"At 5:30 P.M. Will Be a Re-Enactment of a Militia Muster of '75"

Eclipse (1966)

Robin Johnson

The box grows slowly, down in Williamsburg,
and we walk slowly through the maze of years
until the drummers catch us with their beat
and fifers trill melodious martial news,
bringing the children running to the green,
and we are children too.  We run along
behind the men who leave the Raleigh Tavern,
leave the cobbler's bench, and leave the bells
of Bruton Parish Church to evening prayer.
Shrilling down the Duke of Glouchester Street
the fifers reach the square.  They slow
their steps to half-time near the flag,
where stars explode defiance from the staff.
An antique cannon booms, a silversmith in
homespun stubs the fuse, and drill begins.
We see a brown-wigged officer command
and know his heritage is not an act,
his special issue: drill, defend, or die.
Today that man would not be there, the man
without a leg.  Nor would the boy beside
the man who shoulders a blunderbuss, a gun.
The roll of drums, abrupt and silent now,
leaves a vacuum like a snare, echoing drums,
and fifers cradle the music in our minds.
We stand so still the birds take over air
and we are lifted beyond the sunset sky
to see and hear the muster of sleeping men
snared by drums that rumbled long and far
before this casual cluster of free men.


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