The Lost Galleon and Other Tales

The Goddess

Contributed to the Fair for the Ladies’ Patriotic Fund of the Pacific

Bret Harte

“WHO comes?”    The sentry’s warning cry
    Rings sharply on the evening air:
Who comes?    The challenge: no reply,
    Yet something motions there.

A woman, by those graceful folds;
    A soldier, by that martial tread:
“Advance three paces.    Halt! until
    Thy name and rank be said.”

“My name?    Her name, in ancient song,
    Who fearless from Olympus came:
Look on me!    Mortals know me best
    In battle and in flame.”

“Enough! I know that clarion voice;
    I know that gleaming eye and helm,
Those crimson lips,—and in their dew
    The best blood of the realm.

“The young, the brave, the good and wise,
    Have fallen in thy curst embrace:
The juices of the grapes of wrath
    Still stain thy guilty face.

“My brother lies in yonder field,
    Face downward to the quiet grass:
Go back! he cannot see thee now;
    But here thou shalt not pass.”

A crack upon the evening air,
    A wakened echo from the hill:
The watchdog on the distant shore
    Gives mouth, and all is still.

The sentry with his brother lies
    Face downward on the quiet grass;
And by him, in the pale moonshine,
    A shadow seems to pass.

No lance or warlike shield it bears:
    A helmet in its pitying hands
Brings water from the nearest brook,
    To meet his last demands.

Can this be she of haughty mien,
    The goddess of the sword and shield?
Ah, yes!    The Grecian poet’s myth
    Sways still each battlefield.

For not alone that rugged War
    Some grace or charm from Beauty gains;
But, when the goddess’ work is done,
    The woman’s still remains.

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