OH, did you see him in the street, dressed up in army-blue,
When drums and trumpets into town their storm of music threw, —
A louder tune than all the winds could muster in the air,
The Rebel winds, that tried so hard our flag in strips to tear ?
You did n’t mind him ? Oh, you looked beyond him, then, perhaps,
To see the mounted officers rigged out with trooper-caps,
And shiny clothes, and sashes red, and epaulets and all; —
It was n’t for such things as these he heard his country call.
She asked for men ; and up he spoke, my handsome, hearty Sam, —
“ I ’ll die for the dear old Union, if she ’ll take me as I am.”
And if a better man than he there’s mother that can show,
From Maine to Minnesota, then let the nation know.
You would not pick him from the rest by eagles or by stars,
By straps upon his coat-sleeve, or gold or silver bars,
Nor a corporal’s strip of worsted, but there’s something in his face,
And something in his even step, a-marching in his place,
That could n’t be improved by all the badges in the land :
A patriot, and a good, strong man ; are generals much more grand ?
We rest our pride on that big heart wrapped up in army-blue,
The girl he loves, Mehitabel, and I, who love him too.
He’s never shirked a battle yet, though frightful risks he’s run,
Since treason flooded Baltimore, the spring of’sixty-one ;
Through blood and storm he’s held out firm, nor fretted once, my Sam,
At swamps of Chickahominy, or fields of Antietam :
Though many a time, he’s told us, when he saw them lying dead,
The boys that came from Newburyport, and Lynn, and Marblehead,
Stretched out upon the trampled turf, and wept on by the sky,
It seemed to him the Commonwealth had drained her life-blood dry.
“ But then,” he said, “ the more’s the need the country has of me :
To live and fight the war all through, what glory it would be !
The Rebel balls don’t hit me, and, mother, if they should,
You ’ll know I ’ve fallen in my place, where I have always stood.”
He ’s taken out his furlough, and short enough it seemed :
I often tell Mehitabel he ’ll think he only dreamed
Of walking with her nights so bright you could n’t see a star,
And hearing the swift tide come in across the harbor-bar.
The stars that shine above the stripes, they light him southward now ;
The tide of war has swept him back ; he’s made a solemn vow
To build himself no home-nest till his country’s work is done :
God bless the vow, and speed the work, my patriot, my son !
And yet it is a pretty place where his new house might be ;
An orchard-road that leads your eye straight out upon the sea : —
The boy not work his father’s farm ? it seems almost a shame ;
But any selfish plan for him he ’d never let me name.
He’s reënlisted for the war, for victory or for death;
A soldier’s grave, perhaps,—the thought has half-way stopped my breath,
And driven a cloud across the sun ; — my boy, it will not be !
The war will soon be over; home again you ’ll come to me !
He’s reënlisted ; and I smiled to see him going, too :
There’s nothing that becomes him half so well as army-blue.
Only a private in the ranks ; but sure I am, indeed,
If all the privates were like him, they’d scarcely captains need !
And I and Massachusetts share the honor of his birth, —
The grand old State ! to me the best in all the peopled earth !
I cannot hold a musket, but I have a son who can ;
And I ’m proud for Freedom’s sake to be the mother of a man!