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Sooner or later all things come to an end, including wars and histories,--a God's mercy!--and even the lives of such lucky men as I. All things, did I say? Well, what wonder, for am I not writing of youth and far delights with a hand trembling of infirmity? All things save one, I meant to say, and that is love, the immortal vine, with its root in the green earth, that weathers every storm, and "groweth not old," and climbs to paradise; and who eats of its fruit has in him ever a thought of heaven--a hope immortal as itself.
This book of my life ends on a bright morning in the summer of '17, at the new home of James Donatianus Le Ray, Comte de Chaumont, the chateau having burned the year before.
President Monroe is coming on the woods-pike, and veterans are drawn up in line to meet him. Here are men who fought at Chippewa and Lundy's Lane and Lake Erie and Chrysler's Farm, and here are some old chaps who fought long before at Plattsburg and Ticonderoga. Joseph Bonaparte, the ex-king of Spain, so like his mighty brother at St. Helena, is passing the line. He steps proudly, in ruffles and green velvet. Gondolas with liveried gondoliers, and filled with fair women, are floating on the still lake, now rich with shadow-pictures of wood and sky and rocky shore.
A burst of melody rings in the great harp of the woodland. In that trumpet peal, it seems, a million voices sing:--
Hail, Columbia, happy land!
Slowly the line begins to limp along. There are wooden legs and crutches and empty sleeves in that column. D'ri goes limping in front, his right leg gone at the knee since our last charge. Draped around him is that old battle-flag of the Lawrence. I march beside him, with only this long seam across my check to show that I had been with him that bloody day at Chrysler's. We move slowly over a green field to the edge of the forest. There, in the cool shadow, are ladies in white, and long tables set for a feast. My dear wife, loved of all and more beautiful than ever, comes to meet us.
"Sweetheart," she whispers, "I was never so proud to be your wife."
"And an American," I suggest, kissing her.
"And an American," she answers.
A bugle sounds; the cavalcade is coming.
"The President!" they cry, and we all begin cheering.
He leads the escort on a black horse, a fine figure in military coat and white trousers, his cocked hat in hand, a smile lighting his face. The count receives him and speaks our welcome. President Monroe looks down the war-scarred line a moment. His eyes fill with tears, and then he speaks to us.
"Sons of the woodsmen," says he, concluding his remarks, "you shall live in the history of a greater land than that we now behold or dream of, and in the gratitude of generations yet unborn, long, long after we are turned to dust."
And then we all sing loudly with full hearts:
O land I love!--thy acres sown With sweat and blood and shattered bone-- God's grain, that ever doth increase The goodly harvest of his peace.
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
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