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44. the refugees.

By the mountain springs of the Cumberland,
     Under the leafless trees,
With faces lit by the midnight brand,
     And hand close clasped in trembling hand,
Sat the hundred refugees.

A woman, one with untimely frost
     Creeping along her hair;
And a boy whose sunny locks had lost
     Small store of the gold of childhood, tossed
By a mother's kisses there.

The clouds hung thick on the mountain's brow,
     And the stars were veiled in gloom,
And the gorges around were white with snow,
     But below was the prowling, cruel foe,
And the light of a burning home.

“Mother, the wind is cold to-night,”
     Said the boy in childhood's tone;
”But oh! I hope in the morning's light,
     That the Union lines will come in sight,
And the snow will soon be gone.

”I am very weary, mother dear,
     With the long, long walk to-day,
But the enemy cannot find us here,
     And I shall slumber without a fear
Till the night has passed away.

”So tell me now, ere I sleep once more,
     The message that father gave
To his comrades for you and me before
     The glorious fight on the river's shore
That made a soldier's grave.“

Then the mother told, with tearless eye,
     The solemn words again:
”Tell her I shall see her standing by,
     When the calm comes on of the time to die,
And the wounds have lost their pain.

”And teach my boy for ever to hold
     In his heart all things above-- [32]
The wealth of all earth's unbounded gold,
     Or life with its sweet, sad joys untold--
The worth of a patriot's love.“

As his blood the message quicker stirred
     The boy's bright arteries through--
“I well remember every word,”
     He said; “and the angels, who must have heard,
They will remember too.”

Then clasped as a mother clasps who stands
     Alone between love and death,
Unfelt where the spectral chilly hands
     That softly tighten the soothing bands
Over the failing breath.

Mother and child, as the fire burned low,
     Slept on the earth's cold breast;
The night passed by, and the morning slow
     Broke the veil of cloud o'er the stainless snow,
But never their perfect rest.

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