by Edgar A. Guest
America for freedom speaks,
A new flag is today unfurled,
An eagle on the mountain shrieks.
A king is failing on his throne,
A race of men defies his power!
And no one could have guessed or known
The burden of that splendid hour.
A bell rang out that summer day
And men and women stood and heard;
That tongue of brass had more to say
Than could be spoken by a word.
It spoke the thoughts of honest men,
It whispered Destiny's intents
And rang a warning loudly then
To Kings of all the continents.
The old bell in its holy loft
Where pigeons nest, has ceased to swing
And yet through many a day and oft
A weary people hear it sing.
That hour long years ago, when first
America for freedom fought,
The bonds of slavery were burst:
That hour began the reign of thought.
Here comes another summer day:
America is on the sea,
America has dared to say
That other people shall be free.
No selfish stain her banner mars,
Her flag, for truth and right, unfurled,
With every stripe and all its stars
Still speaks its message to the world.
Out where the soldiers fight for men,
Out where, for others, heroes die,
Out where they storm the Tyrant's den,
The Starry Banner lights the sky.
And once again the cry goes out
That brings the flush of hope to cheeks
Grown pale by bitter war and doubt:
"America for Freedom speaks."
Where the lad and I made merry as he followed me around;
The sun is getting higher, and the skies above are blue,
And I'm hungry for the garden, and I wish the war were through.
But it's tramp, tramp, tramp,
And it's never look behind,
And when you see a stranger's kids,
Pretend that you are blind.
The spring is coming back again, the birds begin to mate;
The skies are full of kindness, but the world is full of hate.
And it's I that should be bending now in peace above the soil,
With laughing eyes and little hands about to bless the toil.
But it's fight, fight, fight,
And it's charge at double-quick;
A soldier thinking thoughts of home
Is one more soldier sick.
Last year I brought the bulbs to bloom and saw the roses bud;
This year I'm ankle deep in mire, and most of it is blood.
Last year the mother in the door was glad as she could be;
To-day her heart is full of pain, and mine is hurting me.
But it's shoot, shoot, shoot,
And when the bullets hiss,
Do't let the tears fill up your eyes,
For weeping soldiers miss.
Oh, who will tend the roses now and who will sow the seeds?
And who will do the heavy work the little garden needs?
And who will tell the lad of mine the things he wants to know,
And take his hand and lead him round the paths we used to go?
For it's charge, charge, charge,
And it's face the foe once more;
Forget the things you love the most
And keep your mind on war.
And he'd doing something bigger than his daddy ever did;
He has caught a greater vision than the finest one of mine,
And I know today I'm prouder of than sorry for the kid.
His speech is soft and vibrant with the messages of truth,
And he says some things of duty that I cannot understand;
It may be that I'm selfish, but this ending of his youth
Is not the dream I cherished and it's not the thing I planned.
I only know he's bigger in his uniform today
Than I, who stand and watch him as he drills, have ever been;
That he sees a greater vision of life's purpose far away,
And a finer goal to die for than my eyes have ever seen.
I wish I felt as he does, wish I had his sense of right;
With the vision he possesses I should be supremely glad;
But I sometimes start to choking when I think of him at night—
The boy that has grown bigger, yes, and better than his dad.
Where he's waiting with Pershing to lead the advance,
"There's little the censor permits me to tell
Save the fact that I'm here and am happy and well.
The French people cheered as we marched from our ship
At the close of a really remarkable trip;
They danced and they screamed and they shouted and ran,
And I blush as I write. I was kissed by a man!
"I've seen a great deal since I bade you goodbye,
I have witnessed a battle far up in the sky;
I have heard the dull roar of a long line of guns,
And seen the destruction that's worked by the Huns;
Some scenes I'll remember, and some I'll forget,
But the welcome he gave me! I'm feeling it yet.
Oh, try to imagine your boy if you can,
As he looked and he felt, being kissed by a man!
"'Ah, Meestaire!' he cried in a voice that was shrill,
And his queer little eyes with delight seemed to fill,
And before I was wise to the custom, or knew
Just what he was up to, about me he threw
His arms, and he hugged me, and then with a squeak,
He planted a chase little kiss on each cheek.
He was stocky and strong and his whiskers were tan.
Now please keep it dark. I've been kissed by a man."
Out of the madness and out of the sadness,
Clearer and finer the world shall arise.
Why then keep sorrow and doubt in your eyes?
Joy shall be ours when the warfare is over;
Children shall gleefully romp in the clover;
Here with our heroes at home and at rest,
We shall rejoice with the world at its best.
Not in vain, not in vain, is our bright banner flying;
Not for naught are the sons of our fond mothers dying;
The gloom and despair are not ever to last;
The world shall be better when they shall have passed.
So mourn not his absence, but smile and be brave;
You shall have him again from the brink of the grave
In a wonderful world 'neath a wonderful sun;
He shall come to your arms with his victory won.
And he shall find the things he likes from them he loves inside
But he must miss the kisses true and all the laughter gay
And he must miss the smiles of home upon his Christmas Day.
He'll spend his Christmas 'neath the Flag; he'll miss each merry face,
Old Glory smiling down on him must take his mother's place,
Yet in the Christmas box we've sent, in fancy he will find
The laughter and the tears of joy that he has left behind.
His mother's tenderness is there, his father's kindly way,
And all that went last year to make his merry Christmas Day;
He'll see once more his sister's smile, he'll hear the baby shout,
And as he opens every gift we'll gather round about.
He connot come to share with us the joys of Christmas Day;
The Flag has called to him, and he is serving far away.
Undaunted, unafraid and fine he stands to duty grim,
And so this Christmas we have tried to ship ourselves to him.
Some needed service here;
The wisdom to be brave and true;
The gift of vision clear,
That in each task that comes to me
Some purpose I may plainly see.
God teach me to believe that I
Am stationed at a post,
Although the humblest 'neat the sky,
Where I am needed most,
And that, at last, if I do well,
My humble services will tell.
God grant me faith to stand on guard,
Uncheered, unspoke, alone,
And see behind such duty hard
My service to the throne.
Whate'er my task, be this my creed:
I am on earth to fill a need.
© 1999, Lynn Waterman