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30. the stocking.

By the fireside cosily seated,
     With spectacles riding her nose,
The lively old lady is knitting
     A wonderful pair of hose.
She pities the shivering soldier
     Who is out in the pelting storm,
And busily plies her needles
     To keep him hearty and warm.

Her eyes are reading the embers,
     But her heart is off to the war,
For she knows what those brave fellows
     Are gallantly fighting for.
Her fingers, as well as her fancy,
     Are cheering them on their way,
Who, under the good old banner,
     Are saving the country to-day.

She ponders how, in her childhood,
     Her grandmother used to tell
The story of barefoot soldiers
     Who fought so long and so well:
And the men of the Revolution
     Are nearer to her than us,
And that, perhaps, is the reason
     Why she is toiling thus.

She cannot shoulder a musket,
     Nor ride with the cavalry crew,
But, nevertheless, she is ready
     To work for the boys who do.
And yet, in official despatches
     That come from the army or fleet,
Her feats may have never a notice
     Though ever so mighty the feat!

So prithee, proud owner of muscle,
     Or purse-proud owner of stocks,
Don't sneer at the labors of woman,
     Or smile at her bundle of socks.
Her heart may be larger and braver
     Than his who is tallest of all;
The work of her hands as important
     As cash that buys powder and ball.

And thus, while her quiet performance
     Is being recorded in rhyme,
The tools in her tremulous fingers
     Are running a race with Time.
Strange that four needles can form
     A perfect triangular bound--
And equally strange that their antics
     Result in perfecting “the round.”

And now, while beginning “to narrow,”
     She thinks of the Maryland mud,
And wonders if ever the stocking
     Will wade to the ankle in blood.
And now she is “shaping the heel,”
     And now she is ready “to bind,”
And hopes, if the soldier is wounded,
     It never will be from behind.

And now she is “raising the instep,”
     Now “narrowing off at the toe,”
And prays that this end of the worsted
     May ever be turned to the foe.
She “gathers” the last of the stitches,
     As if a new laurel were won,
And, placing the ball in the basket,
     Announces the stocking is “done.”

Ye men, who our fighting our battles,
     Away from the comforts of life,
Who thoughtfully muse, by your camp-fires,
     On sweetheart, or sister, or wife;
Just think of their elders a little,
     And pray for their grandmothers, too,
Who, patiently sitting in corners,
     Are knitting the stockings for you.


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