THE night-wind sweeps its viewless lyre,
And o’er dim lands, at pastoral rest,
A single star’s white heart of fire
Is throbbing in the amber west.
I track a rivulet, while I roam,
By banks that copious leafage cools,
And watch it roughening into foam,
Or deepening into glassy pools.
And where the shy stream gains a glade
That willowy thickets overwhelm,
I find a cottage in the shade
Of one high patriarchal elm.
Unseen, I mark, well bowered from reach,
A group the sloping lawn displays,
And more by gestures than by speech
I learn their converse while I gaze.
In curious band, youth, maid, and dame,
About his chair they throng to greet
A gaunt old man of crippled frame,
Whose crutch leans idle at his feet.
Girt with meek twilight’s peaceful breath,
They hear of loud, tempestuous fray,
Of troops mown down like wheat by death,
Of red Antietam’s ghastly day.
He tells of hurts that will not heal ;
Of aches that nerve and sinew fret,
Where sting of shot and bite of steel
Have left their dull mementos yet;
And touched by pathos, filled with praise,
His gathered hearers closer press,
To pay alike in glance or phrase
Response of pitying tenderness.
But I, who note their kindly will,
Look onward, past the box-edged walk,
Where stands a woman, grave and still,
Oblivious of their fleeting talk.
Her listless arms droop either side ;
In pensive grace her brow is bent;
Her slender form leaves half descried
A sweet fatigued abandonment.
And while she lures my musing eye,
The mournful reverie of her air
Speaks to my thought, I know not why,
In the stern dialect of despair.
Lone wistful moods it seems to show
Of anguish borne through laggard years,
With outward calm, with secret flow
Of unalleviating tears.
It breathes of duty’s daily strife,
When jaded effort loathes to strive;
Of patience lingering firm, when life
Is tired of being yet alive.
Enthralled by this fair, piteous face,
While heaven is purpling overhead,
No more I heed the old soldier trace
How sword has cut, or bullet sped. . . .
I dream of sorrow’s noiseless fight,
Where no blades ring, no cannon roll,
And where the shadowy blows that smite
Give bloodless wounds that scar the soul;
Of fate unmoved by desperate prayers
From those its plunderous wrath lays low;
Of bivouacs where the spirit stares
At smouldering passion’s faded glow;
And last, of that sad armistice made
On the dark field whence hope has fled,
Ere yet, like some poor ghost unlaid,
Pale Memory glides to count her dead.
Edgar Fawcett.