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
Left on the Battle-Field
Sarah Tittle Bolton (1814–1893)
 
WHAT, was it a dream? am I all alone
  In the dreary night and the drizzling rain?
Hist!—ah, it was only the river’s moan;
  They have left me behind with the mangled slain.
 
Yes, now I remember it all too well!        5
  We met, from the battling ranks apart;
Together our weapons flashed and fell,
  And mine was sheathed in his quivering heart.
 
In the cypress gloom, where the deed was done,
  It was all too dark to see his face;        10
But I heard his death-groans, one by one,
  And he holds me still in a cold embrace.
 
He spoke but once, and I could not hear
  The words he said for the cannon’s roar;
But my heart grew cold with a deadly fear,—        15
  O God! I had heard that voice before!
 
Had heard it before at our mother’s knee,
  When we lisped the words of our evening prayer!
My brother! would I had died for thee,—
  This burden is more than my soul can bear!        20
 
I pressed my lips to his death-cold cheek,
  And begged him to show me, by word or sign,
That he knew and forgave me: he could not speak,
  But he nestled his poor cold face to mine.
 
The blood flowed fast from my wounded side,        25
  And then for a while I forgot my pain,
And over the lakelet we seemed to glide
  In our little boat, two boys again.
 
And then, in my dream, we stood alone
  On a forest path where the shadows fell;        30
And I heard again the tremulous tone,
  And the tender words of his last farewell.
 
But that parting was years, long years ago,
  He wandered away to a foreign land;
And our dear old mother will never know        35
  That he died to-night by his brother’s hand.
*        *        *        *        *
The soldiers who buried the dead away
  Disturbed not the clasp of that last embrace,
But laid them to sleep till the judgment-day,
  Heart folded to heart, and face to face.        40
 
 
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