The war-cry at San Jacinto, Texas.
Two student lads one morning met
Under the blue-domed Texas skies;
Strangers by birth and station, yet
Youth's heart lies close beneath youth's eyes.
A thousand miles lay 'twixt their homes,
Watered by many a crystal stream;
Dame Nature reared a thousand domes,
And spread a thousand plains between.
They met, clasped hands, scorned bolt and bar,
Which cautious age puts on the heart;
Shared room and purse, then wandered far
By quiet ways and busy mart.
By San Antonio's winding stream,
Through narrow streets, the two lads passed,
Saw antique ruins, like some dream
Of ancient times.
They came, at last,
Where the Alamo's moss-grown walls
Stand gray and silent in the sun.
Where'er its sombre shadow falls
Is hallowed ground, ― more sacred none!
Within its portals stood a man
Like some grim shadow on Time's shore,
Gray as the walls about him, and
Like them a memory, nothing more, ―
A page from out the deathless past!
Through film of years and rising smoke
From his old pipe he saw at last
The stranger lads, then gravely spoke:
'Come you to worship at our shrine,
The shrine o' Texas liberty?
Or come to speed the work o' time,
An' mar these stones grown dear to me?
Rome had her heroes, so have we;
I don't know what the big word means,
But this is our Thermopylae,
An' matches Rome's for bloody scenes.
''T isn't much to tell,
'T was more to live, but e'en that seems
At times a sort o' misty spell, ―
A somethin' shaped from dreamin' dreams.
An' then again 'tis wondrous real;
I seem to see the smokin' plains,
I hear the cannon's roar, an' feel
The young blood rushin' through my veins;
For I was with Sam Houston there
At San Jacinto. All the tricks
That sneakin' Mexicans will dare,
An' did, we paid in '36.'
'We were three brothers. Brother Jim
The tallest, stoutest o' the three,
Then me, hot-headed, next to him,
An' Will was mother's pet, you see!
For Will was slender, like a girl,
Brave to the heart an' true as steel;
An' me an' Jim, 'long side o' him,
Were not much 'count.'
'The past seems real
Enough just now. My eyes are dim,
Grown weak with years. Well, lads, we three
Shouldered our muskets. Brother Jim
Was here with Travis. Will an' me
Heard how our Texas heroes fought
With death behind an' death before,
To right an' left o' them, an' naught
But death when they could fight no more.
It fires my blood to think o' it,
The desperate scene comes back to me,
How, like wild beasts trapped in a pit
They fought, as round 'em surged a sea
O' swarthy faces, black with hate
Like their black hearts.'
'Six thousand strong
They swarmed about, nor wall nor gate
Nor rifle-shot could hold 'em long.
Like flies about a pot o' sweet,
Like savage fiends let loose from hell,
Like starvin' wolves in sight o' meat,
They filled the place.'
'There Crockett fell,
Here Bowie, on his dyin' bed
Was butchered, so was all o' them.
This room was filled with Texans dead,
The bravest, truest, best o' men.'
The old man paused. Low drooped his head;
Upon his breast his beard lay white.
'These dead men nerved our arms,' he said,
'For somethin' more than human might.
Will flushed up when he spoke Jim's name;
There wasn't time for weepin' then,
But in his eyes I saw the flame
That burns the softness out o' men.'
'We were at Colita. Mayhap you
Have read the story? Fannin's men
'Gainst fearful odds surrendered. True
Their numbers sort o' start us then,
But later we forgot all fear,
An' fought like men gone sudden mad.
They wrote their own death-warrant here,
But it was signed at Goliad.
Yes, we were prisoners, confined
At Goliad, but soon to be
Sent home, an' so we didn't mind
Our prison-walls, for Will an' me
Still had each other.'
'That last night
We, a right jolly set o' men,
Sang 'Home, sweet Home,' with all our might,
An' talked o' home like boys o' ten.
I reckon that with home so near
An' mother, too, we grew a bit
Soft-hearted. Will dashed off a tear
Quick like as if ashamed o' it,
An' me ―'
'Well, mornin' came, an' we
Was ordered out. The air was sweet
With scent o' flowers. I seem to see
The posies noddin' at our feet,
As their wee faces nodded there
Beside the Mission walls, where we
In long lines stood with freezin' blood
A-waitin' for the liberty
They promised us. My God! it came
Too soon! 'T was home we'd thought about,
An' wife an' child, but not the flame
O' death that let our life-blood out.
One wild thought o' the future, then
A flash o' fire an' nothin'ness.
Shot down like dogs. Three hundred men
Sent home! 'T was murder, nothin' less.'
'All day I lay still feignin' death
Among the dead, an' when the night
Came down, I searched with pantin' breath
For Will's dead face, in the dim light.
Yes, lads, I found him where he fell,
An', kneelin' 'neath the starry skies ―
Mayhap 't want soldier-like, but ― well
I choked, an' somethin' filled my eyes.'
'I can't tell how I got away.
I reckon angel wings swooped down,
An' sort o' hid me night an' day,
For eyes were peerin' all around.
An' I was saved. I don't know why,
Unless God sent an' drafted me
From 'mong the dead to start the cry
That gave us Texas liberty.
How did it end?'
'No Texas lad
Would ask me that. I reckon you
Came from the North? Well, lads, we had
Our 'counts all ready, what was due
Us marked in figures plain, then we
At San Jacinto took our pay,
The price we set was Liberty;
An' it was paid that very day,
An' they were two to one of us;
But we went in for vengeance then.
The Alamo dead stood side of us,
An' gave each man the strength o' ten.
The plan o' battle?'
'I can't tell,
My brain, somehow, forgets the plan,
But white flowers turned to red where fell
Each sneakin', savage Mexican.
The debt o' blood we paid in blood:
'Remember, boys, the Alamo!'
Fired every Texan where he stood,
An' nerved his arm for deadly blow.
We whipped 'em, lads, an' Liberty
Was born, that day, through fire an' smoke.
This one old comrade's left to me.'
He lit his clay pipe as he spoke.
The war-cry at San Jacinto, Texas.