In France I saw a hill--a gentle slope
Rising above old tombs to greet the gleam
From soft spring skies. Beyond these skies dwells hope,
But those green graves bespeak a broken dream.
There was a row of narrow beds, new-made;
Each bore a starry banner and a cross.
And each the name of one who, ere he played
His rôle of warrior, met earth's final loss.
They were so young, so eager for the fray!
And thoughts of glory filled each boyish heart,
When over dangerous seas they sailed away
To face the foe and play some splendid part.
But in the tedious toil, the dull routine
Which must precede achievement on the field,
Disease, that secret enemy with mean
Sly tactics, forced them to disarm and yield.
So they were buried on that hill in France,
Before their ears had heard the battle din;
Before life gave them its dramatic chance--
A lasting fame, or glorious death to win.
Yet, looking up beyond their graves of green,
I seem to see them wearing band and star;
Men are rewarded in the Worlds Unseen
Not for the way they die, but what they are.
Hello, Boys! by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
London: Gay and Hancock, 1919.
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