Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Feb. 27, 1807 - Mar. 24, 1882

 

Victor Galbraith

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Under the walls of Monterey
At daybreak the bugles began to play,
Victor Galbraith!
In the mist of the morning damp and grey,
These were the words they seemed to say:
Come forth to thy death,
Victor Galbraith!

Forth he came, with a martial tread;
Firm was his step, erect his head;
Victor Galbraith,
He who so well the bugle played,
Could not mistake the words it said:
Come forth to thy death,
Victor Galbraith!

He looked at the earth, he looked at the sky,
He looked at the files of musketry,
Victor Galbraith!
And he said, with a steady voice and eye,
Take good aim; I am ready to die!
Thus challenges death
Victor Galbraith.

Twelve fiery tongues flashed straight and red,
Six leaden balls on their errand sped;
Victor Galbraith
Falls to the ground, but he is not dead;
His name was not stamped on those balls of lead,
And they only scath
Victor Galbraith.

Three balls are in his breast and brain,
But he rises out of the dust again,
Victor Galbraith!
The water he drinks has a bloody stain;
O kill me, and put me out of my pain!
In his agony prayeth
Victor Galbraith.

Forth dart once more those tongues of flame,
And the bugler has died a death of shame,
Victor Galbraith!
His soul has gone back to whence it came,
And no one answers to the name,
When the Sergeant saith,
Victor Galbraith!

Under the walls of Monterey
By night a bugle is heard to play,
Victor Galbraith
Through the mist of the valley damp and grey
The sentinels hear the sound, and say,
That is the wraith
Of Victor Galbraith!


Notes to the poem:

This poem is founded on fact. Victor Galbraith was a bugler in a company of volunteer cavalry; and was shot in Mexico for some breach of discipline. It is common superstition among soldiers, that no balls will kill them unless their names are written on them. The old proverb says, Every bullet has its billet.

Source:

Longfellow's Poetical Works
Copyright 1893
Henry Frowde, London
 
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