He knows of the spot by the old stone wall,
Where the sunlight dapples the glade,
And the sweet wild-cherry blooms softly fall,
And hid in the meadow-grass rank and tall,
The “Bob-white’s” eggs are laid.
He knows, where the sea-breeze sobs and sings,
And the sand-hills meet the brine,
The clamorous crows, with their whirring wings,
Tell of their treasure that sways and swings
In the top of the tasselled pine.
* * * * *
And so he dreamed, with a happy face,
Till the noontide recess came,
And when’t was over, ah, sad disgrace,
The teacher, seeing an empty place,
Marked “truant” against his name;
While he, forgetful of book or rule,
Sought only a tree to climb:
For where is the boy who remembers school
When the cowslip blows by the marshy
And it’s just birds’-nesting time?
* * * * *
Where the warm spring sunlight, streaming
Through the window, sets its gleaming,
With a softened silver sparkle in the dim and dusky hall,
With its tassel torn and tattered,
And its blade, deep-bruised and battered,
Like a veteran, scarred and weary, hangs the old sword on the wall.
None can tell its stirring story,
None can sing its deeds of glory,
None can say which cause it struck for, or from what limp hand it fell;
On the battle-field they found it,
Where the dead lay thick around it—
Friend and foe—a gory tangle—tossed and torn by shot and shell.
Who, I wonder, was its wearer,
Was its stricken soldier bearer?
Was he some proud Southern stripling, tall and straight and brave and true?
Dusky locks and lashes had he?
Or was he some Northern laddie,
Fresh and fair, with cheeks of roses, and with eyes and coat of blue?
From New England’s fields of daisies,
Or from Dixie’s bowered mazes,
Rode he proudly forth to conflict? What, I wonder, was his name?
Did some sister, wife, or mother,
Mourn a husband, son, or brother?
Did some sweetheart look with longing for a love who never came?
Fruitless question! Fate forever
Keeps its secret, answering never.
But the grim old blade shall blossom on this mild Memorial Day;
I will wreathe its hilt with roses
For the soldier who reposes
Somewhere ’neath the Southern grasses in his garb of blue or gray.
May the flowers be fair above him,
May the bright buds bend and love him,
May his sleep be deep and dreamless till the last great bugle-call;
And may North and South be nearer
To each other’s heart, and dearer,
For the memory of their heroes and the old swords on the wall.
* * * * *
NINETY-EIGHT IN THE SHADE