George Henry Boker

G
George Henry Boker
The Black Regiment
Dark as the clouds of even,
Ranked in the western heaven,
Waiting the breath that lifts
All the dread mass, and drifts
Tempest and falling brand
Over a ruined land;—
So still and orderly,
Arm to arm, knee to knee,
Waiting the great event,
Stands the Black Regiment.

Down the long dusky line
Teeth gleam and eyeballs shine;
And the bright bayonet,
Bristling and firmly set,
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In the Wilderness
Mangled, uncared for, suffering thro’ the night
With heavenly patience the poor boy had lain;
Under the dreary shadows, left and right,
Groaned on the wounded, stiffened out the slain.
What faith sustained his lone,
Brave heart to make no moan,
To send no cry from that blood-sprinkled sod,
Is a close mystery with him and God.

But when the light came, and the morning dew
Glittered around him, like a golden lake,
And every dripping flower with deepened hue
Looked through its tears for very pity’s sake,
He moved his aching head
Upon his rugged bed,
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Sonnet
Brave comrade, answer! When you joined the war,
What left you? “Wife and children, wealth and friends,
A storied home whose ancient roof-tree bends
Above such thoughts as love tells o’er and o’er.”
Had you no pang or struggle? “Yes; I bore
Such pain on parting as at hell’s gate rends
The entering soul, when from its grasp ascends
The last faint virtue which on earth it wore.”
You loved your home, your kindred, children, wife;
You loathed yet plunged into war’s bloody whirl!—
What urged you? “Duty! Something more than life.
That which made Abraham bare the priestly knife,
And Isaac kneel, or that young Hebrew girl
Who sought her father coming from the strife.”
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