"The Trumpeter" (poem)




"The Trumpeter" (poem)




poem written by WWI C.O.


WWI conscientious objection / objectors


Whitaker, Robert


Swarthmore College Peace Collection


Swarthmore College Peace Collection


Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.








The Trumpeter by Robert Whitaker

Some are there who still thrill to story

And song of patriotic glory;

The deeds of Drake, the bucaneer [sic],

The mid-night ride of Paul Revere,

Washington's hatchet and the cherry,

The victories of Jones and Perry,

Or, of like military slant,

The loves of Jackson, Taylor, Grant;

The flag, o'er fort embattled flaring,

Barbara Freitchie's lauded daring,

And all such tales, real or pretended,

But which our state-craft is defended.

But there are deeds, our times indicting,

Our story tellers are not writing;

Records that shame the gods of state

Our poets dare not yet relate;

Brave incidents beyond all doubting

School-girls and school-boys are not shouting;

Since few there are who yet admit

Our own land may be every whit

as truly slave of stupid power

As England in the Stuart's hour;

As pitifully bought and sold

As was the Church in days of old.

Here in the heart of this domain

He won for us from France and Spain;

Here, where it seemed to such as he,

Since nature was so vast and free,

The people's liberties would flower:

Behold the spectacle this hour!

A city, by satiric whim

Or want of humor, named for him,

As unlike Jefferson himself

As he a Hanover or Guelph:

The one soul to his vision leal [?]

Here in a convict cage of steel!

And underneath the window there,

Alone in the chill evening air,

Her little lad, in his first teens,

Up-gazing at the iron screens,

A horrid wonder in his eyes

Behind which one his mother lies.

This, not in darkest Africa,

But in our free America!

And not in Prussia's proud "Der Tag,"

But now, and underneath our flag;

A child whose quivering trumpet tone

Calls us before heaven's judgment throne.

The window of his mother's cell,

In this embrasured House of Hell,

Is ranged too low for her to see

Who out beyond the walls may be.

But as the sudden notes are heard,

And through the prison runs the word,

"Hush! 'tis the son of Kate O'Hare!"

Hearts that were never moved to prayer

Are bowed with reverential awe,

As never reverent to law;

And the great mother soul is shaken

As Christ's, on Calvary forsaken.

The little lad plays on and on

The loved tunes of the days agone,

When mother had him at her knee,

This child of honored ancestry.

"Lead Kindly Light" his trumpet cries

Under the all-too-tranquil skies.

How sob the women, uncontrolled,

To "Silver Threads Among the Gold."

"How Can I Leave Thee," let who will

Attempt to tell the mother's thrill;

Or, when the lights go out at length,

His "Home Sweet Home"'s surpassing strength.

Was ever scene like this before?

A child barred from a prison door

Where he would enter just to play

For mother, on Memorial Day?

And for such mother, so distressed,

Because she spoke for the oppressed!

Will the sane centuries, on the wing,

Ever forget this monstrous thing?

Ever forgive the men of State

Who juggled so the dice of fate?

Or cease to scorn our school and steeple?

Or ever pardon press and people?

March 1-4, 1920.


Whitaker, Robert, “"The Trumpeter" (poem),” Conscientious Objection & the Great War: 1914-1920, accessed February 27, 2021, https://cosandgreatwar.swarthmore.edu/items/show/894.

Transcribe This Item

  1. http://wwi-co-dev.swarthmore.edu/plugins/Dropbox/files/thetrumpeter.jpg