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‘Fold him in his Country’s stars’

Elsewhere in this week’s paper, there is a tragic story of a Civil War veteran and a long-ago link to Kearny. As I noted, I learned about it quite by accident while surfing the Net.
That same day, also while searching for something else entirely, I found a Civil War poem I had never read before. Perhaps some Observer readers already know of it, but it caught me by surprise.
I was also unfamiliar with the author, Philadelphian George Henry Boker (1823-1890), but I learned that he was both a diplomat and a fairly successful playwright.
The poem is very 19th century in its sentimentality and wording (and punctuation; lots of exclamation points). In annals of poetry, it is not what one might call unforgettable. But it does what poems are supposed to do – speak to the heart. And I want to share it, especially with Kearny residents, as Memorial Day approaches.
It could be a dirge for any American soldier, but it was written in tribute to just one. And this is why it has special meaning for this town.
The poem’s subtitle is:
In Memory of Gen. Philip Kearny.

— Karen Zautyk

 

Dirge For a Soldier

Close his eyes; his work is done!
What to him is friend or foeman?
Rise of moon, or set of sun,
Hand of man, or kiss of woman?
Lay him low, lay him low
In the clover or the snow!
What cares he? He cannot know:
Lay him low!

As man may, he fought his fight,
Proved his truth by his endeavor;
Let him sleep in solemn night,
Sleep forever, and forever.
Lay him low, lay him low
In the clover or the snow!
What cares he? He cannot know:
Lay him low!

Fold him in his Country’s stars,
Roll the drum and fire the volley!
What to him are all our wars,
What but death be mocking folly?
Lay him low, lay him low
In the clover or the snow!
What cares he? He cannot know:
Lay him low!

Leave him to God’s watching eye,
Trust him to the hand that made him.
Mortal love weeps idly by:
God alone has power to aid him.
Lay him low, lay him low
In the clover or the snow!
What cares he? He cannot know:
Lay him low!

 

 

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