Drum Taps

Song Cycle by Richard Pearson Thomas (b. 1957)

1. O tan-faced prairie-boy! [sung text not yet checked]

O tan-faced prairie-boy!
Before you came to camp, came many a welcome gift;
Praises and presents came, and nourishing food -- till at last, among the recruits,
You came, taciturn, with nothing to give -- we but look'd on each other,
When lo! more than all the gifts of the world, you gave me.

Authorship:

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

2. Beat! Beat! Drums! [sung text not yet checked]

Beat! beat! drums! - blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows - through doors - burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,
[Into the school where the scholar is studying;
Leave not the bridegroom quiet - no happiness must he have now with his bride,
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering his grain,
So fierce you whirr and pound, you drums - so shrill you bugles blow.]1

Beat! beat! drums! - blow! bugles! blow!
[Over the traffic of cities - over the rumble of wheels in the streets;]1
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses? 
No sleepers must sleep in those beds --
[No bargainers bargains by day - no brokers or speculators - would they continue?
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?
Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums --]1 you bugles wilder blow.

[Beat! beat! drums!]1 - blow! bugles! blow!
[Make no parley - stop for no expostulation,
Mind not the timid - mind not the weeper or prayer,
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man,
Let not the child's voice be heard, nor the mother's entreaties,
Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaiting the hearses,
So strong you thump O terrible drums - so loud you bugles blow.]1

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , "Battez ! battez ! tambours !", copyright © 2018, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

View original text (without footnotes)
1 Omitted by Neidlinger.

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

3. A sight in camp in the daybreak gray and dim [sung text not yet checked]

A sight in camp in the daybreak grey and dim,
As from my tent I emerge so early, sleepless,
As slow I walk in the cool fresh air
the path near by the hospital tent,
Three forms I see on stretchers lying,
brought out there untended lying,
Over each the blanket spread,
ample brownish woollen blanket,
Grey and heavy blanket, folding, covering all.
Curious I halt and silent stand,
Then with light fingers I
from the face of the nearest,
the first, just lift the blanket;
Who are you, elderly man so gaunt and grim,
with well-grey'd hair, and flesh all sunken about the eyes?
Who are you my dear comrade?
Then to the second I step -
and who are you my child and darling?
Who are you sweet boy with cheeks yet blooming?
Then to the third - a face nor child nor old,
very calm, as of beautiful yellow-white ivory;
Young man I think I know you -
I think this face is the face of Christ Himself,
Dead and divine and brother of all,
and here again He lies.

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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

4. Dirge for two veterans [sung text not yet checked]

The last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finish'd Sabbath,
On the pavement here, and there beyond it is looking,
   Down a new-made double grave. 

   Lo, the moon ascending,
Up from the east the silvery round moon,
Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon,
   Immense and silent moon. 

   I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-key'd bugles,
All the channels of the city streets they are flooding,
   As with voices and with tears. 

   I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring
And every blow of the great convulsive drums,
   Strikes me through and through. 

   For the son is brought with the father,
(In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell,
Two veterans son and father dropt together,
   And the double grave awaits them.) 

   And nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive,
And the daylight o'er the pavement quite has faded,
   And the strong dead-march enwraps me. 

   In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin'd,
('Tis some mother's large transparent face,
   In heaven brighter growing.) 

   O strong dead-march you please me! 
O moon immense with your silvery face you soothe me! 
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans passing to burial! 
   What I have I also give you. 

   The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music,
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
   My heart gives you love.

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See other settings of this text.

Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , copyright © 2018, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

5. Vigil [sung text not yet checked]

Vigil strange I kept on the field one night:
When you, my son and my comrade, dropt at my side that day,
One look I but gave, which your dear eyes return'd, with a look I shall never forget;
One touch of your hand to mine, O boy, reach'd up as you lay on the ground;
Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested battle;
Till late in the night reliev'd, to the place at last again I made my way;
Found you in death so cold, dear comrade -- found your body,
   son of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding;)
Bared your face in the starlight -- curious the scene --
   cool blew the moderate night-wind;
Long there and then in vigil I stood, dimly around me the battlefield spreading;
Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet, there in the fragrant silent night;
But not a tear fell, not even a long-drawn sigh -- Long, long I gazed;
Then on the earth partially reclining, sat by your side, leaning my chin in my hands;
Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with you, dearest comrade --
   Not a tear, not a word;
Vigil of silence, love and death -- vigil for you my son and my soldier,
As onward silently stars aloft, eastward new ones upward stole;
Vigil final for you, brave boy, (I could not save you, swift was your death,
I faithfully loved you and cared for you living -- I think we shall surely meet again;)
Till at latest lingering of the night, indeed just as the dawn appear'd,
My comrade I wrapt in his blanket, envelop'd well his form,
Folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully over head, and carefully under feet;
And there and then, and bathed by the rising sun, my son in his grave,
   in his rude-dug grave I deposited;
Ending my vigil strange with that -- vigil of night and battlefield dim;
Vigil for boy of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding;)
Vigil for comrade swiftly slain -- vigil I never forget, how as day brighten'd,
I rose from the chill ground, and folded my soldier well in his blanket,
And buried him where he fell.

Authorship:

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]
Total word count: 1069