Thirty-seven (poem) by Miles O’Reilly

August 20, 1864
By Private Miles O’Reilly

THREE years ago today
‘We raised our hands to heaven,
And on the rolls of muster
Our names were thirty-seven ;

There were just a thousand bayonets,
And the swords were thirty-seven,
As we took the oath of service
With our right hands raised to heaven.

Oh ’twas a gallant day,
In memory still adored.
That day of our sun-bright nuptials
With the musket and the sword’:
Shrill rang the fifes, the bugles blared,
And beneath a cloudless heaven
Twinkled a thousand bayonets,
And the swords were thirty-seven.

Of the thousand stalwart bayonets
Two hundred march today;
Hundreds lie in Virginia swamps,
And hundreds in Maryland clay;
And other hundreds, less happy, drag
Their shattered limbs around.

And envy the deep, long, blessed sleep
Of the battle-field’s holy ground.
For the swords—one night, a week ago,
The remnant, just eleven,
Gathered around a banqueting board
With seats for thirty-seven;

There were two limped in on crutches,
And two had each but a hand
To pour the wine and raise the cup
As we toasted “Our flag and land!”

And the room’ seemed filled with whispers
As we looked at the vacant seats,
And, with choking throats, we pushed aside
The rich but untasted meats;

Then in silence we brimmed our gl*****,
As we rose up—just eleven,
And bowed as we drank to the loved and the dead
Who had made us THIRTY-SEVEN.

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