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The Heart Of The War.

April 25, 2010

—J.G. Holland.

PEACE in the clover-scented air,
And stars within the dome,
And underneath, in dim repose,
A plain New England home.
Within, a murmur of low tones
And sighs from hearts oppressed,
Merging in prayer at last, that brings
The balm of silent rest.
I’ve closed a hard day’s work, Marty—
The evening chores are done;
And you are weary with the house,
And with the little one.
But he is sleeping sweetly now,
With all our pretty brood;
So come and sit upon my knee,
And it will do me good.
O Marty! I must tell you all
The trouble in my heart,
And you must do the best you can
To take and bear your part.
You’ve seen the shadow on my face,
You’ve felt it day and night;
For it has filled our little home,
And banished all its light.
I did not mean it should be so,
And yet I might have known
That hearts that live as close as ours
Can never keep their own.
But we are fallen on evil times,
And, do whate’er I may,
My heart grows sad about the war,
And sadder every day.
I think about it when I work,
And when I try to rest,
And never more than when your head
Is pillowed on my breast;
For then I see the camp-fires blaze,
And sleeping men around,
Who turn their faces towards their homes,
And dream upon the ground.
I think about the dear, brave boys,
My mates in other years,
Who pine for home and those they love,
Till I am choked with tears.
With shouts and cheers they marched away
On glory’s shining track,
But, all! how long, how long they stay!
How few of them come back!
One sleeps beside the Tennessee,
And one beside the James,
And one fought on a gallant ship,
And perished in its flames.
And some, struck down by fell disease,
Are breathing out their life;
And others, maimed by cruel wounds,
Have left the deadly strife.
Ah, Marty! Marty! only think
Of all the boys have done
And suffered in this weary war!
Brave heroes, every one!
O, often, often in the night,
I hear their voices call:
Come on and help us! Is it right
That we should bear it all?

And when I kneel and try to pray,
My thoughts are never free,
But cling to those who toil and fight
And die for you and me.
And when I pray for victory,
It seems almost a sin
To fold my hands and ask for what
I will not help to win.
O, do not cling to me and cry,
For it will break my heart;
I’m sure you’d rather have me die
Than not to bear my part.
You think that some should stay at home
To care for those away;
But still I’m helpless to decide
If I should go or stay.
For, Marty, all the soldiers love,
And all are loved again;
And I am loved, and love perhaps,
No more than other men.
I cannot tell—I do not know—
Which way my duty lies,
Or where the Lord would have me build
My fire of sacrifice.
I feel—I know—I am not mean;
And though I seem to boast,
I’m sure that I would give my life
To those who need it most.
Perhaps the Spirit will reveal
That which is fair and right;
So, Marty, let us humbly kneel
And pray to Heaven for light.
Peace in the clover-scented air,
And stars within the dome;
And, underneath, in dim repose,
A plain New England home.
Within, a widow in her weeds,
From whom all joy is flown,
Who kneels among her sleeping babes,
And weeps and prays alone.



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