RETURN TO BATAAN

by Luis G. Dato

Above Bataan warplanes soar,
Relentlessly the cannons roar
From smoking cliffs to ships off-shore,
A roof of bombs, a ring of flame;

Corregidor’s a blur behind,
An army there will cover find,
Bataan stands, and then ill wind,
Is but a memory, a name.

A memory, a name for long
Dull years, or so it seemed in wrong,
To peoples reared in Freedom’s song,
Watching their vanquished ramparts burn;

But not forever, for the night
Kept Freedom’s altars burning bright,
Heard through the dark, precipitous flight:
“Fight one and on! We shall return!”

But who shall tell in song or rhyme,
Of heads that rolled, the bloody time,
That Nippon interlude of crime,
When law and justice hid their face?

Who mark the foul, perfidious glow,
The fair deceit, young life laid low,
Undug, unburied, who shall know,
Find from.obscurity the trace?

“We come to rend the white man’s chain!”
Rapine and plunder prove this vain,
The innocent are forwith slain,
Glum nasters have we for the old!

“One race, one home, brethren restored!”
But who will now the fraud record,
The rope, the rack, the flashing sword,
Recalling it the blood runs cold.

Grim tragic years and weary wait,
The Allies struggle and are late!
While high in council gods of fate,
O’er all the future time planned sway;

Fresh ships foregather to their doom,
Pearl Harbor was a watery tomb,
The Solomons, the deepest gloom,
And then at last, as always –Day!

Posterity shall read aright
The message ciphered in the fight,
The rescue from the Axis’ might,
Leyte’s return of Victory!

Who but the brave may well endure,
Who overthrow but the heart pure,
Who but the just resist the lure
And keep the tryst with Liberty’?

This also twice Bataan showed
Momentously while o’er her flowed
The precious holocaust of blood,
Generously to turn to dust;

America shall keep the faith,
Men blessed her with their dying breath,
Who holds the mighty scales of Death
And Peace, and more than mighty, just.

This the reply Bataan hurled,
These the banners there twice unfurled,
Standards of the united world,
Charged with a mission of Destiny;

The Free World from defeat shall rise,
Still stronger with each sacrifice,
Unseen, in vain, no nation dies
Under the heel of tyranny.

Bataan’s hills are green anew,
Blotted the stains where Nippon slew,
Where heroes, martyrs bade adieu,
Eternally fresh flowers bloom;

A smile greets now the stranger’s eye,
From bird and brook dawn’s melody
Changes war’s obscene symphony,
The ruins recede, the past, the tomb.

Bataan is a battle-ground,
A burial place, a holy mound,
Where immortality we found,
Through blinding fire and dust and blood;

Bataan’s heights, here two worlds warred,
So green again, twice battle-scarred,
Her quiet forests burned and charred,
Here Duty called, and found its God.

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