Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VIII. National Spirit
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VIII. National Spirit.  1904.
 
III. War
“Picciola”
Robert Henry Newell (1836–1901)
 
IT was a Sergeant old and gray,
  Well singed and bronzed from siege and pillage,
Went tramping in an army’s wake
  Along the turnpike of the village.
 
For days and nights the winding host        5
  Had through the little place been marching,
And ever loud the rustics cheered,
  Till every throat was hoarse and parching.
 
The Squire and Farmer, maid and dame,
  All took the sight’s electric stirring,        10
And hats were waved and staves were sung,
  And kerchiefs white were countless whirring.
 
They only saw a gallant show
  Of heroes stalwart under banners,
And, in the fierce heroic glow,        15
  ’T was theirs to yield but wild hosannas.
 
The Sergeant heard the shrill hurrahs,
  Where he behind in step was keeping;
But glancing down beside the road
  He saw a little maid sit weeping.        20
 
“And how is this?” he gruffly said,
  A moment pausing to regard her;—
“Why weepest thou, my little chit?”
  And then she only cried the harder.
 
“And how is this, my little chit?”        25
  The sturdy trooper straight repeated,
“When all the village cheers us on,
  That you, in tears, apart are seated?
 
“We march two hundred thousand strong,
  And that ’s a sight, my baby beauty,        30
To quicken silence into song
  And glorify the soldier’s duty.”
 
“It ’s very, very grand, I know,”
  The little maid gave soft replying;
“And Father, Mother, Brother too,        35
  All say ‘Hurrah’ while I am crying;
 
“But think—O Mr. Soldier, think,—
  How many little sisters’ brothers
Are going all away to fight
  And may be killed, as well as others!”        40
 
“Why, bless thee, child,” the Sergeant said,
  His brawny hand her curls caressing,
“’T is left for little ones like thee
  To find that War ’s not all a blessing.”
 
And “Bless thee!” once again he cried;        45
  Then cleared his throat and looked indignant,
And marched away with wrinkled brow
  To stop the struggling tear benignant.
 
And still the ringing shouts went up
  From doorway, thatch, and fields of tillage;        50
The pall behind the standard seen
  By one alone of all the village.
 
The oak and cedar bend and writhe
  When roars the wind through gap and braken;
But ’t is the tenderest reed of all        55
  That trembles first when Earth is shaken.
 
 
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