Hancock, New Hampshire
|WE WHO REFUSE TO DIE
When the barn was filled with grain,
And the last stray lamb confined,
Did they light the lamp in vain
For children stricken mad and blind?
And when the hearth-glow struck the frost
On cabin walls, however bare,
Was that saffron splendor lost
On brittle hearts too cold to care?
No! because we see them still,
And flicker down the trails they trod;
Ply the loom that weaves our will
Within the web ordained by God,
And through the grace of men who chose
To march with musket, fife, and drum,
We still defy the herds that froze
To chains that kept them gorged and dumb.
I have lit the sparkling fuse,
Not to warm my feeble hands,
But to challenge: "Act or lose,"
For the one who understands
That with the font of golden flame
The smell of powder fills the air —
Sweet myrrh to cleanse the sin of shame
From those who would not shirk to stare
And greet the void, with Washington,
And wear his greatcoat lined with stars,
Sky-woven, where life's thread is run
Beneath the sign and sword of Mars.
They did not strive through pain and doubt
For safety or for land alone,
To curse the soil in flood and drought,
To break the ploughshare on the stone;
And when we spurn the breathing death
Of those who live but will not fight,
We capture, with our final breath,
The lifeblood of eternal light.