Rose Hartwick Thorpe

(1850 - 1939)

The Soldier's Reprieve

'My Fred! I can't understand it,'
And his voice quivered with pain,
While the tears kept slowly dropping
On his trembling hands like rain.
'For Fred was so brave and loyal,
So true ― but my eyes are dim,
And I cannot read the letter,
The last I shall get from him.
Please read it, sir, while I listen ―
In fancy I see him ― dead;
My boy, shot down like a traitor,
My noble, my brave boy Fred.'

'Dear Father,' ― so ran the letter, ―
'To-morrow when twilight creeps
Along the hill to the churchyard,
O'er the grave where mother sleeps,
When the dusky shadows gather,
They'll lay your boy in his grave
For nearly betraying the country
He would give his life to save.
And, father, I tell you truly,
With almost my latest breath,
That your boy is not a traitor,
Though he dies a traitor's death.'

'You remember Bennie Wilson?
He's suffered a deal of pain.
He was only that day ordered
Back into the ranks again.
I carried all of his luggage,
With mine, on the march that day;
I gave him my arm to lean on,
Else he had dropped by the way.
'T was Bennie's turn to be sentry;
But I took his place, and I ―
Father, I fell asleep, and now
I must die as traitors die.'

'The Colonel is kind and generous,
He has done the best he can,
And they will not bind or blind me ―
I shall meet death like a man.
Kiss little Blossom; but, father,
Need you tell her how I fall?'
A sob from the shadowed corner, ―
Yes, Blossom had heard it all!
As she kissed the precious letter
She said with faltering breath,
'Our Fred is never a traitor,
Though he dies a traitor's death.'

And a little sun-brown maiden,
In a shabby time-worn dress,
Took her seat a half-hour later
In the crowded night express.
The conductor heard her story
As he held her dimpled hand,
And sighed for the sad hearts breaking
All over the troubled land.
He tenderly wiped the teardrop
From the blue eyes brimming o'er,
And guarded her footsteps safely
Till she reached the White House door.

The President sat at his writing;
But the eyes were kind and mild
That turned with a look of wonder
On the little shy-faced child.
And he read Fred's farewell letter
With a look of sad regret.
''Tis a brave young life,' he murmured,
'And his country needs him yet.
From an honored place in battle
He shall bid the world good-by;
If that brave young life is needed,
He shall die as heroes die.'

Submitted: Monday, July 21, 2014
Edited: Monday, July 21, 2014

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

Ringing Ballads
Copyright 1887
D Lothrop Company,Franklin And Hawley Streets,Boston

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