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Who Follow The Flag
by [?]


PHI BETA KAPPA ODE

HARVARD UNIVERSITY

June 30, 1910

I

All day long in the city’s canyon-street,
With its populous cliffs alive on either side,
I saw a river of marching men like a tide
Flowing after the flag: and the rhythmic beat
Of the drums, and the bugles’ resonant blare
Metred the tramp, tramp, tramp of a myriad feet,
While the red-white-and-blue was fluttering everywhere,
And the heart of the crowd kept time to a martial air:

O brave flag, O bright flag, O flag to lead the free!
The glory of thy silver stars,
Engrailed in blue above the bars
Of red for courage, white for truth,
Has brought the world a second youth
And drawn a hundred million hearts to follow after thee.

II

Old Cambridge saw thee first unfurled,
By Washington’s far-reaching hand,
To greet, in Seventy-six, the wintry morn
Of a new year, and herald to the world
Glad tidings from a Western land,–
A people and a hope new-born!
The double cross then filled thine azure field,
In token of a spirit loath to yield
The breaking ties that bound thee to a throne.
But not for long thine oriflamme could bear
That symbol of an outworn trust in kings.
The wind that bore thee out on widening wings
Called for a greater sign and all thine own,–
A new device to speak of heavenly laws
And lights that surely guide the people’s cause.
Oh, greatly did they hope, and greatly dare,
Who bade the stars in heaven fight for them,
And set upon their battle-flag a fair
New constellation as a diadem!
Along the blood-stained banks of Brandywine
The ragged troops were rallied to this sign;
Through Saratoga’s woods it fluttered bright
Amid the perils of the hard-won fight;
O’er Yorktown’s meadows broad and green
It hailed the glory of the final scene;
And when at length Manhattan saw
The last invaders’ line of scarlet coats
Pass Bowling Green, and fill the waiting boats
And sullenly withdraw,
The flag that proudly flew
Above the battered line of buff and blue,
Marching, with rattling drums and shrilling pipes,
Along the Bowery and down Broadway,
Was this that leads the great parade to-day,–
The glorious banner of the stars and stripes.

First of the flags of earth to dare
A heraldry so high;
First of the flags of earth to bear
The blazons of the sky;
Long may thy constellation glow,
Foretelling happy fate;
Wider thy starry circle grow,
And every star a State!

III

Pass on, pass on, ye flashing files
Of men who march in militant array;
Ye thrilling bugles, throbbing drums,
Ring out, roll on, and die away;
And fade, ye crowds, with the fading day!
Around the city’s lofty piles
Of steel and stone
The lilac veil of dusk is thrown,
Entangled full of sparks of fairy light;
And the never-silent heart of the city hums
To a homeward-turning tune before the night.
But far above, on the sky-line’s broken height,
From all the towers and domes outlined
In gray and gold along the city’s crest,
I see the rippling flag still take the wind
With a promise of good to come for all mankind.

IV

O banner of the west,
No proud and brief parade,
That glorifies a nation’s holiday
With show of troops for warfare dressed,
Can rightly measure or display
The mighty army thou hast made
Loyal to guard thy more than royal sway.
Millions have come across the sea
To find beneath thy shelter room to grow;
Millions were born beneath thy folds and know
No other flag but thee.
And other, darker millions bore the yoke
Of bondage in thy borders till the voice
Of Lincoln spoke,
And sent thee forth to set the bondmen free.
Rejoice, dear flag, rejoice!
Since thou hast proved and passed that bitter strife,
Richer thy red with blood of heroes wet,
Purer thy white through sacrificial life,
Brighter thy blue wherein new stars are set.
Thou art become a sign,
Revealed in heaven to speak of things divine:
Of Truth that dares
To slay the lie it sheltered unawares;
Of Courage fearless in the fight,
Yet ever quick its foemen to forgive;
Of Conscience earnest to maintain its right
And gladly grant the same to all who live.
Thy staff is deeply planted in the fact
That nothing can ennoble man
Save his own act,
And naught can make him worthy to be free
But practice in the school of liberty.
The cords are two that lift thee to the sky:
Firm faith in God, the King who rules on high;
And never-failing trust
In human nature, full of faults and flaws,
Yet ever answering to the inward call
That bids it set the “ought” above the “must,”
In all its errors wiser than it seems,
In all its failures full of generous dreams,
Through endless conflict rising without pause
To self-dominion, charactered in laws
That pledge fair-play alike to great and small,
And equal rights for each beneath the rule of all.
These are thy halyards, banner bold,
And while these hold,
Thy brightness from the sky shall never fall,
Thy broadening empire never know decrease,–
Thy strength is union and thy glory peace.