Back     Blueprint    Next    ========    

The Bibelot




From The Bibelot, A Reprint of Poetry and Prose for Book Lovers, chosen in part from scarce editions and sources not generally known, Volume X, Testimonial Edition, Edited and Originally Published by Thomas B. Mosher, Portland, Maine; Wm. Wise & Co.; New York; 1904; pp. 256-60.





AN old man bending I come among new faces,
     Years looking backward resuming in answer to
Come tell us old man, as from young men and maidens
            that love me,
(Arous’d and angry, I’d thought to beat the alarum, and
           urge relentless war,
But soon my fingers fail’d me, my face droop’d and I
           resign’d myself,
To sit by the wounded and soothe them, or silently
           watch the dead;)
Years hence of these scenes, of these furious passions,
           these chances,
Of unsurpass’s heroes, (was one side so brave? the
           other was equally brave;)
Now be witness again, paint the mightiest armies of
Of those armies so rapid, so wondrous what saw you
           to tell us?
What stays with you latest and deepest? of curious
Of hard-fought engagements or sieges tremendous what
           deepest remains?


O maidens and young men I love and that love me,
What you ask of my days those the strangest and
           sudden your talking recalls,
Soldier alert I arrive after a long march cover’d with
           sweat and dust,
In the nick of time I come, plunge in the fight, loudly
           shout in the rush of successful charge,
Enter the captur’d works — yet lo, like a swift-running
           river they fade,
Pass and are gone they fade — I dwell not on soldiers’
           perils or soldier’s joys,
(Both I remember well — many the hardships, few the
           joys, yet I was content.)

But in silence, in dreams’ projections,
While the world of gain and appearance and mirth
           goes on,
So soon what is over forgotten, and waves wash the
           imprints off the sand,
With hinged knees returning I enter the doors, (while
           for you up there,
Whoever you are, follow without noise and be of strong

Bearing the bandages, water and sponge,
Straight and swift to my wounded I go,
258 Where they lie on the ground after the battle brought
Where their priceless blood reddens the grass the
Or to the rows of the hospital tent, or under the roof’d
To the long rows of cots up and down each side I
To each and all one after another I draw near, not one
           do I miss,
An attendant follows holding a tray, he carries a refuse
Soon to be fill’d with clotted rags and blood, emptied,
           and fill’d again.

I onward go, I stop,
With hinged knees and steady hand to dress wounds,
I am firm with each, the pangs are sharp yet unavoid-
One turns to me his appealing eyes — poor boy! I never
           knew you,
Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for
           you, if that would save you.


On, on I go, (open doors of time! open hospital doors!)
The crush’d head I dress, (poor crazed hand tear not
           the bandage away,)
259 The neck of the cavalry-man with the bullet through
           and through I examine,
Hard the breathing rattles, quite glazed already the eye,
           yet life struggles hard,
(Come sweet death! be persuaded O beautiful death!
In mercy come quickly.)

From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand,
I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wash off
           the matter and blood,
Back on his pillow the soldier bends with curv’d neck
           and side-falling head,
His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look
           on the bloody stump,
And has not yet look’d on it.

I dress a wound in the side, deep, deep,
But a day or two more, for see the frame all wasted
           and sinking,
And the yellow-blue countenance see.

I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the
Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene,
           so sickening, so offensive,
While the attendant stands behind aside me holding
           the tray and pail.
260 I am faithful, I do not give out,
The fractur’d thigh, the knee, the wound in the abdo-
These and more I dress with impassive hand, (yet deep
           in my breast a fire, a burning flame.)


Thus in silence in dreams’ projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night, some are so
Some suffer so much, I recall the experience sweet and
(Many a soldier’s loving arms about this neck have
           cross’d and rested,
Many a soldier’s kiss dwells on these bearded lips.)

[Back] [Blueprint] [Next]
Valid CSS!