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- ``ALL quiet along the Potomac to-night!"
- Except here and there a stray picket
- Is shot, as he walks on his beat, to and fro,
- By a rifleman hid in the thicket.
- 'Tis nothing! a private or two now and then
- Will not count in the news of a battle;
- Not an officer lost, only one of the men
- Moaning out, all alone, the death rattle.
- All quiet along the Potomac to-night!
- Where the soldiers lie peacefully dreaming;
- And their tents in the rays of the clear autumn moon,
- And the light of their camp-fires are gleaming.
- A tremulous sigh, as a gentle night-wind
- Through the forest leaves slowly is creeping;
- While the stars up above, with their glittering eyes,
- Keep guard o'er the army sleeping.
- There's only the sound of the lone sentry's tread
- As he tramps from the rock to the fountain,
- And thinks of the two on the low trundel bed,
- Far away, in the cot on the mountain.
- His musket falls slack, his face, dark and grim,
- Grows gentle with memories tender,
- As he mutters a prayer for the children asleep,
- And their mother--"may heaven defend her!"
- The moon seems to shine forth as brightly as then--
- That night, when the love, yet unspoken,
- Leaped up to his lips, and when low-murmured vows
- Were pledged to be ever unbroken.
- Then drawing his sleeve roughly over his eyes,
- He dashes off tears that are welling;
- And gathers the gun closer up to his breast
- As if to keep down his heart's swelling.
- He passes the fountain, the blasted pine-tree,
- And his footstep is lagging and weary;
- Yet onward he goes, through the broad belt of light,
- Towards the shades of the forest so dreary.
- Hark! was it the night-wind that rustled the leaves?
- Was it the moonlight so wondrously flashing?
- It looked like a rifle: "Ha! Mary, good-by!"
- And his life-blood is ebbing and plashing.
- "All quiet along the Potomac to-night!"
- No sound save the rush of the river;
- While soft falls the dew on the face of the dead,
- And the picket's off duty forever!
- Ethyl Lynn Beers
- WHICH shall it be? Which shall it be?
- I look'd at John--John look'd at me
- (Dear, patient John, who loves me yet
- As well as though my locks were jet);
- And when I found that I must speak,
- My voice seem'd strangely low and weak:
- ``Tell me again what Robert said?''
- And then I, listening, bent my head.
- ``This is his letter:
- A house and land while you shall live,
- If, in return, from out your seven,
- One child to me for aye is given.'''
- I look'd at John's old garments worn,
- I thought of all that John had borne
- Of poverty, and work, and care,
- Which I, though willing, could not share;
- I thought of seven mouths to feed,
- Of seven little children's need,
- And then of this.
John,'' said I,
- ``We'll choose among them as they lie
- Asleep''; so, walking hand in hand,
- Dear John and I survey'd our band.
- First to the cradle lightly stepp'd,
- Where Lilian the baby slept,
- A glory 'gainst the pillow white.
- Softly the father stooped to lay
- His rough hand down in loving way,
- When dream or whisper made her stir,
- And huskily he said: ``Not her!''
- We stopped beside the trundle-bed
- And one long ray of lamp-light shed
- Athwart the boyish faces there,
- In sleep so pitiful and fair;
- I saw on Jamie's rough, red cheek,
- A tear undried. Ere John could speak,
- ``He's but a baby, too,'' said I,
- And kissed him as we hurried by.
- Pale, patient Robbie's angel face
- Still in his sleep bore suffering's trace;
- ``No, for a thousand crowns, not him,''
- He whispered, while our eyes were dim.
- Poor Dick! bad Dick! our wayward son,
- Turbulent, reckless, idle one--
- Could he be spared? ``Nay, He who gave,
- Bade us befriend him to the grave;
- Only a mother's heart can be
- Patient enough for such as he;
- And so,'' said John, ``I would not dare
- To send him from her bedside prayer.''
- Then stole we softly up above
- And knelt by Mary, child of love.
- ``Perhaps for her 'twould better be,''
- I said to John, Quite silently
- He lifted up a curl that lay
- Acorss her cheek in willful way,
- And shook his head, ``Nay, love, not thee,''
- The while my heart beat audibly.
- Only one more, our eldest lad,
- Trusty and truthful, good and glad--
- So like his father. ``No, John, no--
- I can not, will not let him go.''
- And so we wrote in courteous way,
- We could not drive one child away,
- And afterward, toil lighter seemed,
- Thinking of that of which we dreamed;
- Happy, in truth, that not one face
- We missed from its accustomed place;
- Thankful to work for all the seven,
- Trusting the rest to One in heaven!
- Ethyl Lynn Beers
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