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“The knock alphabet.”

Mr. Kennan tells us that Russian prisoners converse with each other in a complex alphabet, indicated by knocking on the walls of their cells.

Like prisoners, each within his own deep cell,
We mortals talk together through a wall.
“Was that low note indeed my brother's call?
Or but a distant water-drop which fell?”

Yet to the straining ear each sound can tell
Some woe that might the bravest heart appal,
Or some high hope that triumphs over all:
“Brother, I die to-morrow.” “Peace!” “All's well!”

Oh, could we once see fully, face to face,
But one of these our mates,--once speak aloud,
Once meet him, heart to heart, in strong embrace,--

How would our days be glad, our hopes be proud!
Perchance that wall is Life; and life being done,
Death may unite these sundered cells in one.

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