The Unknown Dead


Written Text

The rain is plashing on my sill,

But all the winds of Heaven are still;

And so it falls with that dull sound

Which thrills us in the church-yard ground,

When the first spadeful drops like lead

Upon the coffin of the dead.

Beyond my streaming window-pane,

I cannot see the neighboring vane,

Yet from its old familiar tower

The bell comes, muffled, through the shower.

What strange and unsuspected link

Of feeling touched, has made me think —

While with a vacant soul and eye

I watch that gray and stony sky —

Of nameless graves on battle-plains

Washed by a single winter's rains,

Where, some beneath Virginian hills,

And some by green Atlantic rills,

Some by the waters of the West,

A myriad unknown heroes rest.

Ah! not the chiefs, who, dying, see

Their flags in front of victory,

Or, at their life-blood's noble cost

Pay for a battle nobly lost,

Claim from their monumental beds

The bitterest tears a nation sheds.

Beneath yon lonely mound — the spot

By all save some fond few forgot —

Lie the true martyrs of the fight

Which strikes for freedom and for right.

Of them, their patriot zeal and pride,

The lofty faith that with them died,

No grateful page shall farther tell

Than that so many bravely fell;

And we can only dimly guess

What worlds of all this world's distress,

What utter woe, despair, and dearth,

Their fate has brought to many a hearth.

Just such a sky as this should weep

Above them, always, where they sleep;

Yet, haply, at this very hour,

Their graves are like a lover's bower;

And Nature's self, with eyes unwet,

Oblivious of the crimson debt

To which she owes her April grace,

Laughs gayly o'er their burial-place.

………………………

“The Unknown Dead”

By Henry Timrod

Read by Ethan Holliman

Directed by Walter Evans

Copyright Georgia Regents University

2013 All rights reserved