The languid Southern night was faint
With wafted breath of odorous bloom!
The heavy masses of the trees
Were clustered full of dewy gloom!
With slumberous voice, awak'ning breeze
To murmur to the leaves began!
Only the picket kept his watch
All night beside the Rapidan.
Hour after hour, his weary eyes
Had marked the torrent dart and gleam;
Had seen the shadows rise and float
And vanish down the falling stream.
The moon peered thro' the leaves and watched,
With curious glance the lonely man!
And still he saw the shadows toss
Upon the rushing Rapidan.
He saw them but he heeded not:
His dreaming mind was far away.
Where, through the night, the crested waves
Went flashing up the moonlight bay!
On rock and tree his gaze was bent;
But northward, far, his quick thoughts ran,
To eyes that wept and lips that prayed,
For one beside the Rapidan.
The moon that filled the Southern sky
With glancing floods of silver light,
On distant plain and river poured
Her splendors through a Northern light!
The very breeze stirred his hair,
Perchance, her tear-worn cheek might fan.
Slow dragged the night, in dreams like these,
Beside the lonely Rapidan.
What sounded through the quiet air?
What flashed beside the hurrying stream?
The waning moon's uncertain light
Brightened upon a bayonet's gleam!
With breath quick-caught, and wide eyes strain'd
He bent, the shadowed banks to scan!
So throbbed his heart he scarcely heard
The rushing of the Rapidan.
Ah! watcher by the lonely shore!
Thy moments glide with winged feet!
One prayer to heaven, one thought of her,
Ere that true heart shall cease to beat!
The light wind caught the murmured name,
A sigh along the stillness ran;
A shot -- a plunge --- and onward rolled
The waters of the Rapidan!