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5. the socks that I knit.

by A. L.
'Tis a clear twilight time in November,
     With the day passing on into night;
In the west fades the glow of the evening,
     In the east shines the moon, cold and white;
The trees, like the nation, have parted
     With summer's soft riches at length;
But now, see the wonderful structure,
     So glorious in beauty and strength!

The fire-light flashes and flickers
     On low white-washed ceiling and wall,
And plays on my poor tired fingers,
     At work with their gray woollen ball.
It glimmers and shines on my needles,
     And lights up the stocking I knit;
It's a sock for some volunteer soldier,--
     I hope that the stocking will fit!

I suppose it will suit in dimensions,
     For feet of all sizes have marched
To go to the help of the nation,--
     Long, short, and flat-footed, and arched.
And the yarn is from old Massachusetts,
     And the shape is an excellent hit;
So I think it may do good to some one,
     This gray woollen sock that I knit.

I hope it will comfort no traitor,
     But one that is loyal and true,--
Some brave boy who's left home and fortunes,
     To fight for the Red, White, and Blue.
To his foot, O sock, be thy softest!
     And never wear out, nor give way;
There's none to do darning and mending
     Down there in the midst of the fray.

Protect him from cold and from dampness,
     And soften the hard leather shoe;
And on the long march or night watches,
     Do all that a stocking can do.
But, stocking, I charge thee! return not,
     Except with thy duty performed;
Till the season is turned into summer,
     And the last rebel stronghold is stormed.

Let no knitting of mine be surrendered
     On a soldier afraid of the fight,
Or be dropped by the way, or borne homeward,
     In some needless and panic-struck flight.
The swift-rolling ball in my basket,
     Like destiny seems to unwind;
One vision comes up as I widen,
     And one as I narrow and bind.

Shall my sock be sent off to Missouri,
     For some of our brave Western boys?
Or down to Port Royal and Beaufort,
     Where Sherman is making a noise?
Or off to the old sea-girt Fortress,--
     Or where, on Potomac's bright shore,
There are regiments drilling and waiting
     For the word to go forward once more.

Perchance this soft fabric, when finished,
     May cherish an invalid's foot;
Or, in some wild scamper of horsemen,
     Lie hid in a cavalry boot. [5]
Perchance it may be taken prisoner,
     And down into Rebeldom borne;
Peradventure — alas! the poor stocking--
     It may by some rebel be worn!

It may be cut through with a sabre;
     Its white top — woe's me!--be dyed red,
And on the cold field of a battle
     May cover the foot of the dead.
How weirdly the needles are working--
     Click, click — as they knit up the toe:
O stocking, you look to me ghostly,
     In this question of where you shall go.

I see them flash down like a whirlwind,
     Their long sabres gleaming on high;
The Stars and Stripes waving among them,
     “For the Nation!” their fierce battle-cry;
I see them all pallid and drooping,
     In sickness, in wounds, or in death;
And yet the faint pulses are loyal,
     And yet Freedom nerves every breath.

The firelight wavers and trembles
     With its shadowy, fitful glance,
Till the very coals and the ashes
     Seem to look at me half askance;
And I in the chimney corner
     In silence and solitude sit,
And work up an army of fancies,
     In the volunteer sock that I knit.

It is all full of prayers and good wishes;
     Stitch by stitch, as I knit, they're wrought in;
In my heart burns the love of the Union--
     On my breast is a Stars-and-Stripes pin;
So if ever a sock could be loyal,
     And for a brave volunteer fit,
As well as soft, warm, and elastic,
     It must be this sock that I knit.

Ah, if I could only make blankets!
     They should be of the warmest and best;
No night-wind should trouble the soldier,
     While my blankets lay light on his breast.
And I wish that my hands could work faster,
     And for every gray sock could knit two,--
You men who go forth to the battle
     Don't know what the women would do.

And perchance — who can tell?--the young soldier
     May turn out a hero, and fight
His way to the heart of the Nation,
     As well as to glory's grand height;
And then, when his camp-chest is treasured,
     And his uniform hung up with care,
Like Washington's, guarded and cherished,
     My gray woollen sock may be there!

November, 1861.

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