Beechenbrook – Iv


‘I am weary and worn,–I am hungry and chill,
And cuttingly strikes the keen blast o’er the hill;
All day I have ridden through snow and through sleet,
With nothing,–not even a cracker to eat;
But now, as I rest by the bivouac fire,
Whose blaze leaps up merrily, higher and higher,
Impatient as Roland, who neighs to be fed,–
For Caleb to bring me my bacon and bread,–
I’ll warm my cold heart, that is aching and lone,
By thinking of you, love,–my Alice,–my own!

‘I turn a deaf ear to the scream of the wind,
I leave the rude camp and the forest behind;
And Beechenbrook, wrapped in its raiment of white,
Is tauntingly filling my vision to-night.
I catch my sweet little ones’ innocent mirth,
I watch your dear face, as you sit at the hearth;
And I know, by the tender expression I see,
I know that my darling is musing of me.
Does her thought dim the blaze?–Does it shed through the room
A chilly, unseen, and yet palpable gloom?
Ah! then we are equal! _You_ share all my pain,
And _I_ halve your blessedness with you again!

‘Don’t think that my hardships are bitter to bear;
Don’t think I repine at the soldier’s rough fare;
If ever a thought so unworthy steals on,
I look upon Ashby,–and lo! it is gone!
Such chivalry, fortitude, spirit and tone,
Make brighter, and stronger, and prouder, my own.
Oh! Beverly, boy!–on his white steed, I ween,
A princelier presence has never been seen;
And as yonder he lies, from the groups all apart,
I bow to him loyally,–bow with my heart.

‘What brave, buoyant letters you write, sweet!–they ring
Through my soul like the blast of a trumpet, and bring
Such a flame to my eye, such a flush to my cheek,–
That often my hand will unconsciously seek
The hilt of my sword as I read,–and I feel
As the warrior does, when he flashes the steel
In fiery circles, and shouts in his might,
For the heroes behind him, to follow its light!
True wife of a soldier!–If doubt or dismay
Had ever, within me, one instant held sway,
Your words wield a spell that would bid them be gone,
Like bodiless ghosts at the touch of the dawn.

‘Could the veriest craven that cowers and quails
Before the vast horde that insults and assails
Our land and our liberties,–could he to-night,
Sit here on the ice-girdled log where I write,
And look on the hopeful, bright brows of the men,
Who have toiled all the day over mountain, through glen,–
Half-clothed and unfed,–would he doubt?–would he dare,
In the face of such proof, yield again to despair?

‘The hum of their voices comes laden with cheer,
As the wind wafts a musical swell to my ear,–
Wild, clarion catches,–now flute-like and low;
–Would you like me to give you their Song of the Snow?

Halt!–the march is over!
Day is almost done;
Loose the cumbrous knapsack,
Drop the heavy gun:
Chilled and wet and weary,
Wander to and fro,
Seeking wood to kindle
Fires amidst the snow.

Round the bright blaze gather,
Heed not sleet nor cold,–
Ye are Spartan soldiers,
Stout and brave and bold:
Never Xerxian army
Yet subdued a foe,
Who but asked a blanket
On a bed of snow.

Shivering midst the darkness
Christian men are found,
There devoutly kneeling
On the frozen ground,–

Pleading for their country,
In its hour of woe,–
For its soldiers marching
Shoeless through the snow.

Lost in heavy slumbers,
Free from toil and strife;
Dreaming of their dear ones,–
Home, and child, and wife;
Tentless they are lying,
While the fires burn low,–
Lying in their blankets,
Midst December’s snow!

Come, Sophy, my blossom! I’ve something to say
Will chase for a moment your gambols away:
To-day as we climbed the steep mountain-path o’er,
I noticed a bare-footed lad in my corps;
‘How comes it,’–I asked,–‘you look careful and bold,
How comes it you’re marching, unshod, through the cold?’

‘Ah, sir! I’m a poor, lonely orphan, you see;
No mother, no friends that are caring for me;
If I’m wounded, or captured, or killed, in the war,
‘Twill matter to nobody, Colonel Dunbar.’

Now, Sophy!–your needles, dear!–Knit him some socks,
And send the poor fellow a pair in my box;
Then he’ll know,–and his heart with the thought will be filled,–
There is _one_ little maiden will care if he’s killed.

The fire burns dimly, and scattered around,
The men lie asleep on the snow-covered ground;
But ere in my blanket I wrap me to rest,
I hold you, my darling, close,–close, to my breast:
God love you! God grant you His comforting light!
I kiss you a thousand times over!–Good night!

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