Ella Wheeler Wilcox

(5 November 1850 - 30 October 1919 / Johnstown Center / Rock County / Wisconsin)

The Messenger


She rose up in the early dawn,
And white and silently she moved
About the house. Four men had gone
To battle for the land they loved,
And she, the mother and the wife,
Waited for tidings from the strife.
How still the house seemed! and her tread
Was like the footsteps of the dead.


The long day passed; the dark night came.
She had not seen a human face.
Some voice spoke suddenly her name.
How loud it echoed in that place,
Where, day on day, no sound was heard
But her own footsteps. 'Bring you word,'
She cried to whom she could not see,
'Word from the battle-plain to me?'


A soldier entered at the door,
And stood within the dim firelight;
'I bring you tidings of the four,'
He said, 'who left you for the fight.'
'God bless you, friend,' she cried, 'speak on!
For I can bear it. One is gone?'
'Ay, one is gone!' he said. 'Which one?'
'Dear lady, he, your eldest son.'


A deathly pallor shot across
Her withered face; she did not weep.
She said: 'It is a grievous loss,
But God gives His belovèd sleep.
What of the living-of the three?
And when can they come back to me?'
The soldier turned away his head:
'Lady, your husband, too, is dead.'


She put her hand upon her brow;
A wild, sharp pain was in her eyes.
'My husband! Oh, God, help me now!'
The soldier heard her shuddering sighs.
The task was harder than he thought.
'Your youngest son, dear madam, fought
Close at his father's side; both fell
Dead, by the bursting of a shell.'


She moved her lips and seemed to moan.
Her face had paled to ashen gray:
'Then one is left me-one alone,'
She said, 'of four who marched away.
Oh, overruling, All-wise God,
How can I pass beneath Thy rod!'
The soldier walked across the floor,
Paused at the window, at the door,


Wiped the cold dew-drops from his cheek
And sought the mourner's side again.
'Once more, dear lady, I must speak:
Your last remaining son was slain
Just at the closing of the fight,
'Twas he who sent me here to-night.'
'God knows,' the man said afterward,
'The fight itself was not so hard.'

Submitted: Friday, April 02, 2010

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