The moon seems to shine just as brightly as then,
That night, when the love yet unspoken
Leaped up to his lips—when low-murmured vows
Were pledged to be ever unbroken.
Then drawing his sleeve roughly over his eyes,
He dashes off tears that are welling,
And gathers his gun closer up to its place
As if to keep down the heart-swelling.
He passes the fountain, the blasted pine-tree;
The footstep is lagging and weary;
Yet onward he goes, through the broad belt of light,
Towards the shade of the forest so dreary.
Hark! was it the night-wind that rustled the leaves?
Was it moonlight so wondrously flashing?
It looked like a rifle . . . ‘Ha! Mary, good-by!’
The red life-blood is ebbing and plashing.
All quiet along the Potomac to-night—
No sound save the rush of the river,
While soft falls the dew on the face of the dead—
The picket's off duty forever!
A messageThe battle of Malvern Hill here referred to was the fierce concluding engagement of the Seven days battles around Richmond which terminated McClellan's Peninsula campaign. It was that battle on July 1, 1862, that saved the Army of the Potomac from destruction by the desperate onsets of Lee, but the New England poet preserves a scene which has a human, not a military significance.
Was there ever message sweeter
Than that one from Malvern Hill,
From a grim old fellow,—you remember?
Dying in the dark at Malvern Hill.
With his rough face turned a little,
On a heap of scarlet sand,
They found him, just within the thicket,
With a picture in his hand,—