His musket falls slack; his face, dark and grim,
Grows gentle with memories tender
As he mutters a prayer for the children asleep—
For their mother; may Heaven defend her!
The moon seems to shine just as brightly as then,
That night when the love yet unspoken
Leaped up to his lips—when low-murmured vows
Were pledged to be ever unbroken.
Then drawing his sleeve roughly over his eyes,
He dashes off tears that are welling,
And gathers his gun closer up to its place,
As if to keep down the heart-swelling.
He passes the fountain, the blasted pine tree,
The footstep is lagging and weary;
Yet onward he goes through the broad belt of light,
Toward the shade of the forest so dreary.
Hark! was it the night-wind that rustled the leaves?
Was it moonlight so wondrously flashing?
It looked like a rifle—"Ha! Mary, good-bye!"
The red life-blood is ebbing and plashing.
All quiet along the Potomac to-night,
No sound save the rush of the river;
While soft falls the dew on the face of the dead—
The picket's off duty for ever!