‘Tis a cheerless, lonesome evening
When the soaking, sodden ground
Will not echo to the footfall
Of the sentinel’s dull round.
God’s blue star-spangled banner
To-night is not unfurled,
Surely He has not deserted
This weary, warring world.
I peer into the darkness,
And the crowding fancies come;
The night wind blowing northward
Carries all my heart towards home.
For I ‘listed in this army
Not exactly to my mind;
But my country called for helpers,
And I could not stay behind.
Lo, I have had a sight of drilling,
And have roughed it many ways,
And Death has nearly had me,–
Still I think the service pays.
It’s a blessed sort of feeling,
Whether you live or die,
To know you’ve helped your country,
And fought right loyally.
But I can’t help thinking, sometimes
When a wet day’s leisure comes,
That I hear the old home voices
Talking louder than the drums.
And that far familiar faces
Press in at the tent door,
And the little children’s footsteps
Go pit-pat on the floor.
I can’t help thinking, sometimes,
Of all the parson reads
About that other soldier-life
Which every true man leads.
And wife, soft-hearted creature,
Seems a saying in mine ear,
“I’d rather have you in those ranks
Than see you Brigadier.”
I call myself a brave one,
But in my heart I lie;
For my country and her honor
I’m fiercely free to die,
But when the Lore who bought me,
Asks for my service here,
To fight the good fight faithfully
I’m skulking in the rear.
And yet I know that Captain
All love and care to be;
He would not get impatient
With a raw recruit like me.
And I know He’d not forget me,
When the day of peace appears,
I should share with Him the victory
Of all the volunteers.
And it’s kind of cheerful thinking
Beside the dull tent fire,
About that great promotion
When He says “Come up higher.”
And though ’tis dismal rainy,
E’en now with thoughts of Him,
Camp-life looks extra cheery,
And death a deal less grim.
For I seem to see him waiting
Where a gathered Heaven greets
A great victorious army,
Surging up the golden streets.
And I hear him read the roll-call,
And my heart is all a flame
When the dear “Recording Angel”
Writes down my happy name.
But my fire is dead white ashes,
And the tent is chilling cold,
And I’m playing win the battle,
When I’ve never been enrolled.
Originally posted 2008-01-19 15:12:03.