by Edgar A. Guest
There are pencil marks of silver Time has left upon my brow;
I shall win no service medals, I shall hear no cannons' roar,
I shall never fight a battle higher up than eagles soar,
But I hope my children's children may recall my name with pride
As a man who never whimpered when his soul was being tried.
For the fighting and the dying for the everlasting truth,
Are the labors designated for the strongest of our youth,
And the man that's nearing forty isn't asked to march away,
For there is no place in battle for the head that's turning gray.
His test is one of patience till the bitter work is done,
He must back his country's leaders till the victory is won.
When this bitter time is ended I don't want to have it said
That I faltered in my courage and I never looked ahead,
I don't want it told I added to the burdens and the woe,
By preaching dismal doctrines that were cheering to the foe;
I want my children's children to respect me and to find
That my soul was out there fighting, though my body stayed behind.
When this cruel test is over and the boys come back from France
I'd not have them say I hindered for a moment their advance;
That they found their duty harder than 'twas needful it should be
Because of the complaining of a lot of men like me.
Though I'll win no hero's medals and deserve no wild applause,
I want to be of service, not a hindrance to the cause.
But all must heed the call to grit;
The dreamers on the distant farms
Must rally now to do their bit.
The whirring lathes in factories great
Will sing the martial songs of strife;
Upon the emery wheel of fate
We're grinding now the nation's life.
The call is not alone to guns,
This is not but a battle test;
The world has summoned free men's sons
In every field to do their best.
The call has come to every man
To reach the summit of his powers;
To stand to service where he can;
A mighty duty now is ours.
We must be stalwarts in the field
Where peace has always kept her throne,
No door against the need is sealed,
No man today can live alone.
The young apprentice at the bench,
The wise inventor, old and gray,
Serve with the soldier in the trench,
All warriors for the better day.
Oh, man of science, unto you
The call for service now has come!
Mechanic, banker, lawyer, too,
Have you not heard the stirring drum?
Oh, humble digger in the ditch,
Bend to your spade and do your best,
And prove America is rich
In manhood fine for every test.
Each man beneath the starry flag
Must live his noblest through the stife
If tyranny is not to drag
Into the mire the best of life.
Though some will wear our uniform,
We face to-day a common fate
And all must bravely breast the storm
And heed the call for courage great.
For men that dare to die for right,
For hearts above the lure of gold
And fortune's soft and pleasant way,
For courage of our days of old,
Great God of All, we kneel and pray.
We thank Thee for our splendid youth.
Who fight for liberty and truth,
Within whose breasts there glows anew
The glory of the altar fires
Which our heroic fathers knew—
God make them worthy of their sires!
We thank Thee for our mothers fair
Who through the sorrows they must bear
Still smile, and give their hearts to woe,
Yet bravely heed the day's command—
That mothers, yet to be, may know
A free and glorious motherland.
Oh, God, we thank Thee for the skies
Where our flag now in glory flies!
We thank Thee that no love of gain
Is leading us, but that we fight
To keep our banner free from stain
And that we die for what is right.
Oh, God, we thank Thee that we may
Lift up our eyes to Thee to-day;
We thank Thee we can face the test
With honor and a spotless name,
And that we serve a world distressed
Unselfishly and free from shame.
I'd like to be the sort of man it cannot live without;
I'd like to be the type of man
That really is American:
The head-erect and shoulders-square,
Clean-minded fellow, just and fair,
That all men picture when they see
The glorious banner of the free.
I'd like to be the sort of man the flag now typifies,
The kind of man we really want the flag to symbolize;
The loyal brother to a trust,
The big, unselfish soul and just,
The friend of every man oppressed,
The stong support of all that's best—
The sturdy chap the banner's meant,
Where'er it flies, to represent.
I'd like to be the sort of man the flag's supposed to mean,
The man that all in fancy see, wherever it is seen;
The chap that's ready for a fight
Whenever there's a wrong to right,
The friend in every time of need,
The doer of the daring deed,
The clean and generous handed man
That is a real American.
And wants to wear a uniform and lug a soldier's kit,
And ain't afraid of submarines nor mines that fill the sea,
They will not let him go along to fight for liberty.
They make him stay at home and be his mother's darling pet,
But you can bet there'll come a time when they will want me yet.
I want to serve the Stars and Stripes, I want to go and fight,
I want to lick the Kaiser good, and do the job up right.
I know the way to use a gun and I can dig a trench
And I would like to go and help the English and the French.
But no, they say, you cannot march away to stirring drums;
Be mother's angel boy at home; stay there and twirl your thumbs.
I've read about the daring boys that fight up in the sky;
It seems to me that that must be a splendid way to die.
I'd like to drive an aeroplane and prove my courage grim
And get above a German there and drop a bomb on him,
But they won't let me go along to help the latest drive;
They say my mother needs me here because I'm only five.
Unto our hero dead to-day,
Is not a rose wreath, white and red,
In memory of the blood he shed;
It is to stand beside each mound,
Each couch of consecrated ground,
And pledge ourselves as warriors true
Unto the work they died to do.
Into God's valleys where they lie
At rest, beneath the open sky,
Triumphant now, o'er every foe,
As living tributes let us go.
No wreath of rose or immortelles
Or spoken word or tolling bells
Will do to-day, unless we give
Our pledge that liberty shall live.
Our hearts must be the roses red
We place above our hero dead;
To-day beside their graves we must
Renew allegiance to their trust;
Must bare our heads and humbly say
We hold the Flag as dear as they,
And stand, as once they stood, to die
To keep the Stars and Stripes on high.
The finest tribute we can pay
Unto our hero dead to-day
Is not of speech or roses red,
But living, throbbing hearts instead
That shall renew the pledge they sealed
With death upon the battlefield:
That freedom's flag shall bear no stain
And free men wear no tyrant's chain.
© 1999, Lynn Waterman