by Ambrose Bierce
Tut-tut! give back the flags - how can you care,
You veterans and heroes?
Why should you at a kind intention swear
Like twenty Neros?
Suppose the act was not so overwise -
Suppose it was illegal;
Is't well on such a question to arise
And punch the Eagle?
Nay, let's economize his breath to scold
And terrify the alien
Who tackles him, as Hercules of old
The bird Stymphalian.
Among the rebels when we made a breach
Was it to get the banners?
That was but incidental - 'twas to teach
Them better manners.
They know the lessons well enough to-day;
Now, let us try to show them
That we're not only stronger far than they,
(How we did mow them!)
But more magnanimous. My lads, 'tis plain
'Twas an uncommon riot;
The warlike tribes of Europe fight for gain;
We fought for quiet.
If we were victors, then we all must live
With the same flag above us;
'Twas all in vain unless we now forgive
And make them love us.
Let kings keep trophies to display above
Their doors like any savage;
The freeman's trophy is the foeman's love,
Despite war's ravage.
"Make treason odious?" My friends, you'll find
You can't, in right and reason,
While "Washington" and "treason" are combined -
"Hugo" and "treason."
All human governments must take the chance
And hazard of sedition.
O wretch! to pledge your manhood in advance
To blind submission.
It may be wrong, it may be right, to rise
In warlike insurrection:
The loyalty that fools so dearly prize
May mean subjection.
Be loyal to your country, yes - but how
If tyrants hold dominion?
The South believed they did; can't you allow
For that opinion?
He who will never rise though rulers plot,
His liberties despising -
He is he manlier than the sans-culottes
Who's always rising?
Give back the foolish flags whose bearers fell,
Too valiant to forsake them.
Is it presumptuous, this counsel? Well,
I helped to take them.
Last updated January 14, 2019