He rides at their head; A crutch by his saddle just slants in view, One slung arm is in splints, you see, Yet he guides his strong steed--how coldly too. He brings his regiment home-- Not as they filed two years before, But a remnant half-tattered, and battered, and worn, Like castaway sailors, who--stunned By the surf's loud roar, Their mates dragged back and seen no more-- Again and again breast the surge, And at last crawl, spent, to shore. A still rigidity and pale-- An Indian aloofness lones his brow; He has lived a thousand years Compressed in battle's pains and prayers, Marches and watches slow. There are welcoming shouts, and flags; Old men off hat to the Boy, Wreaths from gay balconies fall at his feet, But to him--there comes alloy. It is not that a leg is lost, It is not that an arm is maimed. It is not that the fever has racked-- Self he has long disclaimed. But all through the Seven Day's Fight, And deep in the wilderness grim, And in the field-hospital tent, And Petersburg crater, and dim Lean brooding in Libby, there came-- Ah heaven!--what truth to him.
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