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Poems About Sacrifice

Table of Contents

  1. A Lesson by Ruby Archer
  2. The Silk-Worm's Will by Hannah Flagg Gould
  3. The Roll Call by N.G. Shepherd
  4. Solitude by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
  5. Mine by Anonymous
  6. The Mother's Sacrifice by Seba Smith
  7. Casabianca by Felicia Dorthea Hemans
  8. The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  9. The Soldier by Rupert Brooke
  10. The School-Ma'am by Robert J. C. Stead


But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

– Isaiah 53:5
NIV
  1. A Lesson

    Build as doth the lowly coral,—
    Give yourselves. That shall endure.

    – Ruby Archer
    A Lesson
    by Ruby Archer

    Would ye build that generations
    Yet to be may call you great?
    Would ye have your lives' creations
    O'er the ages tower elate?

    Hearken then a world-old moral,—
    Abnegation, meek and pure.
    Build as doth the lowly coral,—
    Give yourselves. That shall endure.

  2. The Silk-Worm's Will

    With mute forbearance the silk-worm took
    The taunting words and the spurning look.
    Alike a stranger to self and pride,

    – Hannah Flagg Gould
    The Silk-Worm's Will
    by Hannah Flagg Gould

    On a plain rush hurdle a silk-worm lay,
    When a proud young princess came that way;
    The haughty child of a human king
    Threw a sidelong glance at the humble thing,
    That received with silent gratitude
    From the mulberry leaf her simple food,
    And shrunk, half scorn and half disgust,
    Away from her sister child of the dust;
    Declaring she never yet could see
    Why a reptile form like this should be;
    And that she was not made with nerves so firm,
    As calmly to stand by a 'crawling worm!'

    With mute forbearance the silk-worm took
    The taunting words and the spurning look.
    Alike a stranger to self and pride,
    She'd no disquiet from aught beside;
    And lived of a meekness and peace possessed,
    Which these debar from the human breast.
    She only wished, for the harsh abuse,
    To find some way to become of rise
    To the haughty daughter of lordly man;
    And thus did she lay a noble plan
    To teach her wisdom and make it plain,
    That the humble worm was not made in vain;
    A plan so generous, deep and high,
    That, to carry it out, she must even die!

    'No more,' said she, 'will I drink or eat!
    I'll spin and weave me a winding sheet,
    To wrap me up from the sun's clear light, And hide thy form from her wounded sight.
    In secret then, till my end draws nigh,
    I'll toil for her; and, when I die,
    I'll leave behind, as a farewell boon
    To the proud young princess, my whole cocoon,
    To be reeled and wove to a shining lace,
    And hung in a veil o'er her scornful face!
    And when she can calmly draw her breath
    Through the very threads that have caused my death;
    When she finds, at length, she has nerves so firm,
    As to wear the shroud of a crawling worm,
    May she bear in mind, that she walks with pride
    In the winding sheet where the silk-worm died!'

  3. The Roll Call

    'Twas a victory; yes, but it cost us dear—
    For that company's roll when called that night,
    Of a hundred men who went into the fight,
    Numbered but twenty that answered "Here!"

    – N.G. Shepherd
    The Roll Call
    by N.G. Shepherd

    "Corporal Green!" the orderly cried;
    "Here!" was the answer, loud and clear,
    From the lips of the soldier standing near,
    And "Here" was the answer the next replied.

    "Cyrus Drew!"—then a silence fell—
    This time no answer followed the call,
    Only the rear man had seen him fall,
    Killed or wounded he could not tell.

    There they stood in the failing light,
    These men of battle, with grave dark looks,
    As plain to be read as open books,
    While slowly gathered the shades of night.

    The fern on the hillside was splashed with blood,
    And down in the corn, where the poppies grew
    Were redder stains than the poppies knew
    And crimson-dyed was the river's flood.

    "Herbert Kline!" At the call there came
    Two stalwart soldiers into the line,
    Bearing between them Herbert Kline,
    Wounded and bleeding, to answer his name.

    "Ezra Kerr!"—and a voice said "Here!"
    "Hiram Kerr!"—but no man replied.
    They were brothers, these two; the sad winds sighed,
    And a shudder crept through the cornfield near.

