When The War Is Over. A Christmas Lay.

A poem by Margaret J. Preston

I.

Ah! the happy Christmas times!
Times we all remember; -
Times that flung a ruddy glow
O'er the gray December; -
Will they never come again,
With their song and story?
Never wear a remnant more
Of their olden glory?
Must the little children miss
Still the festal token?
Must their realm of young romance
All be marred and broken?
Must the mother promise on,
While her smiles dissemble,
And she speaks right quietly,
Lest her voice should tremble: -

"Darlings! wait till father comes -
Wait - and we'll discover
Never were such Christmas times,
When the war is over!"


II.

Underneath the midnight sky,
Bright with starry beauty,
Sad, the shivering sentinel
Treads his round of duty:
For his thoughts are far away,
Far from strife and battle,
As he listens dreamingly,
To his baby's prattle; -
As he clasps his sobbing wife,
Wild with sudden gladness,
Kisses all her tears away -
Chides her looks of sadness -
Talks of Christmas nights to come, -
And his step grows lighter,
Whispering, while his stiffening hand
Grasps his musket tighter: -

"Patience, love! - keep heart! keep hope!
To your weary rover,
What a home our home will be,
When the war is over!"


III.

By the twilight Christmas fire,
All her senses laden
With a weight of tenderness,
Sits the musing maiden:
From the parlor's cheerful blaze,
Far her visions wander,
To the white tent gleaming bright,
On the hill-side yonder.
Buoyant in her brave, young love,
Flushed with patriot honour,
No misgiving, no fond fear,
Flings its shade upon her.
Though no mortal soul can know
Half the love she bears him,
Proudly, for her country's sake,
From her heart she spares him.

- God be thanked! - she does not dream,
That her gallant lover
Will be in a soldier's grave,
When the war is over!


IV.

'Midst the turmoil and the strife
Of the war-tide's rushing,
Every heart its separate woe
In its depths is hushing.
Who has time for tears, when blood
All the land is steeping?
- In our poverty we grudge
Even the waste of weeping!
But when quiet comes again,
And the bands, long broken,
Gather round the hearth, and breathe
Names now seldom spoken -
Then we'll miss the precious links -
Mourn the empty places -
Read the hopeless "Nevermore,"
In each other's faces!

- Oh! what aching, anguish'd hearts
O'er lone graves will hover,
With a new, fresh sense of pain,
When the war is over!


V.

Stern endurance, bitterer still,
Sharp with self-denial,
Fraught with loftier sacrifice,
Fuller far of trial -
Strews our flinty path of thorns -
Marks our bloody story -
Fits us for the victor's palm -
Weaves our robe of glory!
Shall we faint with God above,
And His strong arm under -
And the cold world gazing on,
In a maze of wonder?
No! with more resistless march,
More resolved endeavor,
Press we onward - struggle still,
Fight and win forever!

- Holy peace will heal all ills,
Joy all losses cover,
Raptures rend our Southern skies,
When the war is over!

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