Declamation, Faithfull Unto Death

by W. B. B. Stevens


DARK’S the night, dun’s the sky with smoke;
Never more my guard they’ll change;
Three hours ago I could crack my joke,
And now e’en the thought seems strange.

“Hark! the thunder bellows loud,
And the night’s come down apace,
And the lava flame, through its sulphurous cloud,
Is ruddy on my face.
“With a crash did yon temple fall;
But ever, through all the din,
Shrill rose a death-wail o’er all,
The vestals’ screams within.
“Men are running, away, away,
With tight zones up yonder street;
But a soldier of Rome must stay
At his post, as seems him meet.
“I remember my levying morn—
I remember my sacred vow;
And I’d hold it matter of scorn
In death’s teeth to break it now.
“Jove! lava is all around—
It nears me with scorching breath;
It hisses along the ground
To my feet, and the hiss means—death.
“I’ve fought as a soldier should
’Neath many an alien sky,
And at home at my post I’ve stood
Amidst cowards, and now, to die.
“Great Mars, give me heart of grace
Triarii, over the bowl
Say, ‘He died with a smile on his face,
And glory in his soul’!”