The Wounded Soldier


WHILE tyrants sit enthron'd in state,
With trophies at their feet,
And fawning courtiers round them wait,
With adulation sweet!
Informing them in pompous strain,
Of feats atchieved in war,
That will immortalize their reign,
And spread their fame afar.
Ah! little reckon they the woe
To many thousands wrought,
Who bleed and die, to crown their brow
With laurels dearly bought!
They think not of the bitter tears
By soldiers' widows shed,
When round a helpless group appears,
Imploring them for bread.
I met this morn a beggar maid,
She stop'd, and try'd to speak;
Then turn'd away, as if afraid,
While tears ran down her cheek.
Her silent anguish mov'd my heart,
'What mean these heaving sighs?'
But nothing more could she impart
Than--'Ah! my mother lies!'
'What ails thy mother, little maid?
'Lies she on sickness' bed?'
'O yes! my mother's sick,' she said,
'We die for want of bread!'
'Has she more children, pray, than you?'
'O yes, Sir! other three;
'There's little HENRY , JEM , and SUE ,
'They're younger all than me.'
'But where's thy father, maiden, tell?'
'Ah! Sir, my father's dead;
'Since then, my mother's ne'er been well,
'She weeps and hangs her head!'
I hasten'd to her mother's cot:
She, of no common mien,
Sat pale and languid, as I thought,
The shade of what she'd been.
Two lovely infants sleeping lay,
Upon their mother's bed;
Another romp'd in lively play,
Around the beggar maid!
I put some money in his hand,
And stroak'd his flaxen head;
He ask'd, at hunger's dire command,
'If these would buy him bread?'
The feeble mother rais'd her eyes,
With thankful air to Heav'n,
Then look'd with pleasure and surprize,
On what I just had given.
'Ah! Sir,' said she, 'sure GOD has sent
'You opportunely here,
'To save me and my babes from want,
'Which frightful did appear!'
'Want,' I reply'd, 'shall fly your door,
'If you will let me know,
'How you became so very poor;
'Say, have you long been so?'
'My husband, Sir, a soldier was,
'And fell in honours's field;
'He was my only friend, alas!
'My comforter and shield!
'We listen'd not to Prudence' voice,
'When wedded we became,
'Our parents frown'd upon our choice,
'And charg'd us both with blame.
'We to this little cot withdrew,
'From their indignant frowns,
'My HENRY drove yon farmer's plough--
'I sew'd the maidens' gowns.
'By this we earn'd our little bread,
'Our family grew apace;
'At last a musket and cockade,
'My HENRY did embrace.
'He hop'd in battle's chance to gain
'Some honour, as he said;
'But, ah! I mourn for him in vain,
'He's cold in honour's bed!
'Proud is my heart, I cannot bear
'To let my parents' know,
'That I have lost my HENRY dear,
'And am thus plung'd in woe.
'Whate'er my neighbours kindly brought,
'I to my children gave;
'On my own wants I never thought,
'Till now I'm near the grave!
'This morning, as a beggar maid,
'My oldest child I sent;
'But she, ill suited to her trade,
'Ask'd nothing as she went.
'Now Providence, who my great need
'And all my sorrows knew,
'Me from the demon Want has freed,
'By kindly sending you.''
'Twas thus the soldier's widow drew
A picture of her harms,
When one appear'd who eager flew,
And caught her in his arms!
'My dear ELIZA ! why so pale?'
The youthful soldier said;
'Tell me, my love, the mournful tale,
'Why you thus low are laid!'
But poor ELIZA heard him not,
Her feeble breath was fled;
How soon she saw the scarlet coat,
She sunk upon the bed!
'ELIZA ! are you void of breath?'
He frantic did exclaim--
'O! fly not to the arms of death,
'I bring you wealth and fame!
'ELIZA !--O! my love, awake!
'Or I must yet be poor;
'The heat of battle, for your sake,
'I joyful did endure!'
Her eyes she ope'd, and faintly said,
'Does yet my HENRY live!
'I heard that you in battle bled,
'And do you yet survive!
'O say! how came that false report--
'Tell me! how came you here?
'How you, who still were Fortune's sport,
'So splendid now appear?'
The soldier said--'My Gen'ral long
'Distinguish'd me with love;
'And I resolv'd, in battle's throng,
'My gratitude to prove:
'In battle's heat, when furious foes
'Around him hostile press'd,
'I rush'd between him and their blows--
'A bay'net pierc'd my breast!
'I fell! the foe advantage took,
'And slash'd the Gen'ral's side--
'Care for my wound my mind forsook.
'I rose to be his guide
'I griev'd to see him drench'd in blood,
'And dreading further harms,
'I bore him off, as well's I could,
'Between my bleeding arms.
'He mov'd not, but by my support,
'I watch'd beside his bed;
'We both recover'd, tho' report
'Declar'd your HENRY dead.
'When my Commander health regain'd,
'He sent for me, and said--
'You've sav'd me from the grave, my friend,
'For me you fought and bled:
'This purse accept--I freely give
'This token of regard;
'The King's commission you'll receive,
'A still more proud reward!'
'I raptur'd threw me on my knee,
'And thank'd him for his boon,
'Then begg'd his leave to visit thee,
'By poverty press'd down.'
His spouse rejoin'd--'Be Heav'n ador'd--
'This stranger bade me live;
'My HENRY too I grasp restor'd,
'What more can Mercy give!'