Build a tomb for the soldier,
Crown the hill
With marble tribute to the will
To die and not the skill
To live in peace.
Descend the hill and cease
To fill the eye with marble –
Row on row the still
Grey slabs of granite stubble
Spur the wood where nameless
Hundreds sleep beneath the oak.
O living branches, forked with songs,
Scattering leaves along the brook,
Whose testimony still belongs
To grasses and the shadowed nook
Where silver fish make use of hours,
Bear witness to these fallen ranks
As well: recall their April powers
And seasons that lie squandered here.
Bear witness, break the evil spell,
Lift but one head above the sod!
However he sleeps, he sleeps not well
Who might like morning once have trod
These hills and cupped warm hands
To drink the brook; or shape a breast
Beneath his touch. O hands gone chill
Around a musket barrel, hands that pressed
The living flesh of common days,
Rot here within this living wood;
But let these trees bear witness how
Your manhood might have stood,
Tall, strong and green, the years endowed
With more than marble monuments.
Skipwith Cannell (1887-1957)
[Poem is in the public domain in Canada]
Skipwith Cannell biography