The Soldier's Bride
At last the dread cloud that hung over the gorges
Has sailed to the west and extinguished the sun;
At last, mid the mountains, war's thunderbolt-forges
Have ceased their loud labor; all fighting is done.
'My dearest, shrink not!' murmured he, when we parted,
'But pray that Jehovah our freemen may shield;
And if I should perish, be not heavy-hearted.'
In haste, then, he kissed me and sped to the field.
So I have been calm, never weeping nor sighing,
While, yonder, my love rode in martial array;
The battle-tide breasting, or wounded, or dying;
With cheers sweeping on, or borne down in the fray.
Till noontide those grand, rhythmic thunders resounding,
Aroused into courage, my patriot-zeal:
But then my quick pulse ceased at once from its bounding;
Pain entered my breast like the piercing of steel.
This is not the time for weak wailing and sobbing;
My heart must be patient though riven in twain.
This tent- how its quietness sets my veins throbbing!
This ghastly white moon- how it maddens my brain!
'Go not,' so they said, 'lest his courage should falter;
Stay under the fig-tree and nourish the vine;
His hearthstone keep bright, feed the fire on home's altar'-
But what with? my heart, love, torn bleeding from thine?
Ah well! let them chide! I have freely resigned thee;
Believing thee worthy those fathers of ours.
But how could I suffer Death's herald to find thee,
Alone, unconsoled, and I- tending my flowers!
How hushed is the campground! the moonlight is waxing
More cruelly white and more deathly serene;
From far comes the cry of the whip-poor-will, taxing
The sense with a dulcitude, fearfully keen.
In the shadow anear me the sentinel paces;
The lightning-rent oak looms, in silence, above;
Wherever I turn gleam prophetic, wan faces;
That Banshee- or bird- chants the death-song of love.
Hist! the guard, at my right, stands to challenge the straying
That hasten with tidings concerning the strife;
They whisper! God! what are they saying?
'Since noon he is missing- small chance of his life.
'They saw him, when on to the charge he was rushing:
With valor superb he led forward his men;
The sods where they swept red as roses are blushing-
Their dead, all unburied, are strewing the glen.'
Their dead- but not mine! for the death-blow recoiling,
Had spared not a life had my lover been killed:
My spirit, with his, waits the final despoiling-
The cup, being broken,- is not the wine spilled?
He lives! on the cold clod he waits my appearing,
Ere love's golden glory can suffer eclipse;
He yearns for my smile, death's last agony cheering;
The clasp of my hand, and the touch of my lips.
Lead thou the way, friend, for the sake of the dying.
Now blest by the moon for its shining tonight!
Low down in the glen where my darling is lying,
How long ere I found him, except for its light!
Move faster! what! think you I shudder or tremble?
Not so! by the strength of my love I am led.
Press on- through the plains where the living assemble;
Press on- through the passes where slumber the dead.
And now, beyond all, where the sods blush the brightest,
(His valor exceeding all valor, to prove,)
Where moonlight's white tissue is blanched to its whitest,
Lo, tranquilly slumbering, here is my love!
Awaken! O waken! at last I have found thee,
Dear, never again from thee, never to part!
Awaken! O waken! my arms are around thee,
My cheek on thy cheek, and my heart on thy heart.
Deep peace on thy brow, like God's blessing, reposes;
With joy thy pulse fails, weakly striving to beat;
Oh, the patriot's death-couch is softer than roses!
'T is certain thy dreams have been heavenly sweet.
Yet waken; my presence is better than dreaming:
The sweetest completion of rapture it brings;
And ah, with new glory thy pale brow is gleaming-
Thy glad spirit hears me, just poising its wings!
Thine eye, with its lustre of love, is upon me-
Oh, never the sun with such affluence shone!
From the clasp of Death's merciless arms I have won thee:
I know thee forever- forever mine own.
For grief struck me cold ere thy fate had been told me;
My soul caught the news, and made ready for flight;
Now tenderly kiss me, love, sweetly infold me:
Heaven dawns with tomorrow- Goodnight and goodnight!