Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
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James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
 
November 30
“Shot through the Heart”
By Ina Marie Porter
 
          In memory of Lieutenant John R. Porter, of Alabama, who fell, shot through the heart, at the battle of Franklin, Tenn., Nov. 30, 1864.

ACROSS the brown and wintry morn,
  Borne on the soft wind’s wing,
The weird sweet chords of a New Year’s Song
  Are struck by the coming Spring—
    Ah, would ’twere last year’s Spring!        5
 
Under the leaves the violet bends,
  Laden with scented breath;
Do they bend and blow thus sweetly
  Where the wooing air is death?
    Can flowers bloom in death?        10
 
Out in the bridal robe of white
  Sweet hawthorne decks the lane;
Who tuned the windharp’s thrilling string
  To the sad, sad minor strain?
    Hark! that sad minor strain!        15
 
I think, as I see the whitening bloom
  Drift down in a fleecy cloud,
Not of the mist of bridal veils,
  But the chill of an icy shroud—
    Snow is the soldier’s shroud.        20
 
There’s a whisper of crocus and hyacinth
  Where fairies watch their birth;
Methinks like little white babes they lie,
  Still-born on their mother-earth—
    Dead babes on the mother-earth.        25
 
Where the dear warm blood flowed out so free,
  Did the wild wind steal its moans
That fill me with an anguish of unshed tears?
  ’Tis the Banshee’s shivering groans!
    List! it shivers, and sobs, and groans!        30
 
O spirit of sorrow, Banshee white!
  Wail on, for I cannot sleep;
Coldness and darkness wander with me,
  The vigil of woe to keep—
    Pale woe her watch must keep.
*        *        *        *        *
        35
In the long, long march, did he track the snow
  With his weary bleeding feet?
Was his dear face cold in the pelting rain,
  Or numbed by the blinding sleet?
    Barefoot through the blinding sleet!        40
 
Was he pale from the pain, the hunger pain,
  Or did he step proud and strong
To the onward note from the bugle’s throat
  When the boys cheered loud and long?
    Oh, the march was long, so long!        45
 
Where, where is the sword whose gleaming blade
  Flashed up against the sky,
And wrote in a broad white quivering line
  How Southern men could die!—
    Thus martyrs fighting die!        50
 
Ho! Walthall’s men and Brantley’s line!
  The good steel must not rust;
His name must be the battle-cry,
  His murderers bite the dust!
    They yet shall gnaw the dust!
*        *        *        *        *
        55
“Shot through the heart!” My own stands still,
  With its breaking, breaking pain;
All, all grows dark, but the words of fire
  That burn my reeling brain—
    Rent heart and aching brain.        60
 
Who sprang to his side in the foremost ranks,
  And over him bent the knee,
To smooth from his brow the dark damp hair,
  And kiss him again for me?
    Who kissed his dear lips for me?        65
 
Kind stranger, guard that sacred spot;
  He died to free thy land;
His name thou’lt find on rude headboard,
  Carved there by pitying hand—
    God bless that soldier’s hand!        70
 
We’ve watched and nursed your dying ones,
  Have wreathed their graves with flowers;
Will any gentle hand thus wreathe
  That holy mound of ours?
    Oh, shield that grave of ours!        75
 
Oh, the parching thirst and numbing cold
  And the hunger-pain are o’er;
The weary feet, fresh sandalled now,
  Rest on the golden shore—
    Fair, God-lit, healing shore.
*        *        *        *        *
        80
In his threadbare suit, with its honor-stains,
  They laid him down to rest;
Did they fold our flag, with its spotless stars,
  On my poor dead brother’s breast?
    Oh, dear, dear bleeding breast!        85
 
Oh, say that I’m mad or dreaming—
  That Joy will come once more!
Then the Summer woods of the bright Southland
  May leaf as they leaved of yore!
    With Life they sprung of yore!        90
 
Then the hills may don their arabesque,
  And the arcenciel may shine,
While the rose on the cheek of the blushing year
  Wooes the roses back to mine:
    The roses have died on mine.        95
 
No, the Spring will pass, and Summer fruit,
  And Fall sheaves gild the ground;
But the sad weird song the Banshee sings
  Will follow the whole year round—
    Dark Winter the whole year round!        100
 
Down in the glen the dogwood white,
  By the maple’s living red,
But brings to mind the cold, cold sheet
  That shrouds the living dead!—
    Snow shrouds our darling dead!        105
 
Oh, weary Winter has almost gone,
  With its Christmas berries swung;
They seem but drops of human blood
  From human anguish wrung!
    O God, our hearts are wrung!        110
 
“Killed outright!”—Oh, wretched dream!
  When, when shall I awake?
If the words ring on, thus wildly on,
  My tortured heart must break!—
    God help me ere it break!        115
 
 
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