Page:All quiet along the Potomac and other poems.djvu/356

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350 EXPLANATORY NOTES.

Poetry and Song over Mrs. Rowland s name, which was after ward corrected by Mr. Bryant.

Within the last year a Mr. Thaddeus Oliver claims its author ship for his deceased father, being no doubt misled by a wrong date, as he fixes an earlier time than its first appearance in Harper s Weekly.

I have been at some pains to gather up these dates and names as one of the curiosities of newspaper-waif life. To those who know me, my simple assertion that I wrote the poem is sufficient, but to set right any who may care to know, I refer to the columns of the old ledger at Harper s, on whose pages I saw but the other day the business form of acceptance of, and payment for, " The Picket-Guard," among other contributions.

Fortunately, I have two credible witnesses to the time and circumstances of its writing. A lovely lady sitting opposite me at the boarding-house table looked up from her morning paper at breakfast-time to say, " All quiet along the Potomac, as usual," and I, taking up the next line, answered back, " Except a poor picket shot." After breakfast it still haunted me, and with my paper across the end of my sewing-machine I wrote the whole poem before noon, making but one change in copy ing it, reading it aloud to ask a boy s judgment in refer ence to two different endings, and adopting the one he chose. Nothing was ever more vivid or real to me than the pictures I had conjured up of the picket s lonely walk and swift sum mons, or the waiting wife and children. A short sojourn in Washington had made me quite familiar with the routine of war-time and soldier-life. The popularity of the poem was perhaps due more to the pathos of the subject than to any in herent quality.

Page 77. GONE TO THE COUNTRY. After three weeks of great physical suffering, which involved a thirst which must be denied, the school-boy went to the upper class. At first there were hopes that "going to the country" might be possible or beneficial, but when the pale lips answered, to some heavenly roll-call we who watched him might not hear, " I m Willie

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