The Namesake

by Willa Cather (1903)


Vigesimum post annum in obscurum correpto lucem vigesimi gaudens percipisse

Two by two and three by three
Missouri lies by Tennessee;
Row on row, and hundred deep,
Maryland and Georgia sleep;
Wistfully the poplars sigh
Where Virginia's thousands lie.

Somewhere there among the stones,
All alike, that mark their bones,
Lies a lad beneath the pine
Who once bore a name like mine,—
Flung his splendid life away
Long before I saw the day.

Often have they told me how
Hair like mine grew on his brow.
He was twenty to a day
When he got his jacket gray—
He was barely twenty-one
When they found him by his gun.

Tell me, Uncle by the pine,
Had you such a girl as mine,
When you put her arms away
Riding to the wars that day?
Were her lips so cold, instead
You must need to kiss the lead?

Had the bugle, lilting gay,
Sweeter things than she to say?
Were there no gay fellows then,
You must seek these silent men?
Was your luck so bad at play
You must game your bones away?

Ah! you lad with hair like mine,
Sleeping by the Georgia pine,
I'd be quick to quit the sun
Just to help you hold your gun,
And I'd leave my girl to share
Your still bed of glory there.

Proud it is I am to know
In my veins there still must flow,
There to burn and bite alway,
That proud blood you threw away;
And I'll be winner at the game
Enough for two who bore the name.

Monadnock Valley Press > Cather