The Defence of Lawrence


All night upon the guarded hill,
Until the stars were low,
Wrapped round as with Jehovah's will,
We waited for the foe;
All night the silent sentinels
Moved by like gliding ghosts;
All night the fancied warning bells
Held all men to their posts.

We heard the sleeping prairies breathe,
The forest's human moans,
The hungry gnashing of the teeth
Of wolves on bleaching bones;
We marked the roar of rushing fires,
The neigh of frightened steeds,
The voices as of far-off lyres
Amoung the river reeds.

We were but thirty-nine who lay
Beside our rifles then;
We were but thirty-nine, and they
Were twenty hundred men.
Our lean limbs shook and reeled about,
Our feet were gashed and bare,
And all the breezes shredded out
Our garments in the air.

. . . . . . . . .

They came: the blessed Sabbath day,
That soothed our swollen veins,
Like God's sweet benediction, lay
On all the singing plains;
The valleys shouted to the sun,
The great woods clapped their hands,
And joy and glory seemed to run
Like rivers through the lands.

And then our daughters and our wives,
And men whose heads were white,
Rose sudden into kingly lives
And walked forth to the fight;
And we drew aim along our guns
And calmed our quickening breath,
Then, as is meet for Freedom's sons,
Shook loving hands with Death.

And when three hundred of the foe
Rode up in scorn and pride,
Whoso had watched us then might know
That God was on our side;
For all at once a mighty thrill
Of grandeur through us swept,
And strong and swiftly down the hill
Like Gideons we leapt.

And all throughout that Sabbath day
A wall of fire we stood,
And held the baffled foe at bay,
And streaked the ground with blood.
And when the sun was very low
They wheeled their stricken flanks,
And passed on, wearily and slow,
Beyond the river banks.

Beneath the everlasting stars
We bended child-like knees,
And thanked God for the shining scars
Of His large victories.
And some, who lingered, said they heard
Such wondrous music pass
As though a seraph's voice had stirred
The pulses of the grass.

Richard Realf - September 14, 1856

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