AFTER THE BATTLE by Agnes Leonard (1842-?)All day long the sun had wandered Through the slowly creeping hours, And at last the stars were shining, Like some golden-petalled flowers, Scattered o'er the azure bosom Of the glory-haunted night, Flooding all the sky with grandeur, Filling all the earth with light; And the fair moon, with the sweet stars, Gleamed amid the radiant spheres Like "a pearl of great price," shining Just as it had shone for years, On the young land that had risen, In her beauty and her might, Like some gorgeous superstructure, Woven in the dreams of night; With her "cities hung like jewels" On her green and peaceful breast, With her harvest fields of plenty, And her quiet homes of rest; But a change had fallen sadly O'er the young and beauteous land, Brothers on the field fought madly, That once wandered hand in hand; And "the hearts of distant mountains Shuddered," with a fearful wonder, As the echoes burst upon them Of the cannons' awful thunder. Through the long hours raged the battle, Till the setting of the sun Dropped a seal upon the record, That the day's mad work was done. Thickly on the trampled grasses Lay the battle's awful traces, 'Mid the blood-stained clover blossoms Lay the stark and ghastly faces, With no mourners bending downward O'er a costly funeral pall; And the dying daylight softly With the starlight watched o'er all. And where eager, joyous footsteps Once, perchance, were wont to pass, Ran a little streamlet making One "blue fold in the dark grass;" And where from its hidden fountain, Clear and bright the brooklet burst, Two had crawled, and each was bending O'er to slake his burning thirst. Then beneath the solemn starlight Of the radiant jewelled skies, Both had turned, and were intently Gazing in each other's eyes; Both were solemnly forgiving, Hushed the pulse of passion's breath -- Calmed the maddening thirst for battle, By the chilling hand of death. Then spake one in bitter anguish: "God have pity on my wife, And my children in New hampshire, Orphans by this cruel strife"; And the other leaning closer, Underneath the solem sky, Bowed his head to hide the moisture Gathering in his downcast eye: "I've a wife and little daughter, 'Mid the fragrant Georgia bloom" -- Then his cry rang sharper, wilder: "Oh, God! pity all their gloom;" And the wounded, in their death-hour, Talking of their loved ones' woes, Nearer drew unto each other, Till they were no longer foes; And the Georgian listened sadly, As the other tried to speak, While the tears were dropping softly O'er the pallor on his cheek: "How she used to stand and listen, Looking o'er the fields for me, Waiting 'till she saw me coming, 'Neath the shadowy old plum-tree; Nevermore I'll hear her laughter, As she sees me at the gate, And beneath the plum-tree's shadows, All in vain for me she'll wait." Then the Georgian, speaking softly, Said: "A brown-eyed little one Used to wait among the roses For me, when the day was done; And amid the early fragrance Of those blossoms, fresh and sweet, Up and down the old verandah, I would chase my darling's feet. "But on earth no more the beauty Of her face my eyes shall greet, Never more I'll hear the music Of those merry pattering feet -- Ah, the solemn starlight falling On the far-off Georgia bloom, Tells no tale unto my darling Of her absent father's doom." Through the tears that rose between them Both were trying grief to smother, As they clasped each other's fingers, Whispering: "Let's forgive each other." When the morning sun was walking "Up the gray stairs of the dawn," And the crimson east was flushing All the forehead of the morn, Pitying skies were looking sadly On the "once proud, happy land," On the Southron and the Northman, Holding fast each other's hand. Fatherless the golden tresses, Watching 'neath the old plum-tree; Fatherles the little Georgian, Sporting in unconcious glee.
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Last modified 18-April-2001