"Behold," the hoary veteran said,
"The silver scattered o'er my head;
A remnant of the auburn hair,
That curled in sunny clusters there,
When, in the land that now is thine,
With bounding flock and fruitful vine,
While Freedom's banner waves unfurled,
The envy of a gazing world,
Life was but slavery to me;
And when I fought, my son, for thee.
"Thy father's forehead time has bared;
The few white locks, that yet are spared
And lonely round my temples stray,
Soon from thy sight must pass away.
So thinned, so scattered o'er the land
Is now that valiant, patriot band,
Who, when their country gave the word,
' To arms! to arms! gird on thy sword!'
Sprang forth, resolved her chains to break,
Or earth their gory bed to make.
And, gathering where their chieftain led,
Thick as the hairs that clothed his head,
Marched onward, where the foeman stood
Waiting to dip his foot in blood.
"Though many a groan was heard around
From quivering lips that strewed the ground;
Yet none could pause to bid farewell,
When at his side his brother fell,
To close alone the dying eye—
To heave unheard the final sigh,
With none to stay the fleeting breath,
Or wipe away the damps of death.
For struggling Liberty impelled,
When nature's ties had fain withheld;
Until the God of armies spake
The word, that made her bonds to break.
And Independence, shouting loud,
Burst glorious from the fiery cloud
That rolled upon the battle-field,
And scenes of blood and death concealed!
'T was thus thy liberty was won,
'T was thus I fought for thee, my son!
"Yes, on the earth I've sought my rest,
The hoar-frost gathering o'er my breast;
And oft the freezing, midnight air
That chilled my blood, has warmed my prayer,
That He, who governs all, would ride
With victory on our injured side.
Through winter's cold, and summer's heat,
With aching head and weary feet,
And hunger's cravings I have gone;
And when I saw the morning dawn,
Have thought my day of life must close,
Ere the first star of evening rose.
"But now those toils have long been o'er,
And Plenty spreads from shore to shore;
While Peace and Freedom join to sing
The praises of our heavenly King.
And long his eye has sweetly slept,
Who then in lonely sorrow wept,
And bowed with years beneath the stroke,
When his last earthly prop was broke,
And his fair son, upon the plain,
Lay pale, and numbered with the slain.
The widow too, has made her bed
Low as her soldier's when he bled,
And waning life could only spare
A breath to waft the soldier's prayer,
'Receive, O God, my soul—and bless
The widow and the fatherless!'
"And now, the dimpled babe that smiled,
When the armed warrior clasped his child;
And felt a father's parting kiss
Distend his little heart with bliss;
Nor knew that parting kiss must sever
His father's face from his for ever;
That infant's face is altered now,
Life's Autumn rays are on his brow.
While bending o'er the grave I stand
Waiting a few last grains of sand,
To drop my clay beneath the sod
And give my spirit back to God.
"No glittering wealth that stored the mine,
Will at thy father's death be thine.
The scanty portion earth bestows
Just lasts me to my journey's close!
But then, I feel I leave thee more
Than sparkling gems, or dazzling ore;
Thy heritage is worth them all—
Thy lines in pleasant places fall,
Thou hast the land of liberty,
Which I have fought to win for thee.
O, keep the dear bequest I make
Unsullied, for my memory's sake!
Let no usurping tyrant tread
Upon my low and peaceful bed—
No cringing slave retire to weep
For freedom, where my ashes sleep.
But when the hand of Time shall trace
His name in furrows on thy face;
When four-score years have plucked thy hair,
And bowed thy form their weight to bear;
When thou the minute hand shalt see
Pointing thy feet to follow me,
To God, and to thy country true,
Then, for a heavenly home in view,
Thou to thy son this land resign
As blessed and free, as I to mine."