The Dying Veteran

A poem by Hanford Lennox Gordon

All-day-long the crash of cannon
Shook the battle-covered plain;
All-day-long the frenzied foemen
Dashed against our lines in vain;
All the field was piled with slaughter;
Now the lurid setting sun
Saw our foes in wild disorder,
And the bloody day was won.

Foremost on our line of battle
All-day-long a veteran stood
Stalwart, brawny, grim and steady,
Black with powder, smeared with blood;
Never flinched and never faltered
In the deadliest storm of lead,
And before his steady rifle
Lay a score of foemen dead.

Never flinched and never faltered
Till our shout of victory rose,
Till he saw defeat, disaster,
Overwhelmed our flying foes;
Then he trembled, then he tottered,
Gasped for breath and dropped his gun,
Staggered from the ranks and prostrate
Fell to the earth. His work was done.

Silent comrades gathered round him,
And his Captain sadly came,
Bathed his quivering lips with water,
Took his hand and spoke his name;
And his fellow soldiers softly
On his knapsack laid his head;
Then his eyes were lit with luster,
And he raised his hand and said:

"Good-bye, comrades; farewell, Captain!
I am glad the day is won;
I am mustered out, I reckon
Never mind-my part is done.
We have marched and fought together
Till you seem like brothers all,
But I hope again to meet you
At the final bugle-call.

"Captain, write and tell my mother
That she must not mourn and cry,
For I never flinched in battle,
And I do not fear to die.
You may add a word for Mary;
Tell her I was ever true.
Mary took a miff one Sunday,
And so I put on the "blue."

"And I know she has repented,
But I never let her see
How it cut her crusty answer
When she turned away from me.
I was never good at coaxing,
So I didn't even try;
But you tell her I forgive her,
And she must not mourn and cry,"

Then he closed his eyes in slumber,
And his spirit passed away,
And his comrades spread a blanket
O'er his cold and silent clay.
At dawn of morn they buried him,
Wrapped in his army-blue.
On the bloody field of Fair Oaks
Sleeps the soldier tried and true.

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