    "Ephraim Deane!" then a soldier spoke;
    "Deane carried our regiment's colors," he said;
    "Where our ensign was shot, I left him dead,
    Just after the enemy wavered and broke.

    "Close by the roadside his body lies;
    I paused a moment and gave him a drink,
    He murmured his mother's name I think,
    And Death came with it and closed his eyes."

    'Twas a victory; yes, but it cost us dear—
    For that company's roll when called that night,
    Of a hundred men who went into the fight,
    Numbered but twenty that answered "Here!"

  4. Solitude

    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

    Laugh, and the world laughs with you,
    Weep, and you weep alone;
    For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
    But has trouble enough of its own.

    Sing, and the hills will answer,
    Sigh, it is lost on the air;
    The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
    But shirk from voicing care.

    Rejoice and men will seek you;
    Grieve, and they turn and go;
    They want full measure of all your pleasure,
    But they do not need your woe.

    Be glad, and your friends are many;
    Be sad, and you lose them all,
    There are none to decline your nectar'd wine,
    But alone you must drink life's gall.

    Feast, and your halls are crowded;
    Fast, and the world goes by;
    Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
    But no man can help you die.

    There is room in the halls of pleasure
    For a large and lordly train,
    But one by one we must all file on
    Through the narrow aisle of pain.


    Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

    – Galatians 6:2
    The Bible, NIV
  5. Mine

    by Amos Russel Wells

    "Old man," the captain blustered,
    In haste to meet the foe,
    "My troops are seeking forage;
    Come! show us where to go."

    A mile he led them onward,
    To where, in beauty spread,
    They saw a field of barley,
    "The very thing!" they said.

    "Not here!" the old man urged them;
    "Have patience for a while."
    And sturdily he led them
    Another weary mile.

    The barley fleld he showed them
    They speedily despoiled;
    Ah, little need of reapers,
    Where such a troop has tolled!

    But "Fie on all this pother!"
    The angry captain cursed;
    "Old man, this second barley
    Is poorer than the first."

    "Perhaps," the good man answered,
    "It may not be so fine;
    But that field is another's
    And this field, sir, is mine."

  6. The Mother's Sacrifice

    by Seba Smith

    The cold winds swept the mountain’s height,
    And pathless was the dreary wild,
    And mid the cheerless hours of night
    A mother wandered with her child:
    As through the drifting snow she pressed,
    The babe was sleeping on her breast.

    And colder still the winds did blow,
    And darker hours of night came on,
    And deeper grew the drifting snow:
    Her limbs were chilled, her strength was gone.
    “O God!” she cried in accents wild,
    “If I must perish, save my child!”

    She stripped her mantle from her breast,
    And bared her bosom to the storm,
    And round the child she wrapped the vest,
    And smiled to think her babe was warm.
    With one cold kiss, one tear she shed,
    And sunk upon her snowy bed.

    At dawn a traveller passed by,
    And saw her ’neath a snowy veil;
    The frost of death was in her eye,
    Her cheek was cold and hard and pale.
    He moved the robe from off the child,—
    The babe looked up and sweetly smiled!

  7. Casabianca

    by Felicia Dorthea Hemans.

    The boy stood on the burning deck,
    Whence all but him had fled;
    The flame that lit the battle's wreck
    Shone round him o'er the dead.
    ...

    Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
    As born to rule the storm;
    A creature of heroic blood,
    A proud though childlike form.

    The flames rolled on—he would not go
    Without his father's word;
    That father, faint in death below,
    His voice no longer heard.

    He called aloud, "Say, father, say
    If yet my task is done?"
    He knew not that the chieftain lay
    Unconscious of his son.

    "Speak, father!" once again he cried,
    "If I may yet be gone!"
    And but the booming shots replied,
    And fast the flames rolled on.

    Upon his brow he felt their breath,
    And in his waving hair;
    And looked from that lone post of death
    In still, yet brave despair.

    And shouted but once more aloud
    "My father! must I stay?"
    While o'er him fast, through sail and shroud,
    The wreathing fires made way.

    They wrapt the ship in splendour wild,
    They caught the flag on high,
    And streamed above the gallant child
    Like banners in the sky.

    Then came a burst of thunder sound—
    The boy—oh! where was he?
    —Ask of the winds that far around
    With fragments strew the sea;

    With mast, and helm, and pennon fair.
    That well had borne their part—
    But the noblest thing that perished there
    Was that young, faithful heart.

  8. The Charge of the Light Brigade

    by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

    Half a league, half a league,
    Half a league onward,
    All in the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.
    “Forward, the Light Brigade!
    Charge for the guns!” he said.
    Into the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.

    “Forward, the Light Brigade!”
    Was there a man dismayed?
    Not though the soldier knew
    Someone had blundered.
    Theirs not to make reply,
    Theirs not to reason why,
    Theirs but to do and die.
    Into the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.

    Cannon to right of them,
    Cannon to left of them,
    Cannon in front of them
    Volleyed and thundered;
    Stormed at with shot and shell,
    Boldly they rode and well,
    Into the jaws of Death,
    Into the mouth of hell
    Rode the six hundred.
    ...

    Flashed all their sabres bare,
    Flashed as they turned in air
    Sabring the gunners there,
    Charging an army, while
    All the world wondered.
    Plunged in the battery-smoke
    Right through the line they broke;
    Cossack and Russian
    Reeled from the sabre stroke
    Shattered and sundered.
    Then they rode back, but not
    Not the six hundred.

    Cannon to right of them,
    Cannon to left of them,
    Cannon behind them
    Volleyed and thundered;
    Stormed at with shot and shell,
    While horse and hero fell.
    They that had fought so well
    Came through the jaws of Death,
    Back from the mouth of hell,
    All that was left of them,
    Left of six hundred.

    When can their glory fade?
    O the wild charge they made!
    All the world wondered.
    Honour the charge they made!
    Honour the Light Brigade,
    Noble six hundred!

  9. The Soldier

    by Rupert Brooke. Rupert Brooke, a brilliant, impassioned young Englishman, was one of the first to take arms when Great Britain went to war. He died in the Dardanelles expedition, April 23, 1915. A few days before, he had sent from the Aegean Sea to the English-speaking peoples the poem by which he is best known:

    If I should die, think only this of me:
    That there’s some corner of a foreign field
    That is for ever England. There shall be
    In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
    A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
    Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
    A body of England’s, breathing English air,
    Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

    And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
    A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
    Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
    Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
    And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
    In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

  10. The School-Ma'am

    by Robert J. C. Stead

    No hope of worldly gain is hers,
    A yokel's wages for her hire,
    And every throb of self's desire
    Resigned to childish worshippers.

    A tiny school her citadel,
    A fenceless acre her domain,
    Her life a sacrifice; her gain
    The gain of those she serves so well.

    Though little more than child herself,
    A mother she to many sons;
    In every vein the child-love runs
    And fondly floods each little elf.

    Though hampered by the formal sense
    Of laws that check her usefulness
    And boards of rustic truthfulness
    And kindly-meant incompetence,

    She earns a price they cannot pay,
    Obeys a law they did not make,
    Enduring for their children's sake
    The arrogance of human clay.

    Oh, hide your littleness in shame Who think ye pay for all she gives;
    Within her sacred circle lives
    The light of an eternal flame,

    And growing down your country's page.
    The beauty of her sacrifice
    Shall glow again in other eyes,
    And multiply from age to age.

    The mothers of the race to be
    Shall live her tenderness anew,
    And her devotion shall imbue
    The sons who keep our country free.

    She gains no flagrant, pompous prize,
    But men who move the world's affairs
    Shall snatch a moment from their cares
    To think of her with moistened eyes.

    The conquerors of hostile lands,
    The hearts the nation's burdens bear,
    To-morrow's lords of earth and air,
    To-day are moulded in her hands.

    The lightest trifle from her lips
    May charge some soul with fertile seed
    That in the hour of direst need
    Shall save your nation from eclipse.

    The kings of action, speech, and brain,
    The men your sons shall mark and raise
    To shape the nation's destinies,
    Shall earn her salary again.

    I count the paltry dollars spent
    Pay richer dividends than gold
    When those who such position hold
    Exert it for earth's betterment.