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For it shone like solid sunshine; and a winding stair of light
Wound around it and around it till it wound clear out of sight!
“And, behold, as I approached it with a rapt and dazzled stare--
Thinking that I saw old comrades just ascending the great stair--
Suddenly the solemn challenge broke of, ‘Halt! and who goes there!’
‘I'm a friend,’ I said, ‘if you are’ --‘Then advance, sir, to the stair!’
“I advanced — that sentry, Doctor, was Elijah Ballantyne--
First of all to fall on Monday, after we had formed the line!
‘Welcome! my old sergeant, welcome! Welcome by that countersign!’
And he pointed to the scar there under this old cloak of mine!
“As he grasped my hand, I shuddered — thinking only of the grave--
But he smiled and pointed upward, with a bright and bloodless glaive--
‘That's the way, sir, to headquarters’--‘What headquarters!’ ‘Of the brave! ’
‘But the great tower?’ --‘That was builded of the great deeds of the brave! ’
“Then a sudden shame came o'er me at his uniform of light--
At my own so old and tattered, and at his so new and bright:”
“Ah!” said he. ‘you have forgotten the new uniform to-night!
Hurry back, for you must be here at just twelve o'clock to-night!’
“And the next thing I remember, you were sitting there, and I--
Doctor! it is hard to leave you — Hark! God bless you all! Good by!
Doctor! please to give my musket and my knapsack, when I die,
To my son — my son that's coming — he won't get here till I die!
“Tell him his old father blessed him as he never did before--
And to carry that old musket — Hark! a knock is at the door!--
Till the Union--see! it opens!” --“Father! father! speak once more!” --
“Bless you!” gasped the old, gray Sergeant, and he lay and said no more!
When the Surgeon gave the heir-son the old Sergeant's last advice--
And his musket and his knapsack — how the fire flashed in his eyes!--
He is on the march this morning, and will march on till he dies--
He will save this bleeding country or will fight until he dies!1
1 This very remarkable poem was distributed on the first day of the year, 1868, by the carriers of the Louisville Journal.
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