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A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown.

Part of the cluster DRUM-TAPS.


A MARCH in the ranks hard-prest, and the road unknown, A route through a heavy wood with muffled steps in the darkness, Our army foil'd with loss severe, and the sullen remnant retreating, Till after midnight glimmer upon us the lights of a dim-lighted  
We come to an open space in the woods, and halt by the dim- 
 lighted building,
'Tis a large old church at the crossing roads, now an impromptu  
Entering but for a minute I see a sight beyond all the pictures and  
 poems ever made,
Shadows of deepest, deepest black, just lit by moving candles and  
And by one great pitchy torch stationary with wild red flame and  
 clouds of smoke,
By these, crowds, groups of forms vaguely I see on the floor, some  
 in the pews laid down,
At my feet more distinctly a soldier, a mere lad, in danger of  
 bleeding to death, (he is shot in the abdomen,)
I stanch the blood temporarily, (the youngster's face is white as  
 a lily,)
Then before I depart I sweep my eyes o'er the scene fain to  
 absorb it all,
Faces, varieties, postures beyond description, most in obscurity,  
 some of them dead,
Surgeons operating, attendants holding lights, the smell of ether,  
 the odor of blood,
The crowd, O the crowd of the bloody forms, the yard outside  
 also fill'd,
Some on the bare ground, some on planks or stretchers, some in  
 the death-spasm sweating,
An occasional scream or cry, the doctor's shouted orders or calls, The glisten of the little steel instruments catching the glint of the  
These I resume as I chant, I see again the forms, I smell the odor, Then hear outside the orders given, Fall in, my men, fall in; But first I bend to the dying lad, his eyes open, a half-smile gives  
 he me,
Then the eyes close, calmly close, and I speed forth to the  
Resuming, marching, ever in darkness marching, on in the ranks, The unknown road still marching.

Part of the cluster DRUM-TAPS.

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