Wednesday, May 18, 2011


From Harpers Weekly, May 18, 1861


I KNOW the sun shines, and the lilacs are blowing,
And Summer sends kisses by beautiful May
Oh ! to see all the treasures the Spring is bestowing,
And think—my boy Willie enlisted to-day!

It seems but a day since at twilight, low humming,
I rocked him to sleep with his cheek upon mine,
While Robby, the four-year old, watched for the coming
Of father, adown the street's indistinct line.

It is many a year since my Harry departed, 
To come back no more in the twilight or dawn;
And Robby grew weary of watching, and started
Alone, on the journey his father had gone.

It is many a year—and this afternoon, sitting 
At Robby's old window, I heard the band play,
And suddenly ceased dreaming over my knitting
To recollect Willie is twenty to-day;

And that, standing beside him this soft May-day morning,
The sun making gold of his wreathed cigar-smoke,
I saw in his sweet eyes and lips a faint warning,
And choked down the tears when he eagerly spoke :

"Dear mother, you know how those traitors are crowing,
They trample the folds of our flag in the dust;
The boys are all fire; and they wish I were going—"
He stopped, but his eyes said, "Oh say if I must!"

I smiled on the boy though my heart it seemed breaking :
My eyes filled with tears, so I turned them away,
And answered him, " Willie, 'tis well you are waking—.
Go, act as your father would bid you, to-day!"

I sit in the window and see the flags flying,
And dreamily list to the roll of the drum, 

And smother the pain in my heart that is lying,
And bid all the fears in my bosom be dumb.

I shall sit in the window when Summer is lying
Out over the fields, and the honey-bees' hum 

Lulls the rose at the porch from her tremulous sighing,
And watch for the face of my darling to come.

And if he should fall....his young life he has given
For Freedom's sweet sake.. ..and for me, I will pray
Once more with my Harry and Robby in heaven
To meet the dear boy that enlisted to-day.

U.S. volunteers and militia. Printed on border: "Wilson's Zouaves; Duryee's Zouaves; De Kalb Zouaves; Rhode Island officer; Massachusetts officer; Pennsylvania officer; Michigan officer." Written on border: "Aug 24, 1861." From Harpers Weekly.
From NYPL Digital Collection

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