Gettysburg 2013

By William F.B. Vodrey
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2013, All Rights Reserved

Author’s note: I recently again took part in the Straight Dope (straightdope.com) Poetry Sweatshop. Participants are given one hour to write a poem that includes three randomly-provided words. The words provided this year were: “present,” “passing,” and “completer.”

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Gettysburg 2013

Soldiers National Monument in the National Cemetery at Gettysburg

Here in the present, awestruck, we tread this hallowed ground,

but so do those who fought and died here, a century and a half ago;

Yankee and rebel, but still Americans, and even now no less than we,

passing us on the trails, dust on their boots, glancing down to see

their names etched on row upon row of graves, a last link to mortality.

Look! there, onward, the serried ranks of the gallant dead

and above, the hum of the locusts and the murmuring of the wind

through the lofty heights of history-crowned trees

‘neath a brilliant Pennsylvania sun, fiery witness to all wars;

but it knows that there is something about this place,

something incalculable, invaluable

The serried ranks of the gallant dead

Green fields, gray stones, and enduring memories of the fallen

the men, both blue-clad and grey, who fought here for three days,

struggling to define what this broad land was,

what it might be, what it would be today

no mere alliance, no pact, but a republic, once riven but now,

for all its faults, indivisible, a more perfect union, their sacrifice our birthright,

a promise fulfilled, a people freed, a nation redeemed under that starry flag,

a completer domain of liberty for all who now flock to see these hills,

but my friends, can you not see those soldiers,

and know that their task is now our own?