not till her life she shall peril on battle's shivering edge,
The soul of a woman shall waken, to know how costly the pledge!
The voice of my sisters forgive! Forgive them, ye men who are theirs;
For they know not the words they utter, sending ye forth, though with prayers.
I have none of my own to send forth; but, for swordmen doomed to the sword,
Tears were my daily drink, were the blood of the meanest out-poured!
Awake, or asleep, I should see the dark stream with the life taking flight--
The damp of the death-dew beading--the eye without vision or light!
My sisters--they see not the sight, or their lips would be holden of speech,
And the voice of their hearts, ever sleepless, for "peace," and but "peace!" would beseech.