Pieces People Ask For/Decoration Day
Down by the clear river's side they wandered,
Hand in hand, on that perfect day;
He was young, handsome, brave, and tender,
She more sweet than the flowers of May.
He looked on her with brown eyes adoring,
Watching her blushes grow soft and deep;
"Darling," he said, with tones imploring,
"Shall we not ever the memory keep
"Of this bright day, so happy, so holy;
This sweetest hour my life has e'er known,
When you, dear, speaking gently and slowly,
Answered me 'Yes,' when I called you my own?"
Fair was the sky, the sunset, the river,
Wind in the trees, the water's low psalm,
Bird-song, scent of wild roses. Oh, never
Was there an hour more blissful and calm!
Close in his arms he held her: the morrow
Would bring to their fond hearts parting and pain,—
After love's rapture, bitterest sorrow;
After May sunshine, gloom and the rain.
The country her sons to save her was calling:
He answered her summons, fearless and brave;
On to the front, where heroes were falling,
Love and all of life's promise he gave.
She by the hearth, through long hours slow measure,
Watched and yearned, and suffered and prayed;
Read o'er his letters, lovingly treasured,
Hoped his return, — to hope, half afraid.
"God is good," she said. "His love will infold him,
Protect him, and bring him safe to me again;
I shall hear him once more, in rapture behold him,—
Oh, blessed reward, for my waiting and pain!"
In camp, on the field, on marches long, weary,
Her face and her voice in his heart's inner shrine
He kept; they brightened his way when most dreary,
Lifted his life to the Life all divine.
He fell in the ranks, at awful Stone River,
Blood of our heroes made sacred that sod;
On battle's red tide his soul went out ever
Forward and upward, to meet with his God.
Worn, grown old, yet tenderly keeping,
Every May month, sad tryst with her dead,
She knows not where her darling is sleeping,
She lays no garlands on his low bed.
All soldiers' graves claim her love and her blessing:
She decks them with flowers made sacred by tears;
Love of her heart for her soldier expressing,
"Love that is stronger than death," through the years.
Soon in the land of unfading beauty,
He, faithful knight of valor and truth,
She, living martyr to country and duty,
Shall find the sweetness and love of their youth.
Honor the dead with the richest oblation,—
Cover their graves with laurel and palm!
Honor the living for life's consecration,—
Give to their pierced hearts love's healing balm.
Mary Bassett Hussey.