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
Wounded to Death
John Whitaker Watson (1824–1890)
 
          STEADY, boys, steady!
          Keep your arms ready,
God only knows whom we may meet here.
          Don’t let me be taken;
          I ’d rather awaken,        5
To-morrow, in—no matter where,
Than lie in that foul prison-hole—over there.
                Step slowly!
                Speak lowly!
          These rocks may have life.        10
            Lay me down in this hollow;
          We are out of the strife.
By heavens! the foemen may track me in blood,
For this hole in my breast is outpouring a flood.
No! no surgeon for me; he can give me no aid;        15
The surgeon I want is pickaxe and spade.
What, Morris, a tear? Why, shame on ye, man!
I thought you a hero; but since you began
To whimper and cry like a girl in her teens,
By George! I don’t know what the devil it means!        20
Well! well! I am, rough; ’t is a very rough school,
This life of a trooper,—but yet I ’m no fool!
I know a brave man, and a friend from a foe;
And, boys, that you love me I certainly know;
        But wasn’t it grand        25
When they came down the hill over sloughing and sand!
But we stood—did we not?—like immovable rock,
Unheeding their balls and repelling their shock.
        Did you mind the loud cry
        When, as turning to fly,        30
Our men sprang upon them, determined to die?
          O, wasn’t it grand!
 
God help the poor wretches that fell in that fight;
No time was there given for prayer or for flight;
They fell by the score, in the crash, hand to hand,        35
And they mingled their blood with the sloughing and sand.
                    Huzza!
Great Heavens! this bullet-hole gapes like a grave;
A curse on the aim of the traitorous knave!
Is there never a one of ye knows how to pray,        40
Or speak for a man as his life ebbs away?
                    Pray!
                          Pray!
Our Father! our Father!… why don’t ye proceed?
Can’t you see I am dying? Great God, how I bleed!        45
Ebbing away!
      Ebbing away!
              The light of day
              Is turning to gray.
                                  Pray!        50
                                        Pray!
Our Father in Heaven,—boys, tell me the rest,
While I stanch the hot blood from this hole in my breast.
There ’s something about the forgiveness of sin—
Put that in! put that in!—and then        55
I ’ll follow your words and say an amen.
 
Here, Morris, old fellow, get hold of my hand;
And, Wilson, my comrade—O, wasn’t it grand
When they came down the hill like a thunder-charged cloud!
Where ’s Wilson, my comrade?— Here, stoop down your head;        60
Can’t you say a short prayer for the dying and dead!
 
  “Christ God, who died for sinners all,
    Hear thou this suppliant wanderer’s cry;
  Let not e’en this poor sparrow fall
    Unheeded by thy gracious eye.        65
 
  “Throw wide thy gates to let him in,
    And take him, pleading, to thine arms;
  Forgive, O Lord! his life-long sin,
    And quiet all his fierce alarms.”
 
God bless you, my comrade, for saying that hymn;        70
It is light to my path when my eye has grown dim.
I am dying—bend down till I touch you once more—
Don’t forget me, old fellow,—God prosper this war!
Confusion to traitors!—keep hold of my hand—
And float the OLD FLAG o’er a prosperous land!        75
 
 
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