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
By the Alma River
Dinah Maria Mulock Craik (1826–1887)
 
[September 20, 1854]

WILLIE, fold your little hands;
  Let it drop,—that “soldier” toy;
Look where father’s picture stands,—
  Father, that here kissed his boy
Not a mouth since,—father kind,        5
Who this night may (never mind
Mother’s sob, my Willie dear)
Cry out loud that He may hear
Who is God of battles,—cry,
“God keep father safe this day        10
    By the Alma River!”
 
Ask no more, child. Never heed
  Either Russ, or Frank, or Turk;
Right of nations, trampled creed,
  Chance-poised victory’s bloody work;        15
Any flag i’ the wind may roll
On thy heights, Sevastopol!
Willie, all to you and me
Is that spot, whate’er it be,
Where he stands—no other word—        20
Stands—God sure the child’s prayers heard—
    Near the Alma River.
 
Willie, listen to the bells
  Ringing in the town to-day;
That ’s for victory. No knell swells        25
  For the many swept away,—
Hundreds, thousands. Let us weep,
We, who need not,—just to keep
Reason clear in thought and brain
Till the morning comes again;        30
Till the third dread morning tell
Who they were that fought and—fell
    By the Alma River.
 
Come, we ’ll lay us down, my child;
  Poor the bed is,—poor and hard;        35
But thy father, far exiled,
  Sleeps upon the open sward,
Dreaming of us two at home;
Or, beneath the starry dome,
Digs out trenches in the dark,        40
Where he buries—Willie, mark!—
Where he buries those who died
Fighting—fighting at his side—
    By the Alma River.
 
Willie, Willie, go to sleep;        45
  God will help us, O my boy!
He will make the dull hours creep
  Faster, and send news of joy;
When I need not shrink to meet
Those great placards in the street,        50
That for weeks will ghastly stare
In some eyes—child, say that prayer
Once again,—a different one,—
Say, “O God! Thy will be done
    By the Alma River.”        55
 
 
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