A waste of land, a sodden plain,
A lurid sunset sky,
With clouds that fled and faded fast
In ghostly phantasy;
A field upturned by trampling feet,
A field uppiled with slain,
With horse and rider blent in death
Upon the battle plain.
The dying and the dead lie low;
For them, no more shall rise
The evening moon, nor midnight stars,
Nor day light’s soft surprise:
They will not wake to tenderest call,
Nor see again each home,
Where waiting hearts shall throb and break,
When this day’s tidings come.
Two soldiers, lying as they fell
Upon the reddened clay—
In daytime, foes; at night, in peace
Breathing their lives away!
Brave hearts had stirred each manly breast;
Fate only, made them foes;
And lying, dying, side by side,
A softened feeling rose.
“Our time is short,” one faint voice said;
“To-day we’ve done our best
On different sides: what matters now?
To-morrow we shall rest!
Life lies behind. I might not care
For only my own sake;
But far away are other hearts,
That this day’s work will break.
“Among New Hampshire’s snowy hills,
There pray for me to-night
A woman, and a little girl
With hair like golden light;”
And at the thought, broke forth, at last,
The cry of anguish wild,
That would not longer be repressed
“O God, my wife, my child!”
“And,” said the other dying man,
“Across the Georgia plain,
There watch and wait for me loved ones
I ne’er shall see again:
A little girl, with dark, bright eyes,
Each day waits at the door;
Her father’s step, her father’s kiss,
Will never greet her more.
“To-day we sought each other’s lives:
Death levels all that now;
For soon before God’s mercy seat
Together we shall bow.
Forgive each other while we may;
Life’s but a weary game,
And, right or wrong, the morning sun
Will find us, dead, the same.”
The dying lips the pardon breathe;
The dying hands entwine;
The last ray fades, and over all
The stars from heaven shine;
And the little girl with golden hair,
And one with dark eyes bright,
On Hampshire’s hills, and Georgia’s plain,
Were fatherless that night